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14th Jul 2015

UCC Students Launch Search For Irish Pair Who Saved Them From Being Jailed In Thailand

The three faced prison due to an immigration fine.


If you’ve ever watched Banged Up Abroad, then you’ll know that ending up in a jail in a foreign country is no laughing matter.

Three UCC students – Nicole Yap, Sorcha Cotter and Maeve Nevin Maguire – had a close shave this week when they arrived at Surat Thani airport in Thailand, only to discover that they had overstayed their visa by seven days and had to pay a fine of 10,500 baht (€300) or they wouldn’t be allowed to board their flight home.

“We had about €15 left between the three of us – our flight to Kuala Lumpur was in 45 minutes and our passports had been confiscated. We were told that if we didn’t pay immediately we would be brought to police station detained and prosecuted,” Nicole told


The three then embarked on a frenzied effort to contact their parents and get the cash… only to be thwarted by an withdrawal limit of €150 on the Thai ATM.

After using another card and raiding their luggage for forgotten money, they managed to scrape together €279 in Thai baht but still didn’t have enough to pay the fine.

“In the meantime, I’m running around the airport with three different bank cards on the go with no credit so only communicating with Ireland via Whatsapp, I probably ran up and down the escalators about 20 times as all the ATMs were on the 1st floor and wifi was only on 2nd floor – every time I saw the ‘transaction failed please contact your issuing bank’. I died a little inside,” she continued.

“By now, we were asking the Royal Thai immigration office for a lend of a fiver to make up the debt and bank details so she could transfer it back to them in Malaysia. They gathered and laughed again at the three bawling Irish girls pleading for a fiver.”


Desperate to return home and crying at the thought of being imprisoned, the girls remembered that they had been talking to an Irish couple before going through immigration and decided to make a last-ditch attempt to ask them for the money.

“One of the nicest things that any one has ever done for us is those Irish people giving three desperate girls ฿500 knowing that they wouldn’t be getting it back. Unfortunately with all the panic, we never got the names of the two Irish people who helped us in our hour of need but from the bottom of our hearts we are so so grateful for their kindness.”


The group are now anxious to track down the “Irish girl with blond curly hair travelling with a dark haired Irish lad, both around our age, who were travelling from Surat Thani airport yesterday afternoon” in order to thank them properly and repay them for their kindness.

“Without them, we would have had to wait in a Thai police station for the banks to open in Ireland waiting to take out €12 worth of Thai money and it would have probably been the worst day of our lives. It’s so nice to know that no matter where you are in the world Irish people will always help each other out – even if it is just €12!”


The Good Samaritan couple have been identified as Julianne O’Leary and her boyfriend John O’Brien, both from Tralee in Co. Kerry. Many thanks to all who got in touch to credit Julianne and John!