‘Weird’ silence around Aussie detainee
CLOSE friends of a woman detained in Thailand have expressed further concern for her safety and whereabouts, after failing to hear from the mother-of-two in more than 72 hours.
Claire Johnson, a nurse and cosmetic tour organiser, sent frantic texts message to friend Juliet Potter on Monday from Bangkok - but still hasn't been heard from since.
The last message Ms Potter received included "help me" and "so scared" while Ms Johnson was in an immigration detention centre.
Ms Potter said since receiving the messages on Monday, she'd been conversing with Ms Johnson's father, who she claims also has not heard from his daughter in days.
"The last I heard from her father was that she'd be coming home Saturday," Ms Potter told news.com.au on Thursday.
Ms Potter has since told news.com.au she understands Ms Johnson will be on an 8pm flight out of Bangkok this evening.
Ms Potter said she'd spoken with Ms Johnson's stepsister, who said "she didn't know which detention centre Claire was in".
"Its just weird she hasn't called," Ms Potter said.
"To send those text those messages and not hear from her again. There must be more to it that we don't know."
News.com.au has contacted Mr Johnson for comment.
In a statement to news.com.au on Thursday, a spokesman from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said they department was working closely with Ms Johnson's family.
"The Department of Foreign affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to an Australian woman detained in Thailand in accordance with the Consular Services Charter," the statement read.
"We are liaising closely with the family member she has nominated in Australia. For privacy reasons we are unable to provide further details."
Ms Potter said Ms Johnson, 46, was due back in Sydney on January 8, but was detained and had been in a detention centre in Bangkok since. Her Facebook profile has also been inactive since that date.
Ms Johnson's latest post reads: "All grand adventures end with a big bang!"
She added a gun emoticon and a quote saying: "I feel like I'm in season 5 of my life and the writers are just making ridiculous sh*t happen to keep it interesting."
She answered comments from friends on the post with: "Some pretty serious stuff went down. I'm flying in Saturday (12) talk to you next week."
According to the Gold Coast Bulletin, Ms Johnson is the managing director at Cosmetic Holidays International, and may have been detained because of visa issues.
Cosmetic Holidays International provides a range of cosmetic surgery holiday packages in Thailand.
Ms Potter said she believed Ms Johnson, a mother of two, might have "outstayed her visa by accident".
"Claire went overseas to travel and work for a year, and was on her way back through Thailand to come home to Sydney," she told news.com.au on Tuesday, 24 hours after her last text from Ms Johnson.
"After her divorce, she basically sold everything and went overseas by herself, and it was time for her to come home back to Sydney. She was going to stay in a flat I have when she got home. I was excited to have my friend back … but looks like that's not happening any time soon."
It's been reported Ms Johnson may have overstayed her visa by several months. According to Sky News journalist Siobhan Robbins, Thai authorities said Ms Johnson had been in the country illegally for 111 days and would be deported.
Ms Potter, who runs a Sydney PR firm, said Ms Johnson was asked to pay a fine by police and to have a current plane ticket booked in order to leave the country. It is understood another friend of Ms Johnson's paid the 3000 Baht fine ($A130) and booked her on a Garuda flight on Saturday 12th January to return back to Sydney.
But Ms Johnson claims she was still unable to leave the detention centre on the weekend, sending a string of texts to Ms Potter.
"Help me," Ms Johnson's text to Ms Potter read. "Call yhe (sic) media.
"Help. Goita (sic) go. Theu (sic) r taking my phone cant talk. So scared."
Ms Potter, who has transferred $900 to Ms Johnson since last week, believes her friend could be in "great trouble" in the detention centre.
"I feel like I should've done something sooner," she said.
"I'm extremely concerned for her … God knows where she is and who she's with. There's just no detail on where she is.
"She's a very attractive woman and I am concerned for her. She just needs to come back home."