Convicted paedophile Gary Glitter made a hysterical but successful break for freedom last night as he was being deported from Vietnam to Britain after serving nearly three years in prison for child sex offences.
The former rock star, 64, managed to avoid boarding a flight to London during a stopover in Thailand after a series of confrontations involving British embassy officials, police and Thai immigration officers. He told them he was scared of the press, particularly the television crews expected to meet him in London.
Glitter, whose real name is Paul Gadd, collapsed in a bedroom at the Louis Tavern – within the territorial no-man's land of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport – and complained of heart problems, demanding to be taken to hospital. In the early hours of the morning Bangkok time, he was attended by a doctor on call at the airport, paying for his treatment in cash. Meetings were being held in the early hours involving Thai officials, British officials and child protection agencies to discuss his future.
The Government chose today – the day of Glitter's expected arrival – to announce that it is increasing to five years the amount of time paedophiles can be banned from travelling abroad, among other measures to clamp down on sex tourism. The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said of Glitter: "We need to control him and he will be, once he returns to this country. It certainly would be my view that with the sort of record that he's got, he shouldn't be travelling anywhere in the world."
Glitter's attempt to do just that began 12 hours after he was released from Thu Duc prison, 100 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City, where he served his sentence for abusing two girls, aged 10 and 11, in Vietnam. He was taken under police escort and accompanied by an official from the British consulate in Ho Ch Minh City to the airport, with his lawyer insisting he was returning to Britain.
He signed autographs for fellow passengers on the Thai Airways flight to Bangkok, but tried to avoid conversation. One passenger said: "He seemed fairly relaxed but tried to keep himself to himself. Some passengers started hassling him and asking questions, but he got moved away from them all."
On arrival at Bangkok, it was clear that going to London was the last thing on Glitter's mind. He was met at the aircraft by Thai immigration police and taken immediately to a VIP room.
Sudarat Sereewat, the secretary of Thailand's Fight Against Child Exploitation group, said: "At first he asked to be allowed to enter to Thailand but he was refused. He said he had not committed any offence here but he was told he was not wanted."
Unable to enter Thailand, Glitter then demanded to fly on to Singapore. Mr Sereewat added: "This situation is still far from clear. He has been told that he will be arrested if he attempts to enter Thailand."