Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting IGNEWS to 80360, or email
Innocent man reunited with his family after months in prison
Fran Prenga is reunited at home with his wife, Louise, and daughter, Maria, after being wrongly imprisoned for five months in a Greek jail
An innocent man said he feared going to sleep and ‘not waking up’ after being locked in the cell of a Greek jail for five months alongside murderers and drug dealers.
Fran Prenga returned home from his ordeal last week, but says he is still suffering nightmares about the time he was incarcerated in Greece, accused of more than 70 counts of armed robbery in Athens between 2004 and 2005.
The 34-year-old from Otley is trying to rebuild his life, alongside wife Louise and one-year-old daughter Maria, after languishing in prison – despite being completely innocent.
The bathroom fitter, who has his own business, also spent a week in an immigration prison, despite being cleared of all charges and having a valid British passport.
But his tribulations finally ended on Friday when Greek authorities put him on a plane to England after he agreed to being deported. And he was reunited with his family at Heathrow Airport.
“It’s nice,” Mr Prenga said of his return.
“It’s hard, but it’s nice. I’ve had lots of support and lots of friends. But I’m still recovering. I feel like I’m starting from below zero.”
His problems in Greece started in May, after going to a police station to sign documents relating to investment in a family restaurant business.
He was told there was a warrant for his arrest dating from 2006 and he was detained. But even now he does not know why he was arrested, as he had visited the country with his wife at least ten times between 2006 and this year, and nothing had been raised before.
Mr Prenga spent months in prison before his trial on September 24, and after being cleared, was still detained until last week as authorities struggled with paperwork and refused to let him go.
Mr Prenga, who is originally from Albania, described the harsh conditions of his time in prison, sharing a cell with more than 40 other inmates.
“I was very scared. There were groups of men from different countries,” he said.
“We were on metal beds and I slept next to murderers. Sometimes I thought I might never wake up.
“When I got to the courtroom, I was shaking. They say innocent men don’t shake but they do.”
Mr Prenga admits he is still finding it hard to come to terms with life back home, and is struggling to sleep for more than three hours at a time.
“Last night, I was having a nightmare about being in the police station and then in the prison cell,” he said.”
Mrs Prenga says the ordeal has had a massive impact on the family, and they will never go back to Greece.
She says she is willing to fight for compensation after her husband’s ordeal, and claims the British Embassy should do more to help people in a similar situation.
“Every time we felt we were getting somewhere we just didn’t,” she said.
“It’s cost us a lot of money and we’ve got some debt. Fran had a lot of work planned and it’s like starting from scratch.
“The worse thing is nobody has said sorry.”