De Beauvoir family worried sick about mother wrongfully detained by Chinese

Mary Idowu (far right) is pictured with her daughters Elizabeth Idowu, Sarah Murray and Julie Idowu

Mary Idowu (far right) is pictured with her daughters Elizabeth Idowu, Sarah Murray and Julie Idowu in happier times - Credit: Archant

»The family of a terrified mother detained in China for more than two months after her dream holiday turned to nightmare are begging authorities to release her.

Modupe Idowu, known as Mary, of De Beauvoir Road, De Beauvoir, and her friend Esther Jubril Badmos, 50, were put in a detention centre just a week into their trip in June after becoming embroiled in a violent dispute at a shoe shop in the city of Ghuangzhou.

They were locked up in “hell-like” conditions for 38 days and although they have now been released, the two women remain trapped in the country as their visas have expired and authorities refuse to issue them new ones.

Mrs Idowu’s desperate family said their mother’s ordeal started when Ms Jubril Badmos asked the shop to amend an order she had lodged earlier in the trip – and was then assaulted by two members of staff before both women went to a police station.

Mrs Idowu’s daughter Sarah Murray said: “Although Esther tried to defend herself, she was pushed to the floor, kicked and beaten – and handfuls of her hair were ripped out.

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“A security guard locked them in a room and another man, who we think is the shop owner’s brother, came to the room and punched Esther.”

When at the police station their passports were seized and they were pressurised into signing paperwork they didn’t understand, before being flung into a cell overnight without food and moved to a detention centre the next day.

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Ms Idowu, who missed a vital operation while imprisoned, was put in a cell with six other women – forced to sleep on a wooden plank and go to the toilet in front of the other prisoners.

Her friend was taken to the centre’s hospital where she was treated for her injuries.

Meanwhile Mrs Idowu’s five children struggled to find out any information about their mother – despite paying lawyers in China around £4,000 to find out – and two of them flew to the country to track her down at the end of July.

Both women were released on July 29 but since then have been met with an onslaught of demands including a £20,000 claim for damages from the shop owner, which was eventually settled with £4,500.

But their visas have now expired and they cannot be issued with new ones until police provide paperwork to show the charges had been dropped.

Despite endless visits to the police station, officers refuse to tell them when, and if, the documentation will be provided.

Mrs Murray said she barely recognised her mum when she saw her come out of prison.

“Our mum is not the same person,” she said. “When I saw her, I thought she looked like an old woman. She could not walk properly. She was so frail and so skinny as she had lost a couple of stone as she barely ate.”

Mrs Murray, who returned from China on Saturday, added: “I can’t really put this experience into words. We are totally confused. It’s like watching a horror film.”

“Our mum normally uses positive language. She always makes things sound better than they are. When our mum sounds negative you know it’s bad.

Her sister, Julie Idowu, 26 said: “Our pain is very real. I have been crying every day. I have taken a lot of time off work as I‘m so worried about my mum. Our day starts at 2am as China is seven hours ahead.

“While most people go to bed at 10pm, we stay up as we are so anxious.

“Her health and mental state is a big concern as well as the fact that she has missed her operation.

“It’s an injustice that my mum has been held for all this time for winessing an assault on her friend.

“I think there should be more transparency in the justice system so it’s easy to understand what’s going on.”

Her other sister, Elizabeth Idowu, criticised lawyers, saying: “People are exploiting our despair. They are making money out of our continued suffering. “

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said they were aware of the situation and were providing assistance, but could not comment further and said it was a matter for the Chinese.

n The family have set up a petition to get the FCO to bring their mother back. To sign it, please visit

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