Planespotters' Greek ordeal set for TV

THE ordeal of a group of plane-spotters who spent five weeks in a Greek jail after they were suspected of spying is being made into a television drama, it has been confirmed. The trip's Suffolk organiser, Paul Coppin, said: "They won't have to exaggerate it for television - it was mad enough as it was."

By Jonathan Barnes

THE ordeal of a group of plane-spotters who spent five weeks in a Greek jail after they were suspected of spying is being made into a television drama, it has been confirmed.

Trip organiser Paul Coppin, from Mildenhall, said he understood the ITV project had got the go-ahead, and added: "They won't have to exaggerate the story for television – it was mad enough as it was."

The drama, called Planespotters, is expected to focus on Mr Coppin, 46, and his wife Lesley, 52, the only woman among the 14 on the ill-fated trip in November 2001.

The group was thrown in jail after allegedly taking pictures of a Greek Air Force base in Kalamata and accused of being spies.

They spent 37 days in jail, with Mrs Coppin separated from the rest of the group, and were eventually released on bail of £9,000 per person.

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Despite the apparently obvious explanation for their actions, the group was convicted of spying offences at a trial in Greece and handed jail terms.

They were released on appeal and eventually saw their convictions quashed by judges last November.

Researchers and scriptwriters have been working on the drama for the past year and flew out with the Coppins for their successful appeal.

The programme is being developed for ITV by Granada and will be in the form of a 90-minute, one-off drama. There is no date set for broadcast yet.

Mr Coppin said: "We've been talking to researchers for a year and it looks like it has got the green light.

"I'm all for it, as long as it's good! I'm looking forward to it – it will have a lot of Carry On Spying about it."

The planespotter said he had no idea who might play the part of him or his wife – and dared not offer suggestions to the programme-makers.

"This has been on the cards ever since we were sitting in those prison cells two years ago – just from how ridiculous it was," he said.

Mr Coppin said the fight to regain the group's bail money was still ongoing, and they were waiting to hear of developments from the Greek courts.

He has continued to organise planespotting trips with his company, Touchdown, and added: "It hasn't been a bad year for us – much better than last year."

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