Package holidays have their perils for all: long transfers on cramped coaches with other people’s screaming kids, ‘cattle class’ charter flights and the holiday rep who needs to hit their sales targets for pricey trips.
But for Sally Jones and her family their holiday turned traumatic when they were held for nine hours by armed border guards in Tunisia.
Officials in the North African country had confused Mrs Jones, 43, from Urmston near Manchester with a ‘jihadi bride’ from Kent.
Sally Jones, an unemployed rock singer from Chatham, is thought to have fled to Syria earlier this year to marry Junaid Hussain who is thought to be fighting for IS forces.
She is said to have converted to Islam and abandoned her two sons to live in the fundamentalist strong hold of Raqqa.
Mrs Jones was told that her extremist namesake had a passport with the same date of birth as her and that they looked similar. She told the Manchester Evening News that was the only thing she was told.
“The whole experience was extremely traumatic for us” she said after returning home on Friday. “It was nearly nine hours they held us for. They told us nothing and were really threatening.”
At one point she said guards at the airport told her to fly back home and leave her two children Lucy (13) and Ben (11) with her husband.
The family say they were left ‘traumatised’ and their half term holiday ‘ruined’ by the incident.
Guards scanned her passport, before whisking the family away and keeping them under armed guard without water.
The family was finally released after Mrs Jones persuaded them she was a different person, telling them her maiden name. The family were escorted from the airport and left outside where luckily a German coach took them to the hotel.
But the episode left the family “in tears” and Mrs Jones said she had to explain to her children that the Tunisian authorities had confused her with an Islamic extremist.
The Foreign and Commonwealth office said that they were aware Mrs Jones was being held and they were prepared to offer consular support should she have not been released.
It is not clear which travel company the Jones family were travelling with or if a representative stayed with the family.