Murder in Chiang Mai
Times 2 Cover Story Thursday August 17 2000
Kirsty Jones was found dead in a backpackers' guesthouse in
Thailand seven days ago. She had been strangled with her sarong. Other
guests have given conflicting accounts. Drugs have been found, and
police made errors. Andrew Drummond reports from Chiang Mai
The sign says: 'Don't nibble. Take big bites of life.' It hangs to
the right of the entrance to the Aree guesthouse the cheap backpackers'
hostel in Thailand where the body of 24-year-old Kirsty Jones was
discovered a week ago today, her blue sarong tied tight around her neck.
The irony of the sign has not gone unnoticed.
Like many of her peers, Kirsty had taken a year off to travel the
world. Indeed, for many of the 280,000 A-level students receiving their
results today, news of their success will mean the beginning of a
year-long adventure of travel before university.
The teenagers are unlikely to giving much thought to the dangers they
may face, but for the parents fears are manifold, and the murder of
Kirsty Jones, however random, will have served only to heighten them.
In the courtyard of the Aree guesthouse yesterday, a middle-aged
American nervously paced back and forth. With the manager and owner in
jail, he was left to look after the shop while police continued their
interrogations in the hunt for Kirsty's killer.
Kirsty, who had graduated from Liverpool University, checked in here
on August 4. Rooms start at 60 baht (Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£1), but she paid 100 Thai baht for
room 2: a superior room with double bed. It also meant that she had a
new fan that didn't clatter.
The guests looked normal enough. They were mainly 'travellers',
attired in cotton trousers and T-shirts. She met Nathan Foley, a British
passport-holder, who lives in Gosforth, New South Wales. They shared
food and went out a couple of times with another girl, Sara Wiggett,
Then Kirsty opted to take a three-day trip to hill tribes in
Inthanon, Thailand's highest mountain. When she returned to Chiang Mai
she checked in again at the Aree guesthouse, this time to room No 4.
On the night of her murder she met Nathan and Sara again. They went
for a meal in the nearby JJ's restaurant, and later, according to Nathan
Foley's police statement, parted.
Nathan said he went to an Internet cafe to e-mail his sister, and
Kirsty went to the Chiang Mai Night Market. Nathan says he got back to
his room at about midnight, took two pills and then fell into a sound
He did not hear Kirsty's cries for help. He awoke early the next day
and left at 7.30am to go to his daily massage course. 'I passed Kirsty's
room and saw it was padlocked from the outside, which I thought odd '
like she had not come back,' he said.
He returned at 1.30pm and went to her room. Finding it still locked,
he became concerned. 'I started asking if she was all right,' he said.
Nevertheless, he then left to go out to send more e-mails and get
something to eat. He did not return until after midnight, by which time
the body had been discovered, and police had him listed as a
A policeman, Lieutenant Sanit Pinta, had been detailed to watch the
guesthouse and arrested Foley (right)on his return.
Although the police had been called to the guesthouse at 4pm, what
they did not know then was that Kirsty's body appears to have been
Several people heard Kirsty's screams at about 1.30am. They seem
have included Stephen Trigg, 26, a backpacker from Lowestoft; the
guesthouse manager, Surin Jampamet; and Chaisuwan Panthita,
girlfriend. It would seem all three gathered outside Kirsty's room
sometime after the screams were heard.
(Surin in T-shirt. Trigg sitting)
But they say they did not investigate further, believing it was a 'lovers' tiff'.
All three say that they did not open the door until the following
afternoon. But in fact the door was forced earlier at 11am, and the
guesthouse owner, a heavy drinker from London called Andy Gill entered
the room with others.
Why the police weren't called immediately remains an unanswered
question. Gill then appears to have packed his bag and left because, he
claims, his Thai visa had expired and he would be arrested and jailed
when Thai police saw his passport.
It was Surin and Trigg who told the police that they were worried
about the way Nathan Foley was asking about Kirsty when he returned from
his massage lesson. After arresting Foley police took him to his room
(No 9), carried out a search and took him for a 15-hour interview. They
released him the same evening, last Friday, but now have him under
24-hour police guard, which, according to the British Embassy, is for
his own protection.
The next day police returned to the guesthouse and carried out
another search. This time they searched room No 7, which was occupied by
Stuart Crichton, from Melbourne.
Inside they say they found some cannabis and heroin.
Crichton, a former heroin addict, had been living off social security
in Australia. His mother Beverly had recently sent him A$400 (about
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£155) because he had run out of money.
By this time police realised that Gill had left the guesthouse. They
interviewed Crichton and initially suggested that he and Gill could have
killed Kirsty. Later on Saturday Gill was arrested. He denied
everything, claiming he had left because his passport was out of date.
Gill is described by his father as being eccentric. He had bought the
guesthouse for Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£10,000 and had been living off a small inheritance from
his mother. He told everyone he was Irish, and he was a member of a
local running club, The Hash House Harriers. He was allegedly a man who
had had bouts of heavy drinking. Gill was remanded in custody on charges
of breaking immigration laws.
By late Monday police were switching their inquiry from foreign
tourists to Thai nationals. Four pubic hairs taken for forensic
examination were considered to be most probably Thai.
Meanwhile, the discrepancies over what time Kirsty's body was found
were surfacing The guesthouse housekeeper, MissSrinual, 22, had been
called in by Gill's Thai former girlfriend, to verify his story.
She changed her story to say that the body was found hours earlier. She said she had been threatened.
On Tuesday morning Thai police raided the Aree guesthouse again. They
allegedly found, in Surin's room, cannabis, an opium pipe,
amphetamines, and a Victorian-style pornographic picture of a blonde
kneeling, with her hands tied behind her back and her mouth gagged with
They charged Surin with possession of drugs and took him to a hospital to take more samples of blood, urine and pubic hair.
Then Thai police dropped a bombshell, claiming that Kirsty had had
consensual sex, but had objected when her partner attempted anal. They
claimed she was strangled in the process of having sex and that her
death might have been accidental.
Uproar ensued, the family of Kirsty condemned Thai officers for
indulging in 'groundless speculation' about their daughter's death, and
the police later withdrew part of their earlier statement, saying the
case was being treated not as an accident but as murder.
But they insist that forensic tests show that Kirsty had consented to
normal sex first, pointing out that she had three condoms in her
Meanwhile Surin denies the murder. He claims he was in the shower
when his girlfriend came to alert him. His girlfriend, Chaisuwan, heard
Kirsty's pleas. 'Get out. Get out. F*** off.' Followed by 'Help me! Help
Chaisuwan, however, has often had aural hallucinations, a consequence
of a motorcycle accident. 'I often hear voices,' she said. 'At first 1
did not know whether these voices were real.'
The other people being questioned are a French backpacker called
Luke, who was staying at the Aree, and a Thai tourist guide. They are
being interviewed because they met Kirsty
So far the case has been fraught with problems. Long before
forensic-trained officers were able to get near Kirsty's room it had
been trampled over by ordinary police, who had also allowed in Thai
photographers. That resulted in a lurid picture of Kirsty's body in the
Thai police have also had problems understanding the answers from
their main suspects, who often speak in 'travellers' English'. The
police have, as a result, also been unable to understand or detect if
they are lying, as they would a Thai suspect.
They have had to lean much more heavily on forensic evidence, but
forensic experts only began their examinations five days after the
murder because of Thai public holidays.
In spite of an investigation hampered by passport problems and drugs,
the police say that they are confident of arresting the killer soon.
Footnote: Despite the police prediction today police have yet to find the killer of Kirsty Jones.