Shirley Ann Morris’ life was shattered two years ago when her son travelled to Ghana and became the centre of a £79m cocaine bust.
Alan Hodgson went from being a council carpenter and leading light in a small west Wales community to a drugs baron in one frightening move.
Within months he had been sentenced to 20 years hard labour in a prison where one in three inmates is on death row.
Shirley has not seen him since. Instead of enjoying her retirement, she now spends every day campaigning on Hodgson’s behalf.
As a mother, it is understandable that Shirley defends her son. She says the 47-year-old had never been in trouble in his life and that, frankly, he has “neither the wit nor the wherewithal” to be a drug smuggler.
But she says she has more than blind faith in her boy, claiming to have very real concerns about the prosecution’s case.
Hodgson spent most of his life in the Gwendraeth Valley community of Carway, where he sat on the sports club’s committee and was a fancy dress star at the annual carnival.
He has been married to Theresa for 23 years and spent a lot of time encouraging their son, Dean, 19, to follow his dream of becoming a footballer.
He worked for many years as a carpenter for Carmarthenshire County Council – where he was known by colleagues as Ianto – and finished work a few years ago after becoming ill.
But he had a chance of some light work in Ghana with his uncle and Shirley’s brother, Kevin Gorman, who has lived in Africa for more than 30 years and, after illness, was having trouble running his fishing company. Gorman has a number of ex-wives and a large number of children – he is a “philanderer”, in Shirley’s words, but not a criminal.
In January 2004 Hodgson went to visit Gorman. The morning after he arrived, police raided Gorman’s home and found 650 kilos of cocaine.
Hodgson and Gorman were arrested, along with a small group of others. In June 2004 they were found guilty of illegally importing cocaine and possession of illegal drugs.
At the trial, a policeman picked Hodgson out as having been on the beach in Accra when the cocaine was brought ashore (having been dropped in the sea in sealed bales).
But Shirley says his passport shows Hodgson was not even in Ghana at the time.
She says the only other piece of evidence presented against him was that he had made the cupboard where the drugs were stored. This too, she says, is untrue.
She also claims that a key witness, who was staying at police headquarters during the trial, may have been coerced.
Gorman – who had heavy debts – has admitted agreeing to look after the bales for a fee of £50,000 but said he didn’t know what was in them.
He blames himself for Hodgson’s predicament. Shirley, 66, says she has forgiven him and wants to help them both. Hodgson and Gorman, who has prostate cancer, are being held in Nsawam Prison, near Accra.Hodgson recently lost an appeal against conviction.“I want to get my son out of there as he has done nothing wrong,” Shirley said. “But I feel I have been pedalling up hill in the dark for the last two years.“I had a text from Alan this morning asking me if I have anything to give him hope.
“The prison conditions are appalling. Alan’s been in hospital twice already with malaria and a blood infection.”
Shirley’s campaign to highlight her son’s case has met with varying degrees of success. She has written to politicians in the UK and Ghana from her home in Turkey, where she retired in 1997 after spending 25 years as a health visitor in Pontyates.
Appeals to Tony Blair and Jack Straw have gone unanswered, but Fair Trials Abroad has expressed its concerns to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and there is a chance of a fresh legal appeal this summer.
Now Shirley is putting her faith in people power. She wants anyone who cares about Hodgson’s case to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Failing that, as a mother fighting for her son, she would be happy to receive a simple message of support.
First published: Big Issue Cymru, Feb 13-19, 2006