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No sooner than I thought I had put the David Carradine story to bed then out came the conspiracy theorists.
As readers of this site will know, Carradine was found hanging in a cupboard in his room in the Nai Let Park Hotel in Bangkok.
The day his body was found there was considerable hesitation as to which
newspaper or television channel would print the facts first…..that he
was found hanging by his neck, and well, er, genitals, in what was
almost certainly an act of auto-erotic asphyxiation.
When Auntie BBC reported that he was hanged by his neck and the rope was
also around’ other parts of his body’ we knew it was definitely true.’
The word ‘ Balls’ as part of human anatomy is not in the BBC’s ‘House
Anyway I loved the ‘murder theorists’ (Well , if an agent says he was
murdered, a newspaper is going to go with it. They can always change it
the following day) and similarly ‘ The family call in the FBI!’ (ditto,
true but the reality is in their dreams) but most of all I loved the
story in the New York Post
of him being assassinated by secret ninjas or
kung fu practitioners, whom he had upset in his fearsome career
(presumably, according to his ex-wives, of indulging in exceedingly odd
and dangerous sex acts).
I got out of Bangkok at about the time the Bangkok newspaper the
‘Nation’, which broke the original suicide story, belatedly got close
to publishing the most likely true version.
So there I was on Jet-Star Asia to Singapore and off to the IBIS
hotel to help some chaps on the Crime and Investigation Channel to help
re-focus their documentary on a British serial killer John Martin
(Ibis Hotel? Well, its a spanking new budget hotel and TV budgets are
not high at the moment! Their ‘soft service’ laundry service means you
do it yourself!)
‘Are you sure you can come? The police tell us you are banned from
Singapore,’ one of their executives said before he sent my flight
booking. ‘Have no fear!’ I reply.
There’s a little history I have here with the Singapore Government.
John Martin Scripps was the ‘Tourist from Hell’ in the British
papers. In Singapore they call him ‘The Butcher’. I prefer the tag I
He was a 30-something career criminal, country house burglar turned
drugs trafficker, who disappeared from jail every jail he was sent to on
every home leave he was given.
In the 90s he was released from prison on home leave, having learned the
skills of butchery and bricklaying. These were skills, it would turn
out, he was not going to put to use in the workplace in the UK, but in
his chosen career of crime.
He got out of jail to travel the world with a set of butchers’ knives, a
stun gun, two sets of handcuffs and a hammer and had drawn blood and
carved several times before he got to Singapore and befriended a South
African at Changi airport.
The South African, Gerard Lowe, was on a budget trip and they agreed to
share a room at the River View Hotel. Bad call. Lowe never lasted the
night. His body parts were later found in plastic bags in the Singapore
Scripps had started off in Mexico, where he went to live with an ex-wife
he met when she was 15, and with whom he was still besotted. Almost
certainly his first victim was a young British financial consultant
called Timothy McDowall, who disappeared from Cancun on the Yucatan
Then he came to Thailand and shared a taxi with Canadian Sheila
Damude, 49, and her son Daren, 21, to Nilly’s Marina Inn in Patong
Beach, Phuket. Though illiterate, Scripps played the charming little boy
The Canadians’ bodies were found chopped up and dropped on local
wasteland, curiously ‘normally used for dumping bodies’ according to the
Meanwhile Scripps was off to Singapore to pick his next victim,
Lowe. After that murder, he returned to Thailand, where of course he
had the obligatory Thai wife from Buri Ram. But after a few days he
needed to go back to Singapore to pick up some stuff he had left behind.
Unknown to Scripps, Lowe’s body parts had already been found after
surfacing in the Singapore river He obviously did not know that bricks
have another use, apart from building houses. Lowe had also been
identified. Police knew who was sharing a room with him. And Scripps,
whose IQ was well below your average ‘Boston Strangler’ , ‘Jack the
Ripper’ or fictional ‘Hannibal Lecter’, flew back to Singapore under
his same pseudonym (Simon Davies) that he used to check into the River
View Hotel .
Game, set and match. Singapore Police bagged him straight away. On him
they found the passports of the three three missing persons, McDowell,
and the Damudes, their credit cards, and his butchery and bricklaying
gear, though by this stage he had not had the opportunity to brick
(The Thais did not even know the two Canadians were murdered).
Well, now to cut a long story short, I was commissioned to investigate
Scripps background and in due process went into Taneh Merah Prison with
his mother and sister to interview him.
The interview was boring although he did admit killing the South African
Gerard Lowe, claiming he was defending himself from a homosexual pass,
but even I know that Singapore hotels do not provide hammers, along with
the soap, shampoo, and cotton buds.
He denied anything to do with the Damude or McDowall killings, but then
surprisingly mentioned that he was not travelling alone and that his
‘shadow’ probably did it, and that his ‘shadow’ also disposed of Lowe’s
Anyway the subsequent story was splashed over the press in the UK……..so in stepped the Singapore government.
I received a message from a Mountie (RCMP) pal who was the DLO (Drugs
Liaison Officer) at the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok. He was just about
to be posted to Singapore. The Singapore authorities had requested an
interview with me as to how I got into the jail. Could he fix it? they
asked the Mountie. He called me. ‘ Ok’, I said. The Mountie could cash
in the favour when he got to Singapore.
In the bar of the Amari Watergate I met a woman of the Singapore’s
prosecution office, and a Singapore cop. Quite nice and polite. But
terribly straight laced.
‘We believe you may have have been guilty of deceiving an official of
the Republic of Singapore when you visited Scripps in prison. You
should not go back as you may be arrested on this charge!,’ was the line
the prosecutor followed as she sipped the beer I bought her.
‘How is that possible?’ I said. ‘I did not say one word to any official
in Singapore. All I did was produce my passport along with Scripps’
mother and sister as they requested a visit. Of course I did not say I
was a journalist, as journalists are not allowed to do anything in
Singapore except cover trade fares. In any case nobody asked me who I
was. But if you look at my passport ( and I showed them) you will see
that it says in the back that I am a journalist….. Make mine a pint!’
Anyway we left it at that. They went back to Singapore and I decided not
to cover the Scripps trial just in case. That was done by my colleague
Andy and Sophia Wilkinson, an English rose (then on local Bangkok
English language radio, who went on to the BBC) …..besides, I was off
to Mexico to see Maria Pilar Arellanos, Scripps’ ex-wife, with whom
apparently he was still infatuated, and to whom he sent some fairly
illiterate and awful poems.
Here’s a taster.
‘My beloved’s words to me is reacher than nectar is to a bee and far sweeter than sugar
But now sugar. Tast better To me. Becose my beloved dus not write to me
The mighty river trickle and flows through the forest of old Mexico
where in times of old my beloved blood did boldly flow with my ancestral name upon her soul
But old man time sucked my ancestral name from my beloved’s sweet soul
And placed within that pure soul of heaven
disgust and revulsion for me’
Well Scripps has certainly done something for his ancestral name!
Meanwhile boy ! was Maria Pilar a handful. She was stunningly
attractive as an 18-yr-old, and still pretty, but now had acquired a
Mexican mamma’s girth. Nevertheless she still had a teenager’s zest for
Scripps would find her wherever she was after each of his escapes, and
come bounding in on her with the cry: ‘Have no fear Scripps is here!’ –
which has a sort of different ring about it now in Singapore and
She was happy to talk, but wanted to make the most of a moment. She
took me around Mexico City ordering Mariachi bands to come and play for
us at our tables. And she had an exotic taste for cocktails on Cancun
She also dragged me into clubs and complained when I left the dance
floor as these trumpet wielding, guitar playing, sombrero wearing,
goucho bands continued to appear from nowhere. A sure way to put you off
I had to flee to get any real work done on the disappearance of Timothy
McDowall. Anyway I completed my assignment and Scripps later became the
first westerner to hang in Singapore (not due to me of course).
He did however commit one final act of revenge on us all. A last poem,
‘One day poor. One day reach. Money filds the pane of hunger but what will fill the emteness inside?
I know that love is beyond me. So do I give myself to god. The god that
has betrad me. Can I be a person again? Only time will tell me.
You may take my life for what it is worth, but grant thows that I love, pease and happiness’
Anyway there are a few girls in Issan, lucky that they did not marry a
serial killer such as this girl below who had invited him home to meet
I must admit, I have had my fun in Singapore. But it’s no place for a
journo with any street cred. I loved it much more when there Bugis
Street WAS Bugis Street and things were a lot more seamy, and perhaps
natural. But then Singapore tarted up its act and seemed to lose
individualism and became nice and clean. There is however still a fur
coat and nae knickers feel about it.
Since then, one of the best times I had was when Prime Minister Goh
Chok Tong was suing opposition leader MP Joshua Jeyaretnam.
George Carmen QC was brought in from London to defend Jeyaretnam. Of
course there was no chance of winning against the Prime Minister of
Singapore in a Singapore court but I was in stitches in court as Goh
Chok Tong went under cross examination. Carmen intellectually undressed
Mr.Goh and the judge had to intervene to stop any further jokes at the
P.M’s expense. ‘I am the Prime Minister of Singapore you cannot talk to
me like that!’ puffed an indignant Goh.
Sadly George Carmen is now dead but he is one ‘bon viveur’ who is difficult to forget.
As the court case came close to its conclusion I got my favourite taxi driver quote into ‘The Times’.
‘Nobody fishes in the lake anymore, because not even the fish open their mouths’.
Anyway after a great night out on Clarke Quay on beer and tapas with
Chris one of the execs of the organisation which runs the ‘History’ ,
‘Crime and Investigation’ and ‘Bio’ channels in Asia, I headed back to
At the gate to my flight I was stopped by a Singaporean official:
‘Your name, sir?’. I froze. Then came ‘What do you like most about
Singapore?’ from the official now pulling out a pen and clipboard
.’Erh, um. It’s different from other Asian cities’ I mumbled. I do
actually love Singapore, but for short term visits. Then it slip: ‘Oh,
the four floors of whores?*’
‘What?, she asked, and I dared not repeat myself. I could have kicked
myself particular after warning people on this site about people giving
smart remarks at airports.
Q: How much have you spent on presents in Singapore?
A: Fifty dollars on presents for my daughter.’ I was not their biggest spender this week.
Anyway she gave me a packet of coasters (which my daughter has now
eaten along with Mickey Mouse) for answering her questions, a lot better
than a warrant of arrest.
Meanwhile you never know who your are going to meet while elephant
trekking in northern Thailand or at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
*The ‘Four floors of whores’ is in Orchard Tower. The author wishes
to state that all he has partaken of there is a few beers. Singaporeans
tend to look down on Thailand, partly because of its sex trade, but
then again Singapore provides a high percentage of the sex tourists to
Thailand. Ask almost any taxi driver. The misplaced remark was merely
drawing attention to the fact that the city, as author mentions, is
still a little bit fur coat and no knickers .