Thai Policeman Given Life Over Backpacker Killings

From The Times
May 27, 2005
Thai policeman given life over backpacker killings
From Andrew Drummond in Kanchanaburi
A THAI police sergeant who shot dead a British backpacking couple ‘like rabid dogs’ near the bridge over the River Kwai was jailed for life yesterday.
Somchai Wisetsingh was initially jailed for 33 years and four months for the murder of Adam Lloyd, 24, from Torquay. He was then sentenced to a full life’s imprisonment for killing Vanessa Arscott, 23, from Ashburton, Devon, to cover up his crime.
Somchai, 39, the winner of several Outstanding Policeman of the Year awards in Kanchanaburi, 160km (100 miles) west of Bangkok, stood head bowed as the judge read out his sentence at the town’s criminal court.
He escaped the death penalty for the murder of Miss Arscott, said Judge Dilok Bulataweenan, because of his good police record and because he had surrendered himself. Parents and friends of the victims packed the courtroom.
Graham Arscott, 58, father of Vanessa, said: ‘We are happy that he has got life, meaning life, but the reasons he escaped the death sentence are disputable. We dispute he was a good policeman and he did not give himself up, he was handed over.
 We feel, however, the verdict still recognises the cold blooded and callous way he ended our children ‘s lives with as much compassion as would be shown rabid dogs.’
Mr Lloyd’s father, Brian, 57, said: ‘We hope he will serve the full sentence with no possible reduction. We want to ensure he is locked up permanently.’
The young couple had gone to a restaurant owned by Somchai in Kanchanaburi on September 9 last year. An argument started between Mr Lloyd and the police sergeant. Mr Arscott said: ‘Vanessa was upset. Somchai had followed her to a toilet and she had come back crying. We know Adam went to her defence.’
Miss Arscott left alone to return to a guesthouse. Her boyfriend had a fight in the street with Somchai, giving the police sergeant a black eye and bruised ribs.
Somchai later caught up with the couple on the road to the bridge over the River Kwai and shot Adam with two bullets from a Smith and Wesson .38 in the head and stomach.
He then turned his car and chased after Miss Arscott, running her down and dragging her nearly 100 metres along the road. She was able to roll over and cling to an electric pylon, but as she hung there Somchai drove up, opened his car door and shot her in the head, neck and chest.
Both families expressed anger at the initial police investigation and the fact that the police sergeant had been given bail throughout his trial.
Mr Arscott said: ‘Amazingly after the murder Somchai was allowed to go home, go to the local hospital and draw money from an ATM in Kanchanaburi without coming close to being apprehended.’
He called for an independent investigation into police conduct in the early stages of the inquiry. The police sergeant did not so much give himself up, he said, rather he was handed over by members of the Karen National Liberation Army in Burma who captured him after he fled over the border.
Although there were many witnesses to the murders, none would go to the court and specifically name Somchai. There was ample forensic evidence, however, including blood and hair from Miss Arscott on Somchai’s blue Volvo.