NRI woman detained at airport in case of mistaken identity

On October 29, Sarah Thomas, 39, was detained at Chennai airport after her flight landed from Dubai. Immigration officials interrogated Sarah, who had gone to India to meet her son, believing that she was Sarah Williams from Kollam district who is accused of cheating a London-based insurance firm, and who absconded 13 years ago. Thomas pleaded with officials saying her son was waiting for her and requested them to call her family, but she was ignored and later handed over to police who registered a case. The next day her son moved a habeas corpus petition in the Madras High Court, but by then she was produced before a magistrate's court and was remanded to custody at Puzhal Central Prison. Chennai police meanwhile informed their counterparts in Kerala and a team rushed to Chennai to secure custody of Thomas who they thought was the absconding Sarah Williams. In a hurry to alert officials and the media they forgot to verify the basics. Sarah was then taken to Kerala where, after the police was served a notice by the Madras High Court, they admitted they overlooked the mismatch in photographs. It took police another 24 hours to complete the release procedures. Sarah Thomas is still in shock four days later, over the casual handling of her arrest and finds it hard to move on. Her family has decided to approach the National Human Rights Commission and the Union Home ministry for justice, saying Sarah who travelled in many countries was virtually thrown into a totally strange world and put in a jail among criminals.