'I'm just sorry for what I did': Alberta woman arrested in Thailand returns home
'I'm super happy and was super thrilled to see my family. I thought I'd never see them again.'
A Grande Prairie, Alta., woman who faced a decade in prison for spray-painting an ancient wall in Thailand has returned home and says she is eager to move on from the ordeal.
Brittney Schneider was vacationing in Thailand in October when she was charged with vandalism for her role in spray-painting Tha Pae Gate, the main entrance to the old town of Chiang Mai.
Furlong Lee, a friend from the U.K., was also charged in relation to the incident.
The pair, both 23, faced a fine of about $40,000 Cdn and up to 10 years in prison. They were initially given a two-year prison sentence, but a judge ultimately gave them a fine of $4,000 each and a one-year suspended sentence.
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After seven weeks in Southeast Asia, Schneider and her mother arrived back home on Friday night. She said coming back to Alberta was a surreal experience.
"I'm super happy and was super thrilled to see my family," she said. "I thought I'd never see them again.
"I was just waiting at every airport for them to detain me again. I don't know why, I was so scared. I didn't even have my own passport, they had to escort me to every plane until I was in a Canadian airport."
"Once I landed, I felt great."
Facing threats at home
Schneider says she is now focusing on dealing with the stress of the experience and will see a counsellor. After incurring huge expenses and legal fees, she wants to go back to work and resume a normal life.
She says she is still facing threats.
"People have threatened that they're going to cane me and burn my car and stuff like that," she said. "I went for dinner last night and I had someone come up and record me and tell me spray paint's on sale."
Schneider says Lee, who was detained with her in Thailand, remains in custody in the country. Her family paid extra to have her case expedited, she said, but Lee was not able to do the same.
She says she will remain in contact with him once he is free.
Schneider says she would like to travel again in the future, but her experience in Thailand has changed her priorities.
She says she has learned she has to be more respectful when travelling and in her life in general. Drinking won't be the focus on her future travels, she said. She maintains the vandalism was a drunken mistake.
She believes she would not have vandalized the wall if she had been sober.
"I'm just sorry for what I did," she said.
"I'm not what I did, my mistake doesn't define me. I'm not that type of person. I just made a mistake."