Kota prison: From the depths of hell


Staff member
Ann Widdecombe and Fair Trials International say the Indian judge who sentenced this former Kleinwort Benson bank worker to ten years in a rat-infested cell did so in the face of all the evidence. Whatever the truth, his experience is a sober lesson for us all: choose your travel companions with care...

By mid-morning, the streets of Kota are like a battlefield. Bicycles, rickshaws, taxis, cars, camel-drawn carts, together with fearless wild dogs and an ambling sacred cow fight for space on the unmarked, dusty roads.

While the hot air of the Indian city rings with horns and the strains of ageing engines, my rickshaw driver swaps abuse with the road’s various users and darts for gaps that aren’t there.
We cross the city centre, over the stagnant water of the Chambal canal and stop by a gate and a daunting high wall. This is Kota prison.
The first guards are women, smiling in the shade of a tree. One of them gestures me forward and I walk towards the colonial façade of the huge compound.

The sun beats down mercilessly, reflecting off the yellow walls. The next guards are male, and very different.

They shout in Hindi as one drops his rifle from his shoulder and catches it below the bayonet. There’s a touch of the surreal about the situation – even as they shout, they remain resolutely holding hands.

I talk myself past the guards and approach a mesh window with a small slit.

In the shadows beyond are a handful of men in traditional Indian dress, manning desks strewn with papers. They look at me with suspicion. They demand documentation in brisk and threatening voices. I’m then directed to wait on a bench in the courtyard.

I’m still there six hours later. I have been to the window many, many times. There are further questions, a promise that I will be let in, followed by further delays.

Some of the guards give me intimidating stares, while others approach and whisper ‘Patrick?’ with nervous grins.

At one point a lorry approaches the gate and guards appear from everywhere as the vehicle swings into the courtyard.

When the back is flung open, bodies stream down a ramp, their shoulders heaving at the fresh air. These new arrivals look around the courtyard in dull acceptance as they walk sullenly into the jail with the guards helping them on their way.
That looks to be the day’s main business. As the sun drops lower, the guards have become fewer and once more I’m called to the window where a new face is waiting. ‘OK,’ says the man.

He shouts to a guard who leads me round the 30ft wall, opens a steel door and points me into a long concrete corridor framed on one side by bars.

Two feet beyond are more bars, more guards and, occasionally, prisoners passing through a small yard.

It is remarkably serene but I can hear shouting in the distance. A bulky young man with long hair appears at a doorway. He is dressed in light, white clothing and fixes me with a stare that carries through the heat.

The guards stir and watch him in apparent curiosity as he walks towards me. He looks Indian but when he comes into the shade I see that he is white but deeply tanned.

‘I thought they were going to leave you out there all day,’ he says in a soft, English voice.

As Patrick Malluzzo grips the bars and rests his head on the steel there is an arresting dullness to his eyes.

An overpowering air of exhaustion seems to envelop him. He takes shallow, nervous breaths between speaking and his hands shake a little against the bars.

From somewhere he raises a smile. ‘Welcome to Kota. Hell,’ he adds simply, gesturing around us. ‘Complete hell.’

Malluzzo, from Kent, has spent nearly four-and-a-half years in Kota.

He is one of up to 70 prisoners sleeping on the floor in each large cell.
He has woken up many times to find he’s been bitten by rats, and has picked up one bug after another, including a permanent urinary infection.

He has found maggots and stones in his food, and can only bear to go to the dirty latrines, basic holes in the floor, if he uses his shirt as a mask.
Why is he here? He was arrested in January 2004 at Mumbai airport; two-and-a-half years later he was sentenced to ten years along with a 100,000 rupee (£1,200) fine for ‘trafficking dangerous and psychotropic drugs’. If he doesn’t pay the fine, he gets another year inside.
Friends say he never even tried drugs, let alone trafficked or dealt them.
His co-accused, a British man who lives in India, was tried separately by a different judge and acquitted. Influential legal group Fair Trials International and Malluzzo’s local MP Ann Widdecombe, who says he ‘would never have been convicted in a British court’, have taken up his cause.

He claims he was shackled and beaten by police, and that he was tortured into giving a confession – he says he even had pliers applied to his genitals.

He still bears the scars from the beatings and from having cigarettes put out on his arms.
At the very least his is a cautionary tale – that you should choose your friends carefully when travelling; and not expect the Foreign And Commonwealth Office (FCO) to charge to the rescue.

Malluzzo, now 30, grew up in Dartford, with an Italian father and Irish mother. After leaving college, he combined spells at City banks with travelling.

Even as his career progressed, the wanderlust defiantly remained and after two years’ hard work in the admin department at City institution Kleinwort Benson he was ready to leave London once more.

He was 26 and had just decided to join the Irish Guards, but he was planning one last travelling jaunt. In October 2003, he was invited to a friend’s wedding in India. His mind was set – he resigned and booked his ticket.
His parents, Salvatore and Theresa, weren’t surprised that he left his job to travel around India.

He had always been his own man, keenly aware of the need to enjoy youth. Cheeky, sociable and loud are characteristics that childhood friends recall.

His sisters talk about his love of women, and how he would commandeer their children because he felt the toddlers would attract female interest.
A week before I stood in Kota prison facing their son I had sat in the family home in Dartford.

His parents spoke of his excitement before departure. ‘It was going to be his last big trip,’ recalls Theresa. ‘He couldn’t wait.’
In India, Malluzzo attended the wedding in Goa and decided to stay on in the renowned party town.

One night in a bar he met another Brit. This man, named later in court as John Dean, seemed a welcome new acquaintance.

He knew India well and the two shared beers and travelling plans. They went together to India’s rocky far north, before splitting up and meeting again in Delhi where Dean made a request.

From behind bars in Kota, Malluzzo speaks carefully as he starts his story. ‘He was going to Goa but didn’t have an encashment certificate.’

At the time in India, an encashment certificate was needed for foreigners to buy railway ticket.

It was one of the myriad laws protecting the Indian rupee. Malluzzo says he offered Dean the use of his to book the ticket, and requested one for himself. ‘I’d loved Goa and wanted to go back but in the end I decided to do a few more days in Delhi,’ says Malluzzo.
‘The train ticket was nothing in terms of pounds and I wasn’t in any rush.’ Malluzzo asked Dean to take a bag of dirty laundry to Goa for him, because he’d already bought enough presents to leave him struggling with his load.

‘It was just clothes and there were a couple of scraps of paper in there as well,’ says

Malluzzo. ‘John was happy to do it and it was a help to me.’

Here are the certainties of what happened next.

The train on which Malluzzo and Dean had seats booked left Delhi main station for Goa on November 14, 2003. At some point on the 25-hour journey, train staff realised there were three bags stuffed under the reserved seats, and no corresponding passengers. The bags were given to the local railway police, based in the Rajasthani city of Kota.

The Kota railway police found that one bag contained clothes. Another contained dirty laundry, a copy of Malluzzo’s passport photo and an anti-malarial prescription in his name.

The third was stuffed with clothes and 19kg of cannabis resin, in India worth roughly £2,000. At some point after, arrest warrants were issued for Malluzzo and Dean.
Malluzzo had been in his hotel when the train left Delhi station. On November 16, he says Dean called and said he’d left the train to buy food at a station en route and had missed the departure.

‘I put it down to him being drunk,’ says Malluzzo. ‘I wasn’t really bothered. It was just clothes.’
Their friendship intact, the two met in Goa in late November, before Malluzzo travelled to Sri Lanka in December to watch England play cricket.

It must be assumed that the warrants were not yet active, or his exit and re-entry was not spotted by the Indian authorities.

Malluzzo then returned to India in early January, travelled internally and was preparing to depart for Thailand to continue his trip.

On January 30, 2004, he arrived at Mumbai airport for a flight to Bangkok. Waiting to check in, he texted his parents his plans and promised to text again on arrival in Thailand. ‘I’d loved India and was gutted to be leaving,’ he says, before adding with a rueful smile, ‘I didn’t really leave though, did I?’
This time the warrant was in place. While clearing customs in Mumbai, Malluzzo was ushered into a room. ‘They told me I was under arrest and then something about drugs,’ he says.
Malluzzo was mystified by the arrest. He was remanded to appear in a Mumbai court but two days later three members of the Kota railway police arrived, shackled him and took him to the train station.

During the overnight train journey from Mumbai to Kota, Malluzzo says the senior Kota policeman twice requested Dean’s whereabouts.
‘The first time I said I didn’t know and he just looked at me,’ he says. ‘The second time I said I didn’t know and he laughed and said, “I will get what I want out of you.” That’s when I realised I was in trouble.’

The Kota railway police held Malluzzo for 15 days. ‘It felt like a lot longer,’ he says,
his face tightening as he pulls up a trouser leg to reveal a ragged row of permanent scars. It started, he says, with a slap.

‘When we got to Kota they shackled me to a chair and started asking about John. Suddenly I felt a slap.

Then they said something about baans, which means bamboo.’

Malluzzo says he was struck repeatedly over the back, legs and arms with bamboo while being instructed to sign documents in Hindi.

He refused and wrote a declaration that he had no knowledge of the crimes. The next day he was taken to the police base at Ajmer. ‘That was the worst,’ he says. ‘I asked for a lawyer and that set them off. I was beaten with bamboo and rubber.

One day they got me to strip. They’re not used to white skin; I’d turned black with bruises and they were shocked.

One said, “Sir, sir,” to the senior guy who said something about baans and after that the bamboo stopped.’
But the violence, according to Malluzzo, continued until he cracked.

‘First they burned me with cigarettes,’ he says, yanking up a sleeve to show me one glaring red circle. ‘That made me pass out. I was thinking, “I can’t take this any more.” Then they put a pair of pliers on my testicles. I said, “Whatever you want me to say or sign, I’ll do it.”’
After signing confessions, Malluzzo was taken to Kota prison.

Back in Dartford, Salvatore and Theresa Malluzzo had spent a frantic two weeks awaiting word from their son.

Salvatore tried every friend that they knew of. Theresa wanted him to try the Foreign Office. In the end, they didn’t have to.

‘They called us and said Patrick had been arrested for drugs,’ says Theresa. ‘I was looking at Salvatore’s face. I said, “You’re going to have to tell my husband because I don’t think I can.”’
By then, the 15 days of Kota railway police custody was up. You might hope that the British authorities abroad would have been quickly on the scene, but the Foreign And Commonwealth Office first visited Malluzzo on February 13, two weeks after his arrest.
Malluzzo claims that’s because the Kota railway police deliberately kept him on the move and untraceable until the last couple of days of their custody.
In any case, the FCO says that it can only check on a detainee’s welfare and provide general information about the local legal system. It can’t offer legal advice or get
anyone out of prison.
Malluzzo says the initial reaction to him in Kota prison was shock.
According to the guards, he was the first white man to join the dozens they cram into each filthy cell – sleeping on the floor and spending 16 hours a day locked up.

With his large frame, visible bruises and barely contained fury, Malluzzo managed to repel various threats.

‘They made fun of me for months, which drives you mad,’ he says. ‘I was threatened with knives and asked for sex as well but I just ignored them all and eventually they stopped bothering me.’

When Salvatore arrived he was shocked by the conditions.
‘Atrocious. Patrick was finding maggots in his food,’ he says. ‘He was very upset but we’d found an English-speaking lawyer who said he’d have him out in no time.’
Salvatore returned to Dartford and tried to calm the family. News from the lawyer, however, was rare and months turned to years.

In Kota, their son was discovering that the prison freezes in the winter, boils in the summer, and floods during monsoons.

In Dartford, the Malluzzos started to attract support from MPs, including Ann Widdecombe.
‘As the story emerged it was more and more incredible,’ she says. ‘Patrick was not transporting the drugs – they weren’t even being transported by his friend.

There wasn’t even a shred of evidence that Patrick put them in the bag. I’m afraid this is not the first time that I’ve dealt with a family where someone has run into problems abroad.’
The case hit an impasse after it was ruled that the cases of Malluzzo and Dean, who was missing, should be heard together.

In 2005, Malluzzo’s lawyer managed to separate the cases and the trial was set to begin. Shortly after, Dean was arrested in Goa and charged with different drugs offences. ‘I wasn’t surprised,’ says Malluzzo.

At Malluzzo’s trial his lawyer instructed him not to speak during proceedings, which were held in Hindi.

‘It took 14 months,’ says Salvatore. ‘They had dozens of witnesses but only a handful weren’t police, who got expenses to testify. They would hear someone for 20 minutes then adjourn for a week.’
‘It just went on and on,’ says Malluzzo. ‘My lawyer said, “Leave everything to me,” that they [the prosecution] had nothing and the police had made so many mistakes we couldn’t lose.’
Malluzzo’s confessions were thrown out. When Salvatore arrived in June 2006 for the closing arguments, he couldn’t see how his son could fail to be freed.

Not one of the witnesses had placed Patrick on the train and the records of the Delhi hotel where he had been staying showed that he had checked out after the train had left Delhi station, although the prosecution maintained this could have been forged.
The prosecution’s argument was that the drugs were found in a bag next to Patrick’s bag, under a seat booked in his name. They accepted he wasn’t on the train, but argued the circumstantial case against him was compelling.

‘They didn’t have a case,’ says Salvatore. When the judge retired, Salvatore flew home to await the verdict. The lawyer, who had now taken £7,000 from the family’s straining finances, assured him of success.

Three weeks later, Malluzzo was driven to the courthouse for a final time. ‘It was announced in Hindi,’ he remembers. ‘I watched my lawyer’s face. I thought, “I don’t believe this, it’s guilty.” Then he came over and said, “Ten years.” I felt sick. I looked at the judge, but he wouldn’t look at me.’
When the news reached Dartford, Malluzzo’s family were horrified. ‘I felt disbelief and I was angry and terrified for Patrick,’ says Salvatore. When the family received a transcript of the judgment, they were freshly enraged.
The majority of the judgment consists of proving that the seats were booked in the names of Malluzzo and Dean, and that the bag containing dirty clothes and Malluzzo’s personal effects belonged to him. Neither of these facts was disputed.

Other than that, there is no evidence connecting either Malluzzo or Dean to the drugs. Not a single witness, accepted in the judgment, identified either Malluzzo or Dean as being in the vicinity of a relevant train station, let alone on the train itself. As the judgment states, ‘The passengers did not travel’.

For the judge in the case, however, that wasn’t enough. He concludes that because one of the bags contained Patrick’s possessions, ‘This proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused was totally aware of the fact that drugs were being carried in one of those bags.’
A devil’s advocate would argue this was a failed smuggling attempt hatched by the two Brits, perhaps something that appealed to Malluzzo’s sense of adventure.
The response would be that for an intelligent 26-year-old with plans to enlist, whose friends believe he had never taken drugs, to even contemplate such an endeavour for minor financial gain would be lunacy.

That’s before you consider the conviction’s more slapstick elements: that Malluzzo would handily include a photo of himself and a named prescription in a bag accompanying the drugs, book the seat in his name, volunteer his encashment certificate, give his passport number and address details in the booking, travel internally by train after the drugs could presumably have been found and choose to spend time with co-conspirator Dean while they were being hunted.

Finally, having dodged capture, the judgment suggests Malluzzo would escape from India not through the porous borders with Bangladesh, Myanmar or Bhutan but rather via the country’s busiest airport and a flight to Thailand.

Malluzzo wouldn’t have known if a warrant would be internationally active or if there was a danger he could face trial in Thailand. He would have known though, surely, that in Thailand drug traffickers are sentenced to death.

The family found a new lawyer to launch an appeal but it would be two new arrivals in Kota prison that had a greater impact.
The first was an Indian man, CJ Samuel, a Christian pastor who had been thrown into Kota prison after antagonising local religious leaders.
Malluzzo comforted him and, since his release, Samuel has repaid him with visits and vital supplies, including medicine for the urinary infection. He also takes him painting materials.
The second new arrival was less welcome. ‘They brought new prisoners in one night,’ recalls Malluzzo, ‘and one was John. I jumped up and he actually smiled at me. I said to the guards, “Don’t put him in here or he won’t come out.” They kept us separate after that.’

After two years on remand in Goa, Dean had been acquitted on the separate drugs charges and brought to Kota to face the same charges as Malluzzo.

Under a different judge, his trial concluded far more swiftly than Malluzzo’s. In September 2007, Malluzzo saw him at the gate with his possessions and knew the unthinkable had occurred.

‘I said, “What happened?” And he said, “I’m out. They’re giving me the benefit of the doubt.”’
Malluzzo hasn’t seen or heard from Dean since. While in India I heard various rumours: that Dean is in prison; that he is running a gang in Goa; that he had his legs broken by another smuggler.
As well as the interminable wait for the appeal, the Malluzzo family have faced severe financial pressures as the case costs have risen to £40,000.
‘Family and friends help, but it’s hard,’ says Salvatore, who has delayed his retirement from the Post Office.

‘The house might go. But it’s just money – we need him home.’
There are signs of hope, though. A team of top British lawyers is working on the appeal pro bono with the Malluzzos’ new Indian lawyers.
Widdecombe maintains her campaigning and another MP, Dr Howard Stoate, has received a promise of personal involvement from the British High Commissioner.
‘When Patrick’s parents approached us to see if we could help, even we were shocked at how such an obvious a miscarriage of justice could have been allowed to happen,’ says Fair Trials International chief executive Catherine Wolthuizen.

All involved in the appeal talk confidently of success but head lawyer Priya Patel offers
the sombre warning that appeals in India can take up to six years. For Malluzzo, that would mean 2012.

Unsurprisingly, he suffers anxiety and depression. ‘If it wasn’t for my family and Samuel I don’t know what I’d do,’ he says. ‘The worst thing is knowing the suffering my family go through.’

The guards are getting edgy.

They shout and brandish keys. Malluzzo answers in Hindi and they grant us a last few minutes.
He’s becoming morose as the novelty of my visit nears an end. Other than Samuel, Malluzzo’s solitude is total.
‘It’s easier not to talk to people,’ he says. ‘When they ask about England, that’s when it’s worst. I’m 30 years old, I should be...’ He pauses. ‘I shouldn’t be here.’

The guards approach. It’s a troubling farewell as Malluzzo is surrounded and led back into the prison proper. The filthy cell, the inedible food and the waiting. I call out that next time I see him it could be in London. He smiles weakly.
‘I hope so,’ he shouts. And then he disappears from view.
poor geezer, my friend from school(long time ago!)was busted in turkey, he got a life sentence... he was 14 at the time...eventually got out on an amnesty.