A BRIT banged up in a Turkish jail tells how he was forced to fight for his life against an inmate who looked like “Satan in a T-shirt”.
Married dad-of-five Toby Robyns was shoved into a locked room to take part in a Gladiator-style bout with a hulking mobster dubbed The Executioner.
Toby, who was held after being accused of smuggling precious coins, tells how he was locked up with Islamic State terrorists who said the jail was worse than Guantanamo Bay.
He lost two stone during the harrowing 42-day ordeal and feared for his life among lags who spent their time screaming and crying late into the night.
He even woke in shock and horror one night to find a fellow lag hanging.
Now safely home in Southwick, near Shoreham, West Sussex, ambulance driver Toby says he is haunted by his ordeal.
He says: “One night I was escorted out by guards and pushed into a small room.
“There were no cameras and they locked the door. A prisoner who they called The Executioner was standing in the corner.
“He had arranged a fight to the death Gladiator-style because I had sung God Save the Queen over his shouting one night.
“He was part of the Georgian mafia and had shot a policeman in the head.”
Toby feared he had “no chance” against the prisoner, who was over 6ft and pushing 17 stone. But a survival instinct kicked in.
“He was huge – he looked like Satan in a t-shirt,” said Toby.
“I turned round to try to get out and he punched me in the head.
“That’s when I took my top off. I gestured for him to do the same. But as he was pulling it over his head, I punched him and kicked him in the groin.
“It was either him or me. I just remember the guards pulling me off and I saw a heap lying there, covered in blood. My hands were swollen and bruised.
“I’ve never had a fight before. A red mist just descended and all I could think of was my family.”
Toby’s arrest in August – as he and his family prepared to fly home – made global headlines.
His GP receptionist wife Heidi, 43, and five kids were distraught and feared they would never see him again.
Toby, 53, was held after airport staff in Bodrum said 13 coins he and his sons had found snorkelling were historical artefacts and should have been declared to authorities.
Toby’s sons Baxter, nine, and Brody, 11, found the coins.
Toby said: “They were a memento – nothing special. I put the coins in a clear plastic bag and went through security.
“Next thing I knew there were police waving guns and I was slapped in handcuffs. I said to my wife I’ll be back in a minute – knowing full well I wasn’t coming back.”
He was hauled before a court the next day, accused of smuggling and sent to high-security Mugla Penitentiary.
Toby, who also has three grown-up kids by a former partner, says: “It was the craziest place ever.
“I was searched and stripped. All I had was a T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops and a mattress.
“My cell was 20 metres long, two-and-a-half wide, metal beds, no blanket, no sheets or pillows.
“I lay awake all night. No one spoke English or Turkish. It was a foreign cell. People were praying all night, screaming and crying.
“The shower was a Pepsi bottle with holes in it and there was hot water for an hour twice a week.
“I didn’t have a toothbrush, there was no drinking water – you have to buy everything, even rubbish bags and electricity. I had no money when I arrived so I couldn’t buy anything for 10 days.”
When he finally got cash, Toby bought cigarettes so he could barter with guards.
He said: “I used to get 40 cigarettes a week. I’d have a few but used the rest for bribes. I got my wedding ring back for five and my watch back for 10.
“The food was terrible. Soup, plain beans or chickpeas and a chicken drumstick once a week. Sometimes we got goat meatballs which you had to force down, or half a boiled egg.
“They would put on Turkish pop songs all afternoon. At night they’d show us films like Batman – all in Turkish, on a 1980s TV.
“Prisoners would fight all day every day. They would charge at you and hit you over the head with prison-issue flip flops.
“There was a bully I called Vlad the Impaler. He was kingpin in the prison and made grown men cry on their beds.”
Toby says he was able to outsmart some of the prisoners.
“There was an inmate I nicknamed Igglepiggle – like the dopey character from In The Night Garden.
“He kept stealing my water. So I filled a bottle with water from the bucket that prisoners used to wash their bits with. He got very sick but learned his lesson.”
Toby encountered a more sinister presence too – the IS fanatics.
He adds: “They used to write letters to the warden for us as they were the only ones who could speak Turkish.
“One guy, Ali, said he was caught with bomb-making stuff in Marmaris. He was recruited in Belgium and sent to Istanbul.
“He had the vest and was planning an attack. He was a normal lad. He told me he wasn’t brainwashed any more and was hoping to go back to his family.
“Every day I’d watch them go out of the cell and then an hour later see them on Turkish CNN appearing in court on terror charges.”
Eventually, through negotiations with lawyers and the British counsel, Toby was freed.
But a court ruled that if he offends in Turkey within five years he must serve 13 months and pay a fine.
After the verdict Toby had to spend the weekend in a grim detention centre before he could get a flight home.
He says: “The centre was split between terrorists and refugees. They didn’t want me mixing with either.
“I got woken up by four terrorists. They kept saying ‘old man old man, talk to me, I hear you are English’.
“They were bullish but I told them I wasn’t scared of them. I’d been to Mugla. I’d had a lot worse.
“One was from Yemen. He looked like the Devil – but he was pleasant enough to me.
“The other one had been arrested for having bomb-making equipment. He laughed and told me he’d just bought ‘lots of nuts and bolts’.
“They were a pretty scary bunch, but they kind of liked me. In the end they made me tea and gave me cigarettes.
“On the last day I had breakfast with them – eight terrorists! One kept saying he’d been to Bristol and punching the air shouting Bristol City.”
Toby finally had an emotional reunion with his family at Gatwick on October 2 – but the drama wasn’t quite over.
Astonishingly, he found another old coin as he was going through his bag in arrivals.
He quickly dumped it in the bin, saying: “No more mementoes, no more sodding coins.”
Relieved wife Heidi said the family had been told Toby could have got 13 years.
She said: “I wanted to collapse but I kept it together for the kids. They’ve now said they don’t want to go abroad as they are scared going through airport security.”
Toby added: “I sobbed like a baby when I saw Heidi and the children. And it was my birthday the next day, the happiest ever.
“I looked like the wild man of Borneo with this giant beard when I got back. I shaved it straight away and chucked the clothes I was wearing. I find it so surreal, all of it.”
Recalling a horrifying scene which faced him in jail, he added: “I did manage to do some good. I saved a man’s life in there.
“One night I woke and someone was hanging from their bed. He was dead as a dodo.
“Being ambulance, I rushed over and gave him CPR. When I left all the prison cheered for me.”
But there is no going back to Turkey.
Toby insists: “I will holiday in Bournemouth next year.”