Daniel Holmes: The Long Way Home was released this week, shining a spotlight into the darker corners of the Maltese judicial system.
The Welshman, who was sentenced to over a decade in prison, spoke to Lovin Malta about what he saw inside Corradino Correctional Facility and his experience in the custody of the Maltese government – and his story features some shocking claims.
From how the Gozitan police force works, to what everyday life inside Malta’s biggest prison is like, to being a non-violent offender locked up for years among killers and rapists, Holmes’ bares all about his time inside Malta’s largest and most secure prison.
1. Holmes said that evidence taken from his car may have been planted in another man’s house to frame him
At around 9:33 minutes in the documentary
In the documentary, Daniel Holmes explains how, when he was arrested, he had a bud of cannabis inside a rolled piece of paper, and an Embassy One cigarette. Somehow, these items made their way to the home of Barry Charles Lee, an Englishman arrested with Holmes, and were used as key evidence by the Maltese prosecutors to try Lee as a drug trafficker.
2. Police ordered pizza and coca-cola to celebrate Holmes’ arrest – in his own kitchen
At around 3:43 minutes in the documentary
Daniel explains how, after he was raided and took police up to his flat to show them his cannabis grow room, they acted overly dramatic, saying the air was full of toxic fumes, and began to celebrate that they had arrested a major drug kingpin (he was caught with five mature cannabis plants and 21 seedlings).
However, it soon got even worse.
He heard a knock on the door, and, worried that it might be an acquaintance who was about to walk right into the middle of his arrest, it instead turned out to be a deliveryman, delivering pizza and coca-cola to the police.
There was then a surreal moment when Daniel Holmes sat, handcuffed, in his own kitchen, as police celebrated his capture and arrest by eating pizza and drinking coca-cola at his table.
3. Holmes’ friend and partner in growing cannabis, Barry Lee, committed suicide inside prison while awaiting trial
At around 11:14 minutes in the documentary
Barry Lee committed suicide inside his jail cell at around 2am, by wedging a piece of wood into the air vent in his cell and using carrier bags to create a noose.
He committed suicide after receiving an indictment of five life sentences for growing five mature cannabis plants.
Holmes places the responsibility of Lee’s death on the Maltese authorities, saying they murdered him through the conditions they kept him in and through ignoring his obvious signs of deterioration.
His death has never been seriously investigated.
Pictured: Barry Charles Lee
4. Like most prisoners, Holmes spent many of his days assembling Playmobil dolls
At around 22:45 minutes in the documentary
Many prisoners’ only source of income is the assembling of Playmobil dolls. Holmes’ explains the numbers behind the job: prisoners are giving the parts to make 2,000 dolls at a time, and are paid 13 euros per thousand.
He showed the technique commonly used to make them, and indicated exactly how prisoners develop callouses over time through this repetitive manual behaviour.
He also alleges that the job is offered to everyone inside prison, including sex offenders, meaning that some Playmobil dolls available for purchase were made by paedophiles while they lay in their bed.
5. Drug abuse inside prison was widespread
At around 16:26 minutes in the documentary
Synthetic drug use is rife within prison according to Holmes, with all types of legal drugs being used throughout the day.
Synthetic cannabis which, ironically, is legal in Malta yet considerably more dangerous than natural cannabis, was routinely used in prison, with the smell pervading the prison as soon as the prisoners woke up.
6. The daily grind was tedious and soul-crushing
At around 17:45 minutes in the documentary
There wasn’t much to do inside Maltese prison, and it was a daily battle to keep one’s mind preoccupied.
He asked to start a course to learn Polish, but was told the prison does not offer Polish lessons. They offered him a course in Russian instead, and after pointing out that Russian and Polish were different languages, they offered him a course in English.
He turned to reading and writing, penning over eight volumes of diaries while inside, as well as countless poems and letters.
7. The judicial system came down hard on some of the most vulnerable people
At around 18:25 minutes in the documentary
According to Holmes, many prisoners inside were vulnerable people roped in by criminals who knew they wanted to get out of a desperate situation.
Some of these low-level criminals, such as those enlisted by kingpins to physically carry drugs over borders (known as drug mules) received some of the harshest sentences – even though they are at the absolute bottom of the criminal chain.
He recounts the story of a deaf 18-year-old who was caught carrying cocaine into Malta for a drug trafficker. Holmes’ believes the teenager would have been treated more leniently if he was tried in a foreign court and his unique situation and disability were taken into account.
However, he was tried in Malta, and ended up serving 11 years in prison, until he was nearly 30-years-old. During his time inside, he was unable to communicate effectively, he didn’t learn anything, and he was unable to do anything at all beneficial with his time.