Drug smuggler speaks about prison ordeal
A convicted drug smuggler who survived a six-year ordeal in a Japanese jail is turning his life around.
Nick Baker, from Cirencester, has put the dark days of imprisonment in barbaric conditions behind him and is forging ahead with his future.
In his first interview since his release, Nick, 38, told the Echo he still suffered from his 'hell' in Fuchu Prison.
He said his experience was still too raw to talk about publicly but, having had huge help from counsellors, that day would come.
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Now he is simply focusing on rebuilding his day-to-day life, shaping his career and rebuilding his cherished relationship with his son George.
"Obviously I still have my bad days, but now I'm really motivated," he said.
Yesterday, he started an intensive plumbing course at Gloucestershire College with the ultimate aim of setting up his own business.
He has also taken accountancy exams, qualified to be a part-time football coach with youngsters, and moved house.
The total reversal of fortunes is a far cry from the years of mainly solitary confinement which crippled the former chef mentally and physically as he battled with his loss of identity, starvation and the separation from his son, who was just one when Nick was arrested at Tokyo's Narita Airport in 2002.
He was caught carrying a suitcase containing nearly 1kg of cocaine and 40,000 ecstasy tablets.
Nick was convicted and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, despite arguing his travelling companion had swapped their cases.
His mum Iris launched a high-profile, tenacious campaign for the Japanese government to recognise her son's basic human rights.
Nick was finally sent back to London's Wandsworth Prison in April 2008 where he served a further six months before being released.
He said sitting in his Japanese cell, he'd managed to focus on what he would do once freed.
"I was in solitary confinement - it gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do," he said. "I'm confident doing manual things and I was sent the manual for the college.
"My mum also sent me accountancy books and I've studied and now gained qualifications.
"When I came out of prison I didn't want to be around people at all. I didn't want to leave the house and didn't even feel comfortable going to the supermarket. I was on edge and felt I was being stared at all the time.
"People knew me and were judging me. I had my ideas with things I wanted to do but every time I tried people shut doors in my face."
Nick said a door opened when the job centre staff put him in touch with Working Links. The employment specialists started him on a MAPS+ course - a toolkit of exercises to increase people's self-esteem.
Now the course has given him a £750 bursary award, which will help pay for his college and equipment.
Nick said: "They helped me understand my situation and change my attitude to myself.
"When my consultant Heather suggested I do the personality exercise I wasn't sure it would be any use to me.
"Seeing the results I could recognise positive characteristics I hadn't really been aware of. I could see my personality was suited to my chosen career as a plumber."
Working Links consultant Heather Paine-Anderson said: "Nick spend most of his incarceration in solitary confinement.
"Whilst this impacted severely on his ability to communicate, to be around others and to retain a sense of who he was, it gave him the opportunity to see the error of his ways and consider the changes he would need to make once released.
"His efforts over the past few months have demonstrated not only his determination but also his versatility."
Nick's mother Iris, 60, said: "You don't get over something like Nick has undergone in a few months - but he's doing all he can to move forward."