BUT STAR WITNESS WON’T BE TURNING UP SOON.
Two Australians were remanded in chains at a military tribunal in Thailand last Monday charged with illegal possession of war weapons.
Their appearance came after the first, Antonio Bagnatto, was acquitted on appeal of a conviction and death sentence for murder – and the second, Luke Cook, 35, born in Duncraig, WA, awaited the result of his appeal against a conviction and death sentence for drugs trafficking.
One man listed as a witness by the prosecution, Australian Douglas Peter Shoebridge, 36, did not appear and is unlikely to. Shoebridge, who was regarded as Bagnato’s ‘gofer’ was the prime prosecution witness in Luke Cook’s trial claiming that Luke Cook has confessed to him that he had smuggled 500 kgs of ‘Ice’ into Thai waters on his yacht ‘Jomandy’.
Shoebridge, a body building enthusiast, is now sought by the Royal Thai Police on a warrant of human trafficking. He left Thailand on April 24th on a British passport. He has not resumed work as an offshore (FIFP) compass adjuster.
Also sentenced to death in the same case as Cook were his wife Kanyarat Wedphitak, 41, nicknamed ‘Kookai’ and Californian Gerard Tyler, now 25.
Thai police claimed that the trio had been smuggling for Wayne Schneider and that Cook had been paid US$15 million. But some very basic facts in the case are being disputed on appeal.
Antonio Bagnato, from Sydney, where he is wanted for questioning for a murder in Leichardt, was acquitted on appeal on the major charges brought against him. He had been accused, with others, of kidnapping, beating resulting in the death of, and concealing the body of Sydney Hell’s Angel gang leader Wayne Schneider in the resort of Pattaya in November 2015.
Both have been charged in the current case by the military for illegal possession of military weapons which were found after the death of Schneider.
Both pleaded not guilty and were remanded – Bagnato to Chonburi Military Detention Centre, and Luke to Bangkwang Prison, Bangkok, ‘The Big Tiger’.
Shoebridge has told friends he will not be back for at least five years. It may be longer if his extradition is not sought. There is no Statute of Limitations for Human Trafficking. Last week he told the West Australian’ that he was aware of the warrant. “All these other things are hearsay until proven otherwise.”
Those ‘other things’ include accusations that he had ‘framed Luke Cook’ after Cook’s wife cheated him out of about A$6000.
Shoebridge, Gerard Tyler, who was also sentenced in the Schneider death case, and Bagnato all worked out at Tony’s Gym in Pattaya.
Bagnato, ran St Michael’s Fight Club in Sydney, and had become reportedly a partner in crime with Schneider. His acquittal on appeal and sentence instead with Tyler to three years on lesser charges flew in the face of evidence and a verdict of homicide brought in by a New South Wales inquest into Schneider in December 2017.
The inquest heard how Bagnato was waiting at Schneider’s house when the group, wearing face masks, arrived. Bagnato, who was uncovered, was seen by security guards putting Schneider into a headlock. Schneider was then put into a red Toyota and driven to Bagnato’s rented house in Jomtien Park Villas, near Pattaya. He died of a beating. His body was then taken and buried in a shallow grave nearby.
It was Shoebridge and his Thai girlfriend Siriphat Saimart, acting on his directions, who provided the two vehicles, the red Toyota utility and white Mazda Dmax, which Bagnato and his group of cohorts used in the kidnap and disposal of Wayne Schneider’s body, according to evidence given to the Sydney inquest.
The inquest also noted also that Shoebridge put the deposit down on the house which Bagnato and his team of thugs also used for the beating of Wayne Schneider.
In the arms case the first batch of weapons – principally automatic rifles with telescopic-sights – subject to the charges was found in the white DMax, registered to Sirphat Saimart, which after the Schneider trial was picked up by Shoebridge from the police car pound in Pattaya.
The second batch of arms charges relates to weapons found above a ceiling in a room Bagnato had rented in Luke Cook’s ‘Jolly’s Piss Stop’ bar-restaurant and guest house after the murder of Schneider.
Luke Cook’s lawyer is claiming that both Bagnato and Shoebridge were together when the room was rented. rented. Both were given keys to the room. Cook had no idea there were weapons stored there, it is claimed, and had encouraged police to look when they called. Ironically the weapons may have been supplied from the Thai military.
Some 18 months after the Schneider homicide case Shoebridge was recruited into the Thai police TCCC (Transnational Crime Co-ordination Centre) to investigate Luke Cook for trafficking some 500 kgs of ‘Ice’ on board his yacht Jomandy in June 2015.
This was after he had made a statement that Cook had confessed everything to him back in 2015.
Shoebridge testified that because of his diving skills Luke had hired him on three occasions, to go searching in the Gulf of Thailand for missing gold. On the third occasion Luke had told him it was not gold but ‘Ice’ which he had dumped overboard after being caught in the searchlight of a Thai naval patrol.
Shoebridge said he was shocked and would have nothing more to do with Cook demanding to be taken ashore immediately.
Shoebridge has told friends in Pattaya that he had been been set up on the human trafficking charges by NGOs and another member of the police team whom he named as the team’s ‘foreigners leader’ American ‘Joshua Pate’ aka ‘John McKey.
Shoebridge has young two daughters in Thailand. One had a medical condition and he hoped to bring her to Perth for medical treatment.
His Tanzanian girlfriend Sara Musa Chitanda, has already appeared in the dock at Bangkok Criminal Court as have two victims, who said they were trafficked from Tanzania and Kenya and according to their testimony were told they would have work in a beauty parlour. Shoebridge’s role was to pose as their boyfriend and help keep order. They referred to him as ‘Big Daddy’ and ‘Baby Daddy’. Sara was their mamasan.
It is alleged that she rented apartments for East African women at the MD Place apartment block in Asoke-Din Daeng, Bangkok, where Shoebridge and Chitanda shared a room.
After the women had settled Sara took them to the front office to ensure the apartments were put in names of the new arrivals.
The victims’ passports and return tickets were also retained and they were given laminated photocopies of the main and visa pages to show when subject to document checks.
She then put them to work in the Shock 39 Club, a known foreign prostitute venue, off Bangkok’s Phetchaburi Road, sending them there each night by taxi. They were instructed to charge 5000 baht for each customer. When one complained she could not do the work because she could not even speak English Chitanda told her:
‘You don’t speak English with your p*ssy’.
It is alleged that when their visas expired the women were sent to Indonesia, often Bali, for a month and while there, their passports would be returned to Africa where new visas for Thailand would be issued. When the passports were returned they would return to Bangkok again.
One witness, say police, has been allowed to return to East Africa under the care of the International Office of Migration. New immigration rules in Thailand also allow victims of human trafficking to stay in the country and find work during court proceedings if they so choose.
The decision to charge Bagnato with possessing military weapons came after fears were expressed that he could be acquitted on appeal. Similarly earlier this year a decision to charge Luke Cook was made after the same misgivings were expressed by the chief of the TCCC. This is not unusual in southeast Asia.
A range of problematic issues had arisen since Cook’s trial which could have effectively invalidated the verdicts against all the defendants.
BACK STORY – THOSE ‘OTHER THINGS’
1. ROGUE INVESTIGATION TEAM
The investigation into Cook, his wife and Tyler Gerard, was carried out by a little-known but very controversial unit set up by Colonel Dullayapat Detpornchayasin (left) a Thai Special Branch officer. He had previously been with the Crime Suppression Division and from reports had found his desk john with the SB a little boring.
His senior foreign volunteer or CI (controlled informant) was an American he had known for some 20 years, called Joshua Pate, but also known as John MacKey. Pate was wanted for a felony in Texas.
The foreigners involved in the Luke Cook investigation were Frenchman Thierry Perenon, Israeli Russian Boris Klimov, and Australian FIFO workers Shoebridge, a compass adjuster, Craig Smith, an administrator, and Joel McGarry, a qualified ship’s master.
The Cook case was the units biggest case ever. Previously it had been known only had been busting Brits, expats in Pattaya for selling steroids or running sex parties. But few of those arrested made it to prison, not if they had cash. This was a money-making business and those caught with steroids paid in the region of 2 million Thai baht nearly US$63,000.
Among those who have admitted paying Pate – the go-between – this figure was Boris Klimov, who then joined the team and could carry on his business unhindered, and well known Pattaya personality, Tim ‘Sharkey’ Ward.*
Pate has freely admitted taking the cash but said he was at the bottom of the good chain. On the team of the Transnational Crime Suppression Centre apart from Klimov three others were actively dealing in steroids, Frenchman Thierry Perenon had multiple websites for his ‘Top Steroids’, Tate was selling Atlas brand, and Shoebridge himself was selling. He had been admonished for trying to sell steroids offshore. One of his clients had been Sharkey, but Sharkey was not impressed with the quality.
The Team Leader:
Body Talk and ‘Set-ups’
Joshua Tate (USA) was arrested in March this year in Chiang Mai Province running a cannabis farm and packaging plant and dealing in Class IV drugs – Dianabol growth hormone. He had been leaking information about the Luke Cook investigation and he feared repercussions. Pate claimed he had acquired the Dianabol for Shoebridge to show he was also active in the trade, but then realised he was probably being been set up himself. In a panic, he said, he went to Chiang Mai police and made a statement that someone had sent cash to his wife’s account and he felt he had been set up for something. He had already received messages from his former boss telling him to withdraw allegations or ‘I cannot help you’.
Before his arrest a bank slip on a Line App conversation with ‘Doug’ showing that he had been sent 120,000 baht for the Dianabol. Shoebridge had sent the slip as prove of payment, he said. The telephone number on the slip was one they used to communicate and is known to the Anti-Human Trafficking police.
The Surveillance Guys
Boris Klimov (RU), Thierry Perenon (FR): Klimov was deported three days before Luke’s arrest for overstaying his visa. He has since made statements from Tel Aviv, Israel, about the Luke Cook operation indicating Luke Cook was framed. He conducted surveillance on the Luke Cook house and also reported that nothing of value was found apart from a motorcycle.
Thierry Perenon has been exposed in both the Nation and Khom Chat Leuk and Siamchon news organisations for extorting foreigners. A complaint was made to the Thailand’s Deopartment of Special Investigations (DSI.) But no action taken. He has since been lying low.
Joel McGarry (Aus.) and Craig Smith. (Aus.): Joel McGarry, was according to Pate and Klimov, instructed to testify that Luke Cook had offered him 500,000 Thai baht to sail the Jomandy to pick up the drugs. Klimov says he was witness a rehearsal in an apartment in Bangkok (paid for by police) when McGarry briefed what to say. ” He kept forgetting his lines. I got the impression that Joel hardly knew Cook, if at all.”
In the end McGarry refused. Instead at the trial Craig was called in to testify giving hearsay evidence that McGarry had told him Cook had offered him 500,000 baht to sail the Jomandy.
In court Smith admitted that he had used Kanyarat’s legal services to handle his divorce from a Thai wife. which had cost more than he expected but he did not bear a grudge.
Privately, according to Pate, he said she had stiffed him for over a million baht and was furious. McGarry it is understood has been in touch with the Cook’s lawyers.
Douglas Shoebridge (Aus.): He also had used Kanyarat’s legal services and complained that she had cheated him out of 150,000 Thai baht. He had discussed the matter with other ‘victims’ of Kanyarat. In court he said that he bore no grudge. Currently wanted for human trafficking.
In short this was at best a rogue unit with at least three of the team indicating that Luke Cook was framed. However, one has been arrested, the second had been deported, and the third has gone to ground and this is not the sort of evidence which could easily be brought to a Thai court, nor are they quality witnesses.
2.AUSTRALIAN FEDS KEPT IN THE DARK. THEN THE DEA WASHED ITS HANDS
In major cases like this involving foreigners it is customary for the Thai police to liaise and/or call on assistance from the country of which the suspect is a national. In this case the Australian Federal Police were bypassed and the assistance of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was secured. Australia is against the death penalty and there could have been problems.
But, according to Pate this was his idea. The DEA were known to be generous. Secondly he needed the DEA’s help to return to the United States with his family. In fact he was arrested while begging the DEA for that assistance claiming the DEA had put his life in danger. This is backed up by correspondence. However, the DEA had washed its hand of the TCCC by this stage, having discovered the activities of the team members in the steroid trade and told Pate to apply to U.S. Citizen Services for assistance. He was doing that when he was arrested.
3. FAKE NEWS
After Luke Cook was arrested the Royal Thai Police put out a statement in English and Thai prepared by the team. The statement said that Cook was part of a Hell’s Angels group trading in drugs. That he had been paid US$15 million to bring in 500 kg of ‘Ice’ on his yacht ‘Jomandy’ on behalf of Wayne Schneider. 50 kgs of that had washed up on a local beach. This was because Luke Cook had ditched the cargo overboard after being caught in the lights of a Thai naval vessel. Nobody has queried this statement. When his house was raided, said police, it was discovered he had all the trapping of a man living well above his means; nine houses, flash cars etc. These facts have been set in stone in the Australian media.
No evidence was presented that Luke Cook was a Hell’s Angel or even knew Schneider or went to the gym with him, as was claimed recently. No evidence was presented that Luke Cook was paid US$15 million or that he had nine properties. His wife’s BMW and his home were both being paid by instalment.
No naval person of any rank could be found to testify to confirm that the Royal Thai Navy had ‘lit up’ the ‘Jomandy’. But to retrieve and dump half a tonne of drugs from within the cramped Jomandy would have rather difficult to achieve in an emergency.
4. MALICE AFORETHOUGHT?
Messages on Line-Apps purporting to be conversations between Luke Cook and Joshua Pate during the investigation show both colluding to construct a vicious lukecook.net net website which indeed was registered to Shoebridge and put up prior to the drugs trial and while Cook was on remand.
This site showed Cook being sexually abused in prison and Kanyarat being compared to the rear end of a buffalo. . Messages also show the alleged planting of something at the Cook residence, three days after a search showed no evidence of drug use. On the fourth day drugs were found. Cooke was not charged with the cocaine. But the find was stated in court to show evidence of a ‘drugs culture’. If proven both allegations would confirm the investigation was corrupt and Shoebridge had a serious grudge.
Footnote. Tim Ward, aka, Sharkey, a former money lender, and self-confessed sex tourist made Australian headlines when he accused Thai police of stealing gold from his apartment. A YouTube clip of him challenging Thai police went viral. In fact on this occasion Thai police were innocent. He now admits he knows it was Antonio Bagnato.