Justice for Alexandre Silva
Alex, who is originally from Brazil, has lived in the UK for over twenty years and worked as an air steward for over 12 years for British Airways with an excellent work record. On Monday 6th July 2009, Alex was in central London when he received a message on his mobile phone from his housemate's immigration lawyer, stating that there were police in the house looking for him. Alex had only been living there for two weeks.
Alex went back to the house straight away, which he has always stated he doesn't believe someone would do if they were a real drug trafficker and knew the police were waiting in their house. He arrived at the house and was greeted by police officers who led him to the living room. Alex was cuffed and told to sit down. One of the officers was behind him carrying out a search the officer said that he had found a packet of drugs inside a box that belonged to Alex, where in fact Alex saw the officer picking the packet up from the floor. Alex was never shown the drugs and at the time explained in clear words that they were not his and could not have been in his box. The quantity of drugs found at the house was approximately 34 grams of Crystal Meth and 21 grams of cocaine (grams not kilos). Alex was arrested and remanded the same day Monday 6th July 2009 and remained in prison until Friday 27th November 2009, when he was released on bail.
The trial started on Friday 1st January 2010 and ended on Tuesday 16th February 2010.
Since Alex had no previous convictions, and had no experience of dealing with the law in the UK, he went into the trial very naively, assuming that since he was innocent, and despite the trauma of being wrongly arrested, he would be found not guilty and exonerated of all charges.
Even though no drugs were found on Alex's person at the time of his arrest and one of the other defendants told the court that the drugs were his and that Alex had no knowledge of them. Alex was found guilty of "conspiracy to supply a class A drug (Crystal Meth), and possession of a class A drug (Cocaine)". He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison.
It was alleged that he and three others had worked together to supply and sell drugs. One of the accused was Alex's housemate, who at first pleaded his innocence. A week into the case, whilst still in prison, two of the defendants changed their plea to guilty. One of them was a cancer sufferer and died at Wormwood Scrubs just before sentencing on 19/03/10. This defendant had previously claimed never to have known Alex, and indeed Alex did not have his number in his mobile phone and had never made calls to him. There were messages sent on the phone which were from someone who called themselves "Alex", but there were also messages that were sent from someone calling themselves "Mark" who later was proved to be using a false name to send text messages. Alex's house-mate later wrote a letter to the judge explaining that the drugs were not Alex's and that Alex had nothing to do with any of it - however the judge threw this out of court stating it was misleading the court.
Alex was always travelling with his job. His trips abroad included travelling to countries in many parts of the world. One of the perks of his job was that he could buy things cheaply abroad for friends, and bring things back with him such as t-shirts, perfumes, cigarettes etc. Because he did two trips to Cape Town, South Africa, the prosecution alleged that he was going there to get Crystal Meth for his housemate. At the time he had discovered a cosmetic range made in South Africa and was trying to get a representation for his cousin to be sold at her beauty salon in London. As Cape Town trips are hard to come by, he decided to travel there on his concession to try to get an appointment with the producers. When he was in Cape Town he'd sometimes use his friend's girlfriend's mobile to send and receive texts which she had offered for him to use as it was cheaper to send and receive texts than on his London mobile. Alex used the phone to send some messages, however, his friend's girlfriend also sent text messages to his flat mate in London on the same phone that week. In some of the texts she's joking about "talcum powder' and in another text she asks says that her boyfriend wishes to know if he can get "Keyla"."Keyla" is Portuguese/Brazilian slang for Ketamine (horse tranquilliser), but Alex doesn't know if that was exactly what she was asking for. After Alex was arrested, his friend's girlfriend disappeared, and his "friend" there also refused to help. The text messages were used as key evidence in the trial against Alex, even though it was impossible to prove who had sent which messages. In the search in the house, a mobile phone was found in the living room which the police claim belonged to Alex. It had messages on it, which allude to drug deals. However, there is no proof whatsoever that this phone belonged to Alex or in fact that he had ever used it. Many of the messages on the phone were sent when Alex was in fact out of the country working.
All the officers who were at the house when Alex was arrested came to give evidence against him. They all "lost" their notes about everything that was asked, answered, commented or happened during the time in the house. Another key piece of evidence that "disappeared" after the police house search was a diary that Alex kept detailing the items that he bought for friends abroad. As a meticulous person, he kept notes about exactly what he bought and how much things cost etc. This diary could have proved very useful to Alex if presented in court. The chief of the investigation, also went to Alex's flat in NW9 which Alex was letting at the time, searched his house and found nothing, but in court declared that they never conducted the search.
Having himself done jury service Alex assumed that this jury would examine all the evidence as conscientiously as the one he had served on and return a not-guilty verdict During the trial, when the jury weren't falling asleep or visibly not concentrating, they were quite often arguing amongst themselves, sending messages to the judge complaining about each other. The case even came to a standstill for two days because of that.
When the case was coming to an end, some of them also sent messages to the judge complaining that this case had to finish by such and such a date because they had childcare problems. Being gay, of mixed-race origin and Brazilian, Alex also faced a lot of prejudice during the trial process. Aspects of his personal life were revealed which clearly made it "easier" for the jury to assume he was guilty. Since Alex worked as an air steward this was used to suggest it would be easier for him to traffic drugs - whereas in reality airline staff are rigorously screened, more so than passengers, and regular drug tests on Alex, including one on being arrested, were all negative. Judge Clarke said that he thought that the jury would take at least three to four days, if not a week to decide the outcome. In the end they took just over two days to decide.
On the day they found Alex guilty (16/03/10), three hours earlier at 11am, they still hadn't come to a decision but by 2pm, they found him guilty.
In the confiscation procedures on 03/05/11 where the legal system can claim back money, property or hidden assets, the investigation team didn't find anything at all to suggest that Alex has profited from selling or trafficking drugs. Since Alex had sold his house after being convicted to help pay off his debts and other legal costs, they took some of the profit from the house sale - in the end leaving Alex's bank account overdrawn.
Lastly it should be said that Alex's friends know him for being someone who is very kind and giving, who would always help a friend. His mother is 75 and still lives in Brazil. For a long time Alex has always sent some of his salary back to his mum to pay for her medical treatments. She is now living in a state of misery in Brazil in the knowledge that her son is in prison in the UK and won't be released for a very long time. Alex's sister in Brazil has been able to raise awareness of his case locally - and so far she has managed to get thousands of people to sign a petition to help get justice for Alex. This has successfully gained the attention of the media - and so far several television, newspaper and radio reports have covered Alex's case nationally in Brazil.
The Brazilian government is currently involved in discussions with the consulate in the UK to support Alex's case for an appeal.
Letters of Support/Solidarity to:
Alexandre de Sousa Silva
HMP Lowdham Grange
Old Epperstone Road
He also has a Facebook page. Please visit this page and "like" it to support Alex: http://www.facebook.com/FreeAlexandredeSouzaSilva