IT was supposed to be a run-of-the mill business trip.
Robert Mansfield-Hewitt had rented a room in what seemed an ordinary apartment in San Roque and was set to attend meetings in Gibraltar.
What the 51-year-old engineer didn’t know was that someone was using the adjoining garage to stockpile 1.5 tonnes of hashish, worth a whopping €5.5 million.
The Chichester man found out the hard way when he was cuffed in a dramatic raid on the property last June.
And despite urgent appeals from family and friends – as well as his local MP in the UK – he has been locked up in Algeciras’ notorious Botafuegos prison since then.
Home to ETA terrorists and murderers, Hewitt – who has a PHD and is an avid poet in his spare time – will have been held for exactly one year on June 27.
For a man with severe liver disease ascites, who has not been getting his medication regularly, if at all, it has been 365 days of hell.
Police had been alerted to the garage of the rental property in Campamento – which Robert claims he never stepped foot inside – when a Moroccan man was seen trying to break in.
As the Olive Press reported last year, the home was owned by a man with previous convictions for drug dealing and Mansfield had a business he worked with in Gibraltar.
But that seemed irrelevant when he was taken in front of a judge at San Roque court 48 hours later, who sent him to prison to await trial.
He has since been denied bail three times, despite suffering serious health issues, which led him to be rushed to hospital on two occasions.
His health is still ‘touch and go’, according to a close friend and neighbour back home in the UK.
And worse than that, he faces losing his home, as the rent has not been paid for months.
“It’s just awful and the authorities in Spain are burying their heads in the sand,” said Cliff Ruffle, 57, who has known Mansfield for years.
“Rob is a lovely, lovely guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’s a sensitive soul, it’s just awful what is happening.”
The teacher added that Mansfield is ‘just a hair’s width’ from losing his rental home in Emsworth, Hampshire.
“We have just been able to stop the repossession order, but the courts are saying if they don’t hear news shortly it will have to happen,” he said.
“I’ve written so many emails to different government departments and feel like I’m banging my head against a wall.” Hewitt continues to be held despite his deteriorating condition and a lack of evidence.
One bizarre reason for the denial of bail was that investigators found a Japanese ‘Katana’ Samurai sword in the house, which they said constituted a lethal weapon.
Shockingly, it wasn’t until May 27, last month, that he finally had a court hearing.
However, despite attending the court in San Roque, the Olive Press was unable to get into the hearing.
In a document now seen by the Olive Press, prosecutors are seeking four years and eight months of jail time and an €8 million fine.
However a verdict was meant to have been delivered within 10 days, but has yet to be made.
“They offered to let him go if he pleaded guilty,” added friend Ruffle, “But Robert refused, he is a man of great ethics and will fight this to the very end.”
Meanwhile, friend of 20 years, vicar and RAF Padre Rebekah Cannon has also described the ‘hopeless’ situation as ‘a stalemate’.
Hewitt’s PA Pillie Ford told the Olive Press: “This is now not just a joke, it has gone beyond limits. This is an innocent man… the real man in question is hiding in Gibraltar.”
Robert’s lawyer, Jose Maria Castro Escudero, failed to comment in time for press.