Nova Scotia

Family visits Digby man in Spanish jail

The family of a Digby, N.S., man who has been held in a Spanish jail for more than two years has returned home after their first visit with him.

Halliday 'looks like he's been in a concentration camp' says wife

Sheree Halliday says her husband is in bad shape. (CBC)

The family of a Digby, N.S., man who has been held in a Spanish jail for more than two years has returned home after their first visit with him.

Philip Halliday, 55, was part of the crew onboard a ship with $600 million worth of cocaine hidden in the hold in 2009. He was arrested and has been in jail on drug-trafficking charges ever since.

The U.K.-based people who organized the attempted drug shipment have been convicted, but none of the crew have been given trial dates and languish in prison.

Halliday's wife Sheree and their two sons returned to Nova Scotia Monday after spending a few days visiting him in prison.  

"He looks like he's been in a concentration camp. You can see all his ribs," Sheree Halliday said. "He doesn't look like the man I married."

"For myself, if was great to see him, but given the condition he was in … that was tough to see. He's not in good shape at all," said son Cody.

Tepper release gives hope

The family is wearing white ribbons to show their hope he will be released. Sheree Halliday said the weekend release of Hank Tepper, a New Brunswick man detained in Lebanon for a year, may help their case.

"Certainly I see them as the same. They are innocent, they are in foreign countries and the government has not helped to bring them home," she said.

Philip and his wife Sheree Halliday had not seen each other since Philip set out on the Destiny Empress almost two years ago. (submitted)

Unlike Tepper, who was not charged, Halliday has been charged with drug trafficking. Spanish law means he could wait almost two more years before he gets his day in court.

Neighbours in Digby are setting up a Canada-wide non-profit group to support the family.

Peter Dickie, chairman of the Halliday Family Support Society, said they wanted to help the Hallidays.

"We are not raising money to prove Philip's innocence or guilt. This is about helping a family we feel is going through an absolute nightmare and is being ruined financially," he said.

$90,000 in legal bills

The case has drummed up legal bills of $90,000, forcing the family to sell their home.

Halliday was one of seven crew members aboard the Destiny Empress, which was boarded and seized by officers from the Spanish National Police special operations group on Dec. 20, 2009.

Investigators said they discovered 1.5 tones of cocaine in the ship's hold and Scotland Yard asserted the seizure was worth about $620 million at street prices.

Halliday was charged with drug trafficking in March 2010. He has maintained he had no idea there was a large stash of hidden cocaine on the boat. If he's found guilty, Sheree Halliday said her husband faces an 18-year prison sentence.

While in detention, Halliday has had several health problems. His gall bladder had to be removed and he has also suffered problems with his liver and kidneys.