Postman who used £33k redundancy money to escape his ‘boring’ UK life and open a bar in Thailand ended up in prison for three years after being sucked into the dark world of drug dealing (and admits ‘with hindsight it was a terrible idea’)
- Jimmy Kelly was given £33,000 redundancy payout from job as a postman
- He used the cash to pursue his lifelong dream of opening a bar in Thailand
- Jimmy soon became embroiled in seedy world of drugs and prostitution
- He was caught in a dramatic drugs bust and sentenced to five and a half years
- He tells his cautionary tale in National Geographic’s Banged Up Abroad
A former postman has told how he found himself behind bars in a violent Thai jail after becoming embroiled in the seedy underworld of drugs and prostitution.
Jimmy Kelly was in his late forties and living with his parents in Watford, London when a surprise redundancy payout offered him the chance to escape his ‘mundane’ existence and the job he ‘loathed’ to pursue his lifelong dream of opening his own bar.
He jetted out to party hot spot Koh Samui intending to invest the £33,000 in his business venture, but squandered much of the cash partying in the island’s notorious red light district, the 51-year-old explained in Banged Up Abroad, which airs on Thursday.
While the bar – named Jimmy Chang’s – became incredibly popular, the Brit soon got caught up in island’s hedonistic party circuit and was soon taking crystal meth on a regular basis, triggering a downward spiral that would ultimately see him jailed for more than three years.
Jimmy Kelly, pictured in Banged Up Abroad, was in his late forties and living with his parents in Watford, London when a redundancy payout offered him the chance to move to Thailand
The notorious Koh Samui District Prison, where Jimmy Kelly was jailed. After becoming embroiled in the party scene of the red light district he ended up behind bars (file photo)
He was sent to the notorious Koh Samui District Prison, and was shocked by the living conditions and daily violence he experienced – even losing three teeth in a bloody prison fight between two rival gangs.
Jimmy was living at home in London when a surprise windfall changed his life forever.
‘I was a postman,’ he recalled. ‘I absolutely loathed it, I hated the job, I hated everything about it. I wanted to make something of myself, to own my own business.’
When Jimmy was offered redundancy, the downtrodden postman jumped at the chance to ‘go and live my dream’.
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‘When I first got to Thailand I went into partying mode and it was the first time I’d felt happy for a really long time,’ he said. ‘I felt special; not normal Jimmy the postman.’
He opened a bar on Koh Samui’s red light district, raking in cash from ‘selling drinks and hiring out loads of girls’ on the advice of his friend John* who had lived on the island for a number of years.
Despite the seedy nature of his enterprise, John ‘felt really proud of what he’d done’ and admitted: ‘Finally I loved my life’.
Jimmy was caught in a dramatic take-down which involved a police informer posing as a romantic interest in a honeytrap. They found cash and drugs hidden in the ceiling of his apartment (file photo)
Jimmy Kelly was living at home in London when a surprise windfall changed his life, enabling him to move to Thailand – where he ended up serving time in a violent prison (reenactment)
From there, Jimmy became a low-level dealer – selling just ‘bits and pieces’ at first – and began pimping out local prostitutes on a regular basis to bolster his income by up to £26,000 in just five days.
‘It was only low-key but I wanted more and I became a bit greedy,’ he admitted. ‘In hindsight it was a terrible idea.’
Soon, his operation was selling 200 grams of crystal meth on a regular basis, a rate that Jimmy couldn’t sustain forever.
But he soon realised he was undercutting the local drug dealers on the island: ‘I was the only westerner along the strip,’ he said. ‘I was playing a dangerous game.’
Eventually, Jimmy was caught in a dramatic take-down which involved a police informer posing as a romantic interest in a honeytrap.
Jimmy opened a bar on Koh Samui’s red light district, raking in cash from ‘selling drinks and hiring out loads of girls’, but ended up in prison after being caught in a honey trap
Jimmy was released in 2014 after serving a total of three years and four months, but not a day goes by when he doesn’t regret his stint in Thailand, he explains on Banged Up Abroad
‘I’d read horror stories about Thai but prisons I never thought in my right mind I’d end up in one,’ Jimmy said.
‘I couldn’t believe what I was walking into. The first time I saw my cell I couldn’t believe the size of it. It was like 20 ft by 20ft and there was 30 of us.
‘[It was] bad enough trying to stand up, let alone lying down to sleep. There was a squat toilet in the corner of the room, [it stank] as well.’
Two years into his sentence, Jimmy was offered a lifeline from the British Embassy who arranged for him to serve the rest of his sentence at a prison Wandsworth, London.
Jimmy was released in 2014 after serving a total of three years and four months, but still deeply regrets his stint in Thailand and the pain he caused his loved ones.
‘I’ve paid for it, and it’s not just me who’s paid for it, [it’s] family,’ he said. ‘It’s selfish what I’ve done. People have said to me, would you do it again? Nope.’
Banged Up Abroad airs Thursday at 9pm on National Geographic
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