Thursday, January 07, 2016
THAILAND MURDERS – HISTORY FROM A BRITISH FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT’S VIEW:
INTRODUCTION: Following the controversial death sentences on the young Burmese men Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin in Koh Samui for the murders last year on Koh Tao of Hannah Witheridge and Davild Miller, I have been asked to detail the controversial cases where flagrant breaches of Thai justice occurred or were attempted by those in charge of it.
As a British journalist my involvement has mainly been involved with British or at least English speaking victims or accused. But there were also major other-country cases which drew the attention of the international media in which I was involved.
I should preface this by saying cases are sometimes, not always, resolved when the international media gets involved. This tends to encourage the Thai authorities to work quickly to put an end to the bad publicity.
In these murders there has been a recurring theme of ‘round up the usual foreign suspects’ and many an innocent foreigner has ended up on the front pages of newspapers back home as the prime suspect in a murder in Thailand.
Foreign governments nowadays do not like the involvement of the media. The British Embassy policy has always been in Thailand to tell victims not to talk to the media. They know best.
This of course is often not true but British Ambassadors and Deputy Heads of Mission have been known to take a pro-active role or stick their heads above the parapet in the cases with the right demographic.
This demographic does tend to preclude the average Pattaya Brit for example.
Fortunately most families have been kind enough to talk to me and in the main we remain in contact till this day. Not all of the cases I have reported on fit into the ‘flagrant’ category – but if you read you will see why the foreign media roll their eyes at Thai police activity and why the local media dare not take the police on.
Although the title says 25 years of murder in Thailand – in this short series I am not writing about them all.
First some tourist victims from days gone by
MURDERED BY A MONK – CAUGHT AFTER TIP-OFF FROM ‘RAPED TOURIST’
Johanne Masheder, 23, from Wincle, Cheshire, was murdered in Kanchanaburi in December 1995.
When she had not returned on the scheduled date her parents raised the alarm. Johanne was touring Thailand alone.
At the request of the British Embassy Thai police started a search. It took them to Koh Samui where she had been. But Thai police did not have a clue and stories soon began appearing g in the Thai press suggesting she was not dead at all but the family were pulling an insurance scam.
However an Austrian tourist, named Inge, wrote to the Bangkok Post to say that she had been sexually attacked and raped by a monk in Wat Tham Kao Poon in Kanchanaburi. The monk had used excessive violence.
She had not reported the crime to police, and few foreign women did report rape to police in Thailand at that time and those that did regretted it. The situation has not improved noticeably.
Johanne’s decomposed body was found in a cave in the temple grounds. The novice monk Yodchart Suaphoo had previously been jailed for rape and was a drug addict. He said he was disappointed that she had only about 500 baht – £10 – in her purse.
It appears a lot of criminals turn to the monk-hood in Thailand, though whether it is to make merit against their sins, or seek ‘sanctuary’ is not quite clear.
It is very probable Johanne’s body would never have been found had not Inge written in with her information.
This was the first high profile murder case I covered in Thailand. Would this scare tourists away asked Thai police? It never did. The nature of the crime gave an inkling of what was to come. At the time most people considered it an aberration in a peaceful south East Asian backwater.
It was not. This case was the first of many which to all intents and purposes gradually changed my role in Thailand from Foreign Correspondent to Crime Correspondent.
Immigration Police nicknamed ‘Dream Team’ looking for Johanne on Koh Samui. They did not know where to look
but then neither did anyone else except those at the temple.
Not long after I began writing about muggings or rather hand bag snatches in Koh Samui which drew ire from hotel operators and even the publisher of TTR Weekly in Bangkok who denied such an incident happened. But the victims were real enough. And today the snatches are common enough in Thailand and have even resulted in the deaths of tourists.
RAPE, MURDER AND POLICE TORTURE IN CHIANG MAI
Probably the most controversial unsolved British case was that of Kirsty Jones, 23, who was raped and murdered in the Aree Guest House in Chiang Mai in 2000. In this case police and media trampled over the murder scene, disgusting post crime pictures of Kirsty were published in the Thai media, and police were left clueless, or rather they did not see the clues.
A string of foreigners were brought in as ‘suspects’ with police giving various reasons as to why they did it.
Newspaper readers in Australia would in Australia, Britain, Burma and the US would have been shocked to read about their relatives being murder suspects in Thailand.
These included Australian Nathan Foley a fellow back-packer who actually had a meal with Kirsty the night before, Stuart Crichton, an Aussie with a drugs problem, who had gone to Chiang Mai to chill out and an American mormon who also claimed to be an FBI agent, who had a fight with a reporter from the Guardian.
Were it not for the horror of the attack on Kirsty, visiting the Aree Guest House would have been like walking into a sit-co TV set.
Such was the nature of the guest house that none of the backpackers or staff who heard the screams in the middle of the night went to investigate.
A Briton Stephen Trigg admitting hearing Kirsty shouting: ‘Leave me alone. Leave me alone. Get off me!’ but decided it was merely a domestic argument and did not interfere.
As the investigation progressed a Chiang Mai police officer also came out with the statement that police considered that Kirsty was a willing participant in sex but things had turned violent when her partner attacked her anally,
Foreign correspondents were also stunned as police went on to say it must be a ‘farang’ (foreigner) as Thais do not indulge in anal sex.
The crime scene had been trampled over by police, media, and even the occasional sightseer before forensic examination was carried out.
When it became clear that evidence implicating those suspects was non existent, plain clothed police abducted a Karen tour guide called Narong (who had been in charge of Kirsty’s hill trek) took him to a ‘safe house’ and began to torture him with electric shock treatment to his genitals.
They also ordered him to masturbate. However not surprisingly he was unable to ejaculate. He was later dumped by the side of the road outside Chiang Mai.
I interviewed Narong and subsequently published a story in the ‘Sunday Times. The story was then copied in the Thai Press, and the Chiang Mai Guide Association demonstrated on the streets and at the Regional Police Headquarters. The story had originally come from a Thai reporter who told me because he dare not break the news himself.
There was a very clear message that the locals did not trust their own police.
Thai interpreters, employed by myself and the BBC were described by police as ‘traitors’ to Thailand.
Police finally settled on charging the British owner of the guest house Andy Gill and his manager Surin. It’s alleged that Gill was spotted through a window committing the act. Surin was a former monk who had earned a reputation for hitting on female foreign tourists.
Gill, a heavy drinker, had an alibi. He was out late drinking as usual and had witnesses to prove it.
Police were finally forced to release Gill and Surin as the DNA of the killer did not match. Besides the DNA was Asian which had put a real spanner in the works and this was confirmed by the British Home Office.
At this stage two officers from the Dyfed-Powys Police in Wales had become involved (DCS Steve Wilkins and DI Steve Hughson and Crime Scenes officer Richard Griffith). Wilkins pledged to close the case before he retired. He didn’t.
(Although this was a horrific crime there was a light moment after his release after Mayured Kasemjit (‘Mem’) replied after I asked her about the 600,000 Thai baht Gill’s father had sent from Andorra to pay police (about US$20,000) to ‘clear Andy’s problems)…’Police took it all.’
I had mentioned that in an article after which Mem was brought to the police station and made to state she had not paid police any cash at all. Bundles of 1000 baht notes were piled in front of her for the cameras.
I can’t say what happened to that cash. A bad choice in Thai girlfriend or police – both can be equally as demanding. But I would have loved to have been at the press conference. For what is for sure is that Andy Gill’s dad never got the cash back back, whoever laid claim to it in Thailand.
On the night of the murder neighbours reported the presence of a well-known Chiang Mai tourist policeman and a second person loitering outside the guest house. The policeman was DNA tested on request but did not match the killer’s DNA. His companion, allegedly a University professor, also tested negative.
Despite repeated visits to Thailand by Dyfed Police (Wales) and the offer of a reward, the killer was never found. The investigation was taken out of the hands of the Chiang Mai Police and handed over to the Department of Special Investigations. The case was still never solved.
Dyfed Powys Police Wilkinms and Hughson arrive in Chiang Mai
Kirsty’s mother Sue Jones and I believe that many people in Chiang Mai knew who it was. Sue Jones formed the view that the British Foreign prioritised diplomacy over justice for her daughter. Over the years she had repeatedly been advised not to upset the Thai authorities.
MURDERED BY POLICE BY THE RIVER KWAI – SIXTEEN WITNESSES ALL TOO FRIGHTENED TO TESTIFY.
Vanessa Arscott and Adam Lloyd
Vanessa Arscott, 24 and Adam Lloyd, 25, both from Devon, were murdered by the banks of the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi by Thai Police Senior Sergeant Somchai Wisetsingh in September 2004. Wisetsingh was the ‘ Policeman of the Year’ in Region 8.
He first shot Adam then as Vanessa ran away he ran her down in his Volvo and dragged her under his car for 20 yards. As she crawled out to try and raise herself on an electric pylon he gunned her down. shooting execution style to her forehead, face and neck.
Adam and Vanessa had been eating and drinking in Wisetsingh’s S & S restaurant on the River Kwai Road in Kanchanaburi.
Somchai fled over the Burmese border and after a month or so was handed over to the Thai authorities by Karen rebels. Then the investigation began. But there were no witnesses – at least to the murder.
Happy and cheerful
Nobody in Kanchanaburi it seems wanted to name Wisetsingh. With help from contacts in the area enabled the family and I managed to actually find some 16 witnesses who did talk to Vanessa’s parents Graham and Joyce Arscott and her sister Alyssa and name Wisetsingh as the murderer.
Even the police admitted that six witnesses to the murder had been interviewed while Wisetsingh was on the run, but they too refused to testify. Police told the foreign media they would not give him bail as it was feared he would interfere with witnesses.
When he was arrested Wisetsingh was duly given bail.
Then she meets the Thai cop
And the cop gunned down her boyfriend, ran her over in his car, and literally
executed her ‘ Bang, Bang Bang’ with three bullets to her head, face and neck.
Forgetting their ‘We do not interfere with the justice system of another country’ policy the British Embassy also took the family to the Office of the Attorney General, Ministry of Justice and Commissioner of Police.
The Arscotts and Lloyds at the Ministry of Justice
The Thai authorities were of course as usual in these cases extremely hospitable.
The Arscotts and Lloyds at lunch with local police chief and Embassy officials. But the work on the ground in Kanchanaburi enabled the family to be sure that Somchai was the killer.
It was also easy to conclude that Somchai should not have been a policeman all. He had been married four times.
One of his wives did testify. Named Dting she said:
“I was one of the luckier wives – he did not shoot at me. But he took out his guns and shot his first and second wives. There was never any police investigation. He was a complete womaniser. He likes to go for tourists or married women.”
His colleagues in Kanchanaburi also resented his arrest. At his trial they pepper sprayed photographers as they jostled to get a picture.
Somchai pleaded not guilty saying the killer was a drugs contact of his whom he did not name. He was sentenced to death on each murder.
But then incredibly despite his pack of lies the judge commuted the sentences to life imprisonment 50 years and then down to down to 33 years and four months respectively, in the light of Wisetsingh’s ‘surrender to the police, an initial confession he made before the trial and his good service as a policeman.’
Since he was jailed in 2005 there have been frequent reports that he has been let free but the family keeps in contact with lawyers in Bangkok who check with the Department of Corrections.
But his sentences were cut again while in prison, In 2013 the Department of Corrections said his release date had been brought forward to 2022, meaning he is now serving an 18 year sentence or perhaps less.
At the conclusion of the trial Graham Arscott said the initial police investigation
“showed a level of incompetence which was truly beyond belief”.
Master Sergeant Daenchai Khunkongmee, aged 35, the successor to Wisetsingh was accused of shooting a woman with his pistol in her vagina after making love to her in a short time hotel in Kanchanaburi,.
“It was an accident. I did not mean it,” he told investigators. Meanwhile the woman 37-yr-old Nittaya Jaisue, aged 37, was taken critically ill in a local hospital.
Amazingly she is reported to have recovered. She initially said Daenchai tried to kill her. but later withdrew her statement.
And finally in this first installment I should mention the rape of Australian Sheri Macfarlane and murder of her boyfriend Kelvin Bourke near Fang, Chiang Mai province in the same year as the Kirsty Jones case.
They were attacked while camping out in Doi Ang Khan National Park. Two Chinese Haw, descendants of the Kuomintang Chinese National army were arrested for the murder of Bourke and rape of Macfarlane.
Similar to the Koh Tao case both claimed they were tortured to confess. The young men Chinyong Sae Yang, 19, and Inthorn Sae Jong, 20. were sentenced to death.
The decision was overturned on appeal at which the defence were aided by Dr.Porntip Rojanasunan. Thailand’s Chief Forensic officer. Thai police had lied to say there was a DNA match. The defence team was now able to prove there was not.
Dr. Porntip said there was no hope of finding the real killers as poor crime scene investigative work by Thai police at the time probably meant valuable clues went uncovered and were now lost.
Thai police have repeatedly been held up to get their forensic scenes of crime work in order and to not disturb the scenes of the crime. Ten years after the Kirsty Jones murder I visited the Thai Police forensic lab. Just as a member of FRANC* had told me, it was pristine, super-modern,….and unused.
Thai Police have repeatedly been told that their DNA analysis should be carried out by independent forensic scientists. In the hands of a bent policeman it is too tempting to fix the results.
It is also clear that members of the Thai judiciary often know little of law and even less about DNA and becoming a judge, like a policeman, is sought after for its lucrative benefits – which are not the 30,000 baht (US$1000) a month salary and expenses.
*FRANC – Foreign Anti Narcotics Committee. 30 years ago most officers sent to Thailand were mainly dealing with drugs crimes. They had regular meetings and regular booze-ups. I attended a few often in the ‘wrong’ areas of Bangkok. Much more politically correct nowadays. next:
NEXT: THAILAND MURDERS – POLICE THREATEN WITNESSES TO BACKPACKER MURDER.
MURDER ON SAMUI
THAILAND – A DANGEROUS PLACE FOR A GOOD ACCOUNTANT