Leeds United fan due back to UK ‘within days’ after 19 years in Philippine jail

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Billy Burton – the Thalidomide victim who served 19 years in a Philippine jail – is expected back in the UK next week.

Billy, 48, from Wetherby, was facing life in prison after being caught trying to take 12lb of cannabis out of the country.

On Boxing Day, however, after years of dedicated campaigning by family, friends and politicians, he was granted a pardon on the grounds of ill health by Philippines president Benigno Aquino III.

Since then, though, the well-known Leeds United supporter has been held in a deportation centre awaiting the official documentation to be able to leave the Far East.

In an email home to friends in Leeds on Thursday, Billy wrote that he finally expects to be able to fly home next week.

Lifelong pal and United superfan Gary Edwards has been in regular contact with Billy.

He said: “It won’t be long now, until Billy will be home.

“The authorities are still squeezing every drop out of him that they can as he is held in an immigration/deportation centre awaiting clearance to return home.

“Billy is doing well. He is very upbeat, and is happy to have running water, a flushing toilet and a clean bed.

“You can only imagine what it’s been like for him incarcerated in a Manila jail since Boxing Day 1992.”

Gary, from Kippax, Leeds, said Billy’s friends and fellow Leeds fans were planning a party to mark their pal’s long-awaited return.

Gary added: “Hopefully we can help Billy get his life back on track once he does finally return – as long as we don’t finish him off with alcoholic poisoning at his homecoming bash!”

Billy was given a life-term of 30 years after he was caught with the drugs in 1992. He was told he could expect to serve eight years before being considered for parole.

However, before he reached eligibility to apply, the Filipino government changed the law, imposing stricter sentences for drugs offences, even retrospectively.

He would not have been due for release until 2032, by which time he would have been 70 and have served 41 years in jail.

He was pardoned 19 years to the day after being imprisoned.


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