British tourist held in Turkish prison after being arrested at airport with coins he found while snorkelling

Toby Robyns, a father of five from West Sussex  faces a potential three-year jail sentence - Facebook
Toby Robyns, a father of five from West Sussex faces a potential three-year jail sentence - Facebook

A British father was arrested in front of his family at a Turkish airport after trying to bring home 13 historic bronze coins he found while snorkelling on holiday. 

Toby Robyns, 52, was arrested at Bodrun airport on Turkey’s Aegean coast and could face up to five years in prison if convicted of trying to take artifacts out of the country. 

Mr Robyns, an ambulance driver from Southwick, West Sussex, told police he had no idea it was against the law to take the coins. 

"We were on a daily tour. When our boat stopped I took my goggles and dove into the water. There were broken ceramics in the sea. When I cleaned the sand off with my hand I saw the coins. I never thought that carrying them would be a crime,” he said, according to a Turkish police statement

Turkey coins - Credit: Rex Features
Gold coins found on the ocean floor in Turkey by divers. File picture Credit: Rex Features

Police said the coins were 800 years old and were found when Mr Robyns put his luggage through an X-ray machine at the airport. 

Mr Robyns’ wife, Heidi, and two young sons returned to the UK while he was reportedly taken to a prison in Milas, around 30 miles away. 

Mrs Robyns declined to comment when reached at the family home near Brighton. The family had been on a two-week summer holiday in Bodrun

Mr Robyns has not been charged with a crime but is likely to be held in prison until prosecutors make a decision. 

Turkey’s judicial system is on an August break, meaning that Mr Robyns could face several weeks in prison before any decision is made.

He appeared before a magistrate’s court the day after his arrest but will need to appear before a higher court if he is charged. He could face between three and five years in prison if convicted of smuggling historical artifacts, according to the BirGun newspaper. 

Milas Prison in Turkey, where Toby Robyns is being held - Credit: Google Street View
Milas Prison in Turkey, where Toby Robyns is being held Credit: Google Street View

Mr Robyns was snorkelling near the island of Yassi Ada off of Bodrun. The island is sometimes called “a ship’s graveyard” because of the number of wrecks that litter the waters around it.     

Of the dozens of sunken ships the most famous is a 4th century Roman wreck that ran into a reef near the island. Jugs, dishes and lamps were all found onboard. 

The area was rocked by a 5.3 magnitude earthquake on August 8 and it is possible that the coins found in shallow waters by Mr Robyns had been dislodged the tremors. 

The Foreign Office said it was helping in the case. “We are assisting a British man following his arrest in Bodrum, and remain in contact with his family and the Turkish authorities.”

Tim Loughton, the MP for East Worthing & Shoreham he was “helping with the case of Toby Robyns and liaising with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office”.

James Stoneham, a family friend, told The Sun: “They are accusing him of taking Turkish artefacts which he was obviously unaware of. 

“It was a huge shock for everybody. This was harmless fun on a holiday you’ve enjoyed — and now he has been put in prison. He’s going to have to be held for possibly a month.”

Mr Stoneham added: “He found a number of coins among the rocks and sand. When he went to get his flight home they dragged him off and searched his hand luggage.”