Sheree Halliday says her husband Phillip looks awful.
"He has wasted away to nothing," said Sheree after returning from visiting Phillip in jail in Spain. "I think if I met him in the street, I would have to look twice to recognize him—my own husband.
"Feeble, he looks feeble. He reminds Daren of his grandmother, Philip's mother. He has wrinkles and he moves around right slow."
[Related: Fundraising concert for Hallidays ]
Philip has been in jail in Spain on charges of drug trafficking since December 2009. He was the first mate on the Destiny Empress when Spanish authorities boarded the ship and found 1.5 metric tons of cocaine. Halliday maintains he believed they were delivering an empty ship to buyers in Europe and he did not know the drugs were aboard.
Phillip has been ill for most of his stay in jail with gall bladder, liver and kidney problems and bouts of depression.
Sheree and their two grown sons Cody, 26, and Daren, 24, made their first visit to see Phillip at the end of March. They flew out of Halifax Monday, March 26 and a week later on Monday, April 2.
"I spent a lot of time preparing myself for seeing him," said Sheree. "I knew what he weighs so I knew he wouldn't look the same."
Phillip, 5'10", has lost 50 pounds in the last two years, dropping from 199 pounds to 145.
"And he was a slender man, a bit of a belly maybe but he looked good," said Sheree. "I've been a nurse long enough to know there must be something wrong, some underlying problem that is keeping him from gaining the weight back."
The family's longest time together was Wednesday when all four of the Hallidays sat down to a "picnic"—indoors with bars on the windows.
The visit was only supposed to be two hours but the guards gave them four hours together. Phillip stood up at the two-hour mark and told them "Well I have to go back to my room now. Who are you people anyway?"
"So he still has that same sense of humour," says Sheree. "He is the same man."
"He was so excited," remember Sheree with a smile. "He planned a picnic for us. There is a canteen there where he can buy things. He bought four cans of pop, two juice paks and a big bag of chips, and some little sweet cakes.
"We ate like a family and laughed. It was great."
When it was all over, Phillip asked his family what they'd like to have the next day.
The family had three visits with Phillip during the week. The four hours on Wednesday, then Thursday Sheree had an hour and a half 'visita intima' and the boys had a two-hour visit. Saturday they had forty-minutes in a booth with Phillip speaking on a phone from behind glass.
"That was hard," said Sheree. "Though Cody found Thursday hardest because he knew it would be the last physical contact with his father."
Sheree says she was okay that day, even Sunday when he called them in their hotel.
"It hit me when we flew out of Madrid," she says shaking her head. "And they didn't even seat us together on the plane so—it was hard."
Monday Phillip called them at their airport in Heathrow and although he was having a hard day he told them he was glad they had come.
Sheree and the boys did do some sightseeing in Madrid and in Aranjuez, where they stayed, 50 km south of Madrid, the nearest town to the Aranjuez prison.
As normal a trip as we could
"We just thought why sit in the hotel and feel sorry for ourselves, so we didn't. We had as normal a trip as we could."
Sheree says she isn't really a traveller, never really had the urge to go anywhere.
Daren and Sheree found the crowds, the foreign language and getting around stressful but Cody, who has lived in Korea and loves travelling, helped them through it.
"Just getting to Aranjuez we had to take trains and buses and a taxi, it would have been a lot harder without Cody," says Daren.
Sheree just makes a face and shakes her head when you ask her about the food in Spain.
"I lived on chips and cola and sweets mostly. We were very happy to see our first Tims, I'll tell you; you drink the coffee (in Spain); it is tasty and everything but then you drink three cups and go have a nap."
Scrum at the airport
Sheree was a bit surprised by the welcome at the airport in Halifax. She knew a reporter would be there but wasn't expecting a scrum.
"I didn't know where to look or who to answer first. We were so tired. I was just overwhelmed."
She isn't complaining though, her biggest fear is people forgetting about Phillip.
" We need to keep Phillip's story in the media and in people's minds. We need to get him home."
After her story ran in papers across the country this week, Sheree had a call from Harmien Dionne, the sister of Henk Tepper, the New Brunswick potato farmer recently returned to Canada after more than a year in jail in Lebanon.
Sheree says Dionne is adamant the (Canadian) government did nothing for her brother, to get him home.
Expect the trail within three months
"I have given up on (MP Greg) Kerr," says Sheree. "He's been useless; since day one he has done nothing for us."
When it comes to Diane Ablonczy, the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, Sheree is hopeful.
"She did call me before we left and wished me a safe trip."
And Ablonczy told Sheree she had gotten a response to a letter she wrote to her Spanish counterpart. She told Sheree "to expect the trial within months but to expect delays."
"I know I can't be quiet," says Sheree. "But I'd hate to overly critical in case she is doing something."
[Related: Fundraising concert for Hallidays ]