An Australian hailed as a hero for allegedly rescuing more than a dozen tsunami victims in Thailand was arrested Monday as he returned home by police who recognized him as a suspected burglar.
Thomas David Connell was handcuffed and arrested by Queensland state police after he stepped off the plane at Brisbane International Airport.
Police said they recognized Connell, whom they had been seeking for two years, after he gave a television interview from Thailand that aired in Australia last week. The said he is wanted on assault and burglary charges.
The 32-year-old businessman was dubbed by local media as “the good samaritan of Patong Beach” for his role in allegedly saving as many as 20 people during the Dec. 26 tsunami that smashed over the island resort of Phuket.
Connell appeared in Brisbane Magistrate’s Court late Monday and was granted bail until his next court appearance in February.
Connell said he spent most of the day in a holding cell suffering flashbacks of his ordeal, and that police had mistaken him for someone else.
“To be a life saver, saving 20 people, and then come back to my home country and I’m going straight into a bloody jail cell with hoodlums all day,” Connell told Channel 10 television network. “I’m not a bloody hoodlum.”