Jail in Dubai for one-finger salute
THE prison records describe Kalang-born Darren O'Mullane as a Rastafarian doctor.
In reality Mr O'Mullane is neither, he is actually a male nurse whose one-finger salute of frustration to another motorist in Dubai saw him spend 24 days in jail, followed by deportation and a life ban from the United Arab Emirates.
While admitting he did the wrong thing, Mr O'Mullane said the incident occurred after a particularly stressful 13-hour intensive care shift at Dubai's American Hospital.
“I just wanted to get home and there was this clown in front of me, talking on his phone, totally oblivious, driving all over the road,” Mr O'Mullane said.
“When I finally got past him, I made the gesture - I was annoyed at his arrogance.”
He thought it would end there but instead things became scary.
The other driver chased Mr O'Mullane, tailgated him, slammed on his brakes and followed him to his apartment.
There followed a short altercation after which the other man reported the incident.
Half an hour later the phone rang and the O'Mullanes were asked to come to the police station.
Upon arrival Mr O'Mullane said he apologised to the other driver, explained his side of the story to police and left having been told the entire matter was 'silly, a low priority and would never go to court'
“And that's what all our friends said too - we really didn't think any more about it,” his wife, Marie, added.
On Christmas Eve, however, Mr O'Mullane was summonsed to appear in court.
The hearing was brief, but the verdict was a bombshell - one month in jail followed by immediate deportation.
Everyone was stunned.
An appeal was mounted but in the end the verdict stood and Mr O'Mullane found himself in an Australian-built debtors prison in the middle of the desert outside Dubai.
Mrs O'Mullane was left to try to sell their two cars, find a home for their cat, pack up their furniture and visit her husband in jail.
“Plus I was sacked from my job,” she said.
“We're sure the two things are linked but of course we can't prove anything.”
As all this was unfolding in Dubai, Bellingen was flooding leaving Darren's parents stranded with no power or phone.
“The worst part was the Australian Consul over there told us they were powerless to do anything and they wouldn't even give news of me to my mother,” Mr O'Mullane said.
Back home now, the O'Mullanes say taking off from United Arab Emirate soil was the biggest relief of their lives.