‘I didn’t think checking the CCTV of the boats was relevant – nor was it worth checking the murder weapon’

I have been following the trial of the two young Burmese on Koh Samui and have been totally absorbed. It seems now reading the international press that few people outside Thailand believe in Thai justice in this case, thus concurring with the majority of Thais.

As predicted the murder trial has become a major farce though I cannot be totally sure that all reporting is totally accurate. The Khao Sod (Fresh News) newspaper seems to have a reasonable finger on the pulse, but even that appears scented with cynicism.

News is coming to non-Thai speaking foreign journalists, either from defence briefings, rare interpreters, and Thai journalists.

When Lt.Colonel Cherdpong Chiewpreecha  stepped into a witness box  in came a name from my past.

I had interviewed ‘Chilli’ (his nickname) while investigating the case of Colin Vard, who was robbed of seven houses on Phuket, by a mixture of bent lawyers, police, judges, money-lenders and an ex-housekeeper. (I’m not sure they would regard themselves as bent though, possibly just patriotic and fortunate).

Once in a while you come across a rare gem like ‘Chilli, although on reflection what he said off camera was a lot stronger than what he said on camera.

Chilli was based at Region 8 headquarters and trying to keep police in Chalong, Phuket, under control. Something he was unable to do as they were apparently among the band of robber brothers.
He had vowed to bring the culprits to justice – then sadly,  as often happens in these cases Chilli disappeared off the scene.

Then again Thailand’s Police spokesman Police Major General Prawut Thavornsiri vowed pretty much the same things when I interviewed him in 2011 and nothing happened.

Daire, five years ago wearing ‘Chilli’s hat

And he too was saying pretty much the same things a month or so back after Colin’s daughter Jessie went up on YouTube to shame someone into doing something – and the whole family staged a sit-in in the road outside Bangkok Police headquarters.   We are now getting close to the deadline when everything will be solved.  But words in Thailand do not necessarily convey what they mean. It’s the sentiment that’s important.

The thought that Colin Vard is going to get his money back and that lawyers, police, land officials, bank officials are going to jail is just that –  a thought.

Its the Thai version of the English expression: ‘Its the thought that counts”.

So here was Chilli in court presenting video evidence taken in Sairee Beach, Koh Tao on the night of the murders when 200 of 300 of the CCTV cameras were out of order.  And then whether he asked if she checked the CCTV of people leaving the island he replied: ‘No”.

“ Why”: ‘I did not think it was relevant.’


This year  Daire ( left ) complaining at the Ministry of Justice with Jessie (right) He no longer wants to be a cop

Now, as there is no verbatim record of the proceedings in a Thai court those may not really be a direct quotes.

It  is possible things can go the way of the old anecdote in which ‘Send reinforcements we are going to advance’ becomes ‘Send three and four pence we are going to a dance.’

But there seems to be general consensus on this.

It is of course not relevant to the police case but maybe vital to the defence.

It is a commonly held belief is that at least one of the perpetrators left the island that morning and that at least one speedboat, possibly two had left.

It is also relevant because a false story came from the island saying that people had “blockaded the pier” and that story was published in many publications abroad.

Then of course Sara McBride reported the following on Sky News: “The alleged murder weapon – a wooden garden hoe – was never extensively forensically tested.

No DNA of perpetrator found on this – but plenty of victim.

“The court was told officers had inspected it with a magnifying glass but deemed there were no viable fingerprints on it, and no DNA evidence to collect.”   Ouch again.

But of course this is not the first foreign murder in which Thai police have been accused of not examining the murder weapon.  When Paul Ayling of Thorpe Bay, Kent, was clubbed in Hua Hin the assailant left the murder weapon behind.  It was kicking around the police station for a while.  Nobody was ever charged.

Hua Hin

(Murder weapon not examined – claimed Ayling’s wife)

Scotland Yard were in Thailand for a month at the request of David Cameron. no doubt they concur. No doubt they offered assistance with DNA.

It does not look like they told the Thai police how to get DNA off a hoe handle though – or the successful prosecutions brought in the UK based on the DNA evidence of the attackers taken from pick-axe handles.

 I think we can leave it there.  At this point a judge in the UK would be throwing out the case.
The tragedy of this whole business is that the families of Hannah and David are unlikely to get closure by this trial.

Above – Colonel Chiewpreecha featured at the end of  this short video on the Vard case

Moreover these admissions by the police are quite normal in Thai courts. We may be shocked by  western standards – but quite frankly if this case had not gathered international scrutiny it is quite possible these two young boys would be, if not dead, locked up for life already.

But we are still waiting for somebody to explain the DNA evidence which has put these Burmese in the frame. When it comes who is going to believe it. Unless a Scotland Yard officer comes along to back up the Thai evidence; nobody I suspect.

For the sake of harmony foreign embassies do not give any of their citizens an accurate picture of the Thai justice system. The best you will get I am afraid is the name of a law firm, whom, as we have shown in the case of the British Embassy, may well be not only completely bent, but its chief might also be a stark raving lunatic.

About the Author

Andrew Drummond

Andrew Drummond is a British independent journalist and occasional television documentary maker. He is a former Fleet Street, London, journalist having worked at the Evening Standard, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Observer and The Times.

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