Hurghada 1st Police Department headquarters is a low-rise, rather nondescript building near the airport on the edge of the Egyptian Red Sea town.
The limited prisoner accommodation within cannot be compared with, say, Thailand’s infamous ‘Bangkok Hilton’ — where foreign drug traffickers have quickly learned to regret the error of their ways. But who would care to be in the position in which Laura Plummer finds herself today?
Miss Plummer, 33, is a clothes shop assistant from Hull who never had a boyfriend before she met Omar Saad, an Egyptian lifeguard, while on holiday at a real-life Hilton hotel resort.
Mr Saad was already married with children, but he and the young Yorkshire woman ‘fell in love’ and, bizarrely, a long-distance, semi-official love triangle was agreed upon.
That arrangement might have continued but for the fact that the Egyptian suffered from chronic back pain due to a car crash. When he asked devoted Miss Plummer to bring him painkillers from England, she was only too keen to ease his discomfort — but her attempts to help have shattered her life and created international headlines.
On Boxing Day, Miss Plummer was sentenced to three years in prison, thanks to the 290 tablets of the pain-killing synthetic opioid tramadol found in her suitcase by airport security when she arrived for a visit to her lover.
If it is not prescribed by a medical professional, tramadol is prohibited in Egypt and its supply can be punishable by death.
She now subsists on bread and water in a shared cell at the Hurghada police station pending transfer to a dedicated facility somewhere else in Egypt’s hopelessly overcrowded and deeply unpleasant prison system.
Laura Plummer was carrying 270 Tramadol for her friend who was suffering a bad back
Laura Plummer has been described by her large and obviously devoted family as ‘naive’ or ‘daft’ — and there is no evidence to suggest she was anything but.
Her father Neville, 70, says she wouldn’t know a ‘tramadol from a Panadol’. That is unfortunate to say the least because, as we will explain, tramadol has become the focus of a massive police crackdown in Egypt.
The country has become both a major transit route and ready market for the drug since international criminal gangs and Islamist terror groups began to realise its black market value.
Meanwhile, a wider war is raging across Egypt between those Islamist forces allied to Islamic State, and the government of strongman leader General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Her family said Laura would not know the difference between Panadol and Tramadol
It is the reason foreign tourism has collapsed in the years after the Arab Spring in 2011, which saw an Islamic regime democratically elected then overthrown by al-Sisi in a bloody coup four years ago.
The deteriorating security situation saw the number of tourists visiting Egypt plunge from 15 million to 5.4 million in 2016, a downturn which has grievously damaged the economy.
This has added a political element to the case of Laura Plummer: one imagines the authorities will not want Egypt to have a reputation among British tourists as a country that locks foreigners up at will.
Of course the plunge in tourist numbers led to a similarly sharp fall in local holiday prices, which is what might have attracted Laura Plummer to Sharm el Sheik in 2014.
It was there at the Hilton Sharks Bay resort that she met her Egyptian lover, who was working at the 630-room hotel. He is four years older than Laura and comes from the town of Beni Suef on the river Nile, some 100 miles south of the capital Cairo. It is where his wife and children have been based.
He told the Mail: ‘We started talking as normal people would, but we understood our feelings and the love from the first conversation. From the first meeting it was love. Afterwards, she came to Egypt just for me and I took vacations so we could spend them together.’
In order to do so, they contracted what is called in Egypt an ‘orfi marriage’. This is an oral declaration of marriage backed by signed statements in front of witnesses and a lawyer. While it has no formal legal recognition, it is sufficient to allow a couple to stay together in the same hotel room without being arrested for adultery or fornication.
Often the couple are an already married Egyptian man and his foreign girlfriend. The orfi documents are colloquially known as ‘f*** papers’ because sex is more often than not their raison d’etre.
Miss Plummer’s family said she visited Egypt for a fortnight several times a year to spend time with her ‘husband’. She had even met his legal wife, though it is unclear what that lady thought of the arrangement.
One of the reasons Miss Plummer met the other significant woman in Mr Saad’s life may be that she started travelling to her lover’s home town after he lost his job at the Hilton three years ago. He now works as a security guard.
The Mail learned that Mr Saad had been sacked by the resort after a quantity of the drug cannabis was found in his room at the resort’s staff quarters. Former colleagues said that in return for Mr Saad’s resignation, the resort did not report the matter to the police.