Relieved and Apologetic 'Teddy' Teacher Back Home

Gillian Gibbons said she got more adventure than she bargained for in Sudan.

ByABC News via logo
February 23, 2009, 1:36 PM

Dec. 4, 2007 — -- Gillian Gibbons' terror disappeared as soon as she arrived at her son's house in Liverpool, England, Tuesday.

The grade-school teacher who was jailed in Sudan for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad was met at London's Heathrow Airport this morning by her son John and daughter Jessica.

"He's not usually affectionate like this," Gibbons said as her 25-year-old son gave her a hug.

Gibbons, 54, called the eight days she spent in a Sudanese prison an ordeal.

"I'm just an ordinary middle-aged school teacher who went out to have a bit of an adventure, and got a bit more than I bargained for," Gibbons said at a brief press conference at the airport. "I don't think anyone could have imagined it would have snowballed like this."

Gibbons also apologized for allowing a teddy bear to be named Muhammad, the name of the Muslim prophet. Naming an inanimate object Muhammad could be deeply offensive to devout Muslims.

"I was very upset to think that I might have caused offense to anyone, very, very upset," Gibbons said.

As the world watched, Gibbons was sentenced to deportation and 15 days in prison.

But she was released a week early thanks to an intense British diplomatic effort led by two Muslim members of Britain's House of Lords, who met with Sudanese President Omar al Bashir.

Gibbons also sent the president a statement saying she didn't mean to offend anyone with her class project.

Some Sudanese protesters, however, demanded far more punishment, such as lashes or even death.

Gibbons only had kind words about the country and the Sudanese people.

"It has been an ordeal but I'd like want you to know that I was well-treated in prison and everybody was very kind to me," she said. "I was very sorry to leave Sudan. I had a fabulous time there. It's a really lovely place, and I managed to see some of the beautiful countryside while I was there."

But fearing for her safety, she returned to England immediately. Now, she said, she is looking forward to a low-key holiday celebration and to eat her favorite meal, fish and chips.

"Have we got any party plans?" Gibbons asked her son and daughter with a laugh.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.