From ANDREW DRUMMOND
Bangkok, August 19 2011
Scottish Mail on Sunday
A Scots mother who has been investigating the alleged drugs death of her son in an infamous Thai resort has broken her three year old silence to say she believes that he was murdered.
Officials from the British Embassy in Bangkok have confirmed that they have repeatedly raised the issue with the office of the Prime Minister of Thailand and other agencies.
Alison White, 56, from Aberdeen, says she is now more convinced than ever that Thai police in the resort of Pattaya, known for its ‘anything goes’ nightlife, quickly declared the death of her 30-yr-old son Richard an open and shut case because they just did not look for other signs, or in short did not want to investigate.
Richard White, a former pupil of Robert Gordon College, Aberdeen, but more recently an oil engineer working in Saudi Arabia, was found dead in ‘View Talay’ (Sea View) 1 on October 25th 2008.
It’s one of a series of condos – all carrying the same name – which seemed to have contributed to the city’s reputation for ‘suspicious deaths’ and ‘jumpers’.
Some eight people have reportedly jumped or died suspiciously in the condo complex.
Police in Pattaya said that White had locked himself in Room 84 and injected himself with heroin.
Nobody else could have done it because the door was double-bolted from the inside, they insisted..
Moreover the syringe was actually in his hand.
But by employing lawyers and a private detective and making her own investigations Alison White had discovered that:
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ His condominium had been occupied and trashed by a gang of Thai men while he was away working in the oil fields
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ He was so scared of break-ins that he slept with a knife under the pillow
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ Before his death was reported, somebody had unsuccessfully tried to milk his credit card eight times at a local ATM.
She now is certain that the syringe was placed in his hand after his death.
Despite her demands, and requests from the British Embassy to the Thai authorities for a closer investigation, she discovered to her shock and grief that her son’s body was buried without her permission at a time when she was being told the investigation was going full steam.
The family found Richard’s body in an unmarked grave in Bangkok and later submitted him for a Buddhist cremation.
Just days before his death, Richard had rung his mother during a tropical storm and held his phone to the open window for her to listen.
Then he said: ‘I don’t think I like it here so much, mum,’ he said. ‘The people here are not very classy.’ He had used to take his five week breaks on Phuket.
Mother and son in happy days
Richard White was not an intravenous drug user, say family and friends, but they admit he had used drugs before – after leaving school. They say the death scene was unconvincing.
Why for instance would he turn off the lights and air-conditioning in his apartment to inject himself with drugs, as police said?
A police sergeant investigating the case, described the drugs paraphernalia in the room and how Richard had a syringe in his right hand and a belt tightly round his right arm.
But MC (name witheld), 35, also from Aberdeen, who had been out with Richard drinking in Pattaya twice in October 2008 shortly before his death said: ‘I believe Richard died in suspicious circumstances. The belt tourniquet was on his right arm. But Richard was right handed. It does not make sense (that he would inject with his left hand).
‘At no time did I see any evidence of Richard taking drugs.’
But Richard White was scared of something and told MC: ‘I have been sleeping with a knife under the pillow for the last three nights’.
‘I do not know who had access to this apartment,’ said MC, “but Richard said that five Thai guys had used and trashed his flat while he was away and he said he was going to kill them if he did not get his rent back.
MC said it would be inconceivable for Richard to sit alone in the dark and 30 C heat and administer himself a drugs cocktail by injection. Moreover police presented no evidence of any other injection marks.
Alison White and her husband Philip were on the scene quickly to start their own investigation.
Now after a three year battle for information Mrs. White says: ‘I believe he was dead before he was injected.’ But she admits she is unlikely ever to get any proof.
She believes somebody else or even several people were in the room when Richard died. They then left switching everything off and locking the door.
Their enquiries showed there was no bolt that could not just as easily be opened from the outside. Whoever had keys could have opened and locked the doors…and there were other keys about.
Richard’s death occurred just days after he had returned from Saudi Arabia to discover his flat in disarray.
The mother’s suspicion pointed to the group with whom he was associating inluding a couple from whom he had taken over the lease of the apartment, Justin Harrison and Nantaporn Udsri, ‘Kai’ who had spare keys and who never seemed to be available for interview.
But then ‘Kai’ placed the following message on an internet forum:
‘Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry to leave you alone. Richard, sorry, really sorry. Good-bye forever. I promise to miss you. Miss you forever.’
It all sounded too theatrical to Mrs. White.. Then another poster on Pattaya-Live.com who, calling himself Grant Henderson and claiming to be a friend of Richard, replied to a poster who called Richard a ‘smack head’ – “He didn’t die of heroin you ‘d#ck head!”.
In the hours before his death she discovered that Richard, a completion supervisor for Halliburton’s, had made a number of phone calls from his mobile phone.
She also discovered that almost all the local recipients of his calls had quickly changed the sim cards on their phones within days of his death.
Nonetheless from her son’s own records she managed to identify all of the callers and obtained pictures of them.
Enquiries led to ‘Happy a Go-Go bar in Pattaya where a series of Scotsman known to her son had been dating some of the girls.
A girlfriend/ lover Jaruvan Suktavee, known as ‘Peng’ had worked at the bar, and so too had ‘Kai’ – Nantaporn Udsri, so did the other girl called ‘Kai’ – . who wasalso described as a girlfriend of Richard. (Pictured right in younger days)
Central to Alison White’s enquiries is just who was in the apartment before it was closed up and the electricity switched off. She believes her son was poisoned with a drugs cocktail before he was injected.
Methadone, morphine, and metabolite were also found in his stomach bile.
Had the Pattaya go-go-girls, some of whom have a reputation of taking drugs and having Thai boyfriends as their suppliers, been using the apartment for something quite illegal, and was there a falling out?
And if not, who else had keys to the apartment?
Or did Richard really just simply go completely off the rails within days of arriving from Saudi and accidentally take his own life on drugs, perhaps mistaking the dosage, as Thai police believe?
Happy-a-go-go girls: Centre: Jaruvan (Peng), right Nantaporn (Kai)
Mrs. White says the second scenario just does not fit.
‘I spoke to Richard on the 19th of October,’ said Mrs. White. ‘I can detect if there is the slightest thing wrong with him. But it was October and he was already planning for Christmas’.
‘When I went to the condo I discovered he was meticulous and tidy as usual and had his laundry done every three days. These are not the actions of someone on drugs.
‘There is absolutely no way he could be a heroin user and hold down a good job in Saudi.
‘I am not a hysterical mother. What I do know is that Richard was angry because he had been cheated by some people and he wanted his money back, and that his apartment had been used for other purposes. There were other people in that apartment and I want to know who?
‘Someone tried to obtain cash from Richard’s credit card eight times shortly before his reported death. It is unlikely to have been Richard, as he had Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£8,000 cash in his bank account, and he was cautious about credit card charges.
‘In any event we asked police to check the CCTV cameras at the ATM machine. But by the time they got around to it, a long time later, the bank concerned had wiped all its records. They did not get any record from the CCTV at the apartments either.”
It took police almost two years to catch up with Nantaporn and her Scots boyfriend Justin Harrison.
Last year after being asked to re-examine the case by the Office of the Attorney General, police found him in a local hospital after he was involved in a minor accident. He said he knew nothing about the circumstances of Richard’s death.
Nantaporn (left) Kai said she too knew nothing, but admitted going to the apartment to pick up Richard’s utility bills.
She further admitted that Richard had complained about dirty dishes and she had apologised for it.
She said nothing about the apartment being trashed and private property being stolen and nothing about her internet post.
And in fact to pick up mail and bills Nantaporn did not need to enter the apartment at all. There mailbox was outside.
At the time of Richard’s death other personal items were also removed from the apartment including his Sony laptop, camera, and probably cash, as there was none left at all in the apartment.
But the family has been made aware that thefts often happen at scene of crimes in Thailand. Police and Chinese Foundations, who remove corpses to morgues have been known to help themselves.
A witness has come forward to say that after the incident Harrison had announced that he was getting Jaruvan out of the way because of the ‘special circumstances’ of the case and advised him to leave the country as well.
But it is not altogther surprising that Richard White’s’ friends’ made themselves scarce after his death. Nobody in Thailand wants to get involved in a police enquiry involving drugs.
Thai police however continue to insist Richard’s death was self-inflicted. Forensic evidence, which might have been available was wiped quickly as the condo was put out to rent, even though Richard’s lease had several months to expire. In any case local press also clambered around the room.
Police Major General Thara Punsri, Deputy Commander of Region 2 of the Royal Thai Police said that the Office of the Attorney General had already ordered them to investigate and they had interviewed five of the ten witnesses required. The others were either foreigners, or ‘had not yet shown up’.
‘The witnesses and evidence in this enquiry indicate no admissible clue that it is murder,’ he said.
He added: ‘According to witnesses and testimony the deceased locked his room and took heroin and morphine by injecting them through a vein until he was shocked’.
But said Mrs. White: ‘There are no witnesses to Richard’s death. I do not accept what the police say any more. They have said so many different things.”
Mrs. White has now met with the new British Ambassador to Thailand Asif Ahmad whom, she said, was very sympathetic and would continue to pursue the matter with the Office of the Prime Minister.
Embassy officials, she said, had been working closely with her.
“I hope we can make a difference as to how suspicious deaths (open and shut cases) are treated in the future.
“We cannot bring our Richard back but if we can help any other families avoid the distress we have endured, then our fight to expose the truth will have been worth it.
” In the long term I would like for Embassies within Thailand to work together and stand united in stamping out the bad practices which they know are happening in cases such as Richard’s”.
She believes if police had taken the correct actions on the first day she would not now be in a position that she is now having no closure on her son’s death.
She is thankful to the British Embassy for their support. Just what they have done so far is given in an email to her by a consular official after she sought assurance that staff were doing their utmost.
‘We have raised your case with the Thai Authorities: the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Police Forensic Institute and Pattaya Police. Our (previous) Ambassador raised your case with the Assistant Police Commissioner twice, Deputy Head of Mission Daniel Pruce has raised your case 11 times with the Thai Authorities (two of those times while he was ChargÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© d’Affairs) and he has met you twice, our Consul has raised Richard’s case twice and met you once.
” In total we have formally raised your case with the Prime Minister’s Office three times, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs six times and with the Police Forensic Institute five times. Representatives of Pattaya Police attended one of the meetings at the Prime Minister’s Office and Daniel also called on them in Pattaya.
“We have given you reports of each of these meetings. Between us all, we have met you on seven occasions. We believe this reflects the utmost seriousness with which we have taken your case and our commitment to helping as much as we can given the limitations on our role.’
While the British Embassy will continue its requests to the Office of the (new) Prime Minister Mrs. White’s lawyers and private eye say they have nowc ome to a dead end.
Not so Alison White. She believes she may shortly get the missing part of the puzzle which will solve the case.