I know that in the fourth installment I promised to talk about the first and only official arrest of a suspect on the murder of Kirsty Jones, but I just remembered another red herring we all went off chasing. I will get to the arrest in the next chapter…
Allow me to backtrack a little bit to the 19th of August, the day we were all waiting with baited breath for; the day of the DNA results. All seven suspects, five foreigners and two Thais, were going to find out whether they were to continue to be suspects in a case where the police were increasingly desperate to close, or could finally put this nightmare behind them and move on. It was going to be a big news day. Unfortunately Colonel Prasit Thamdee had to tell us that the results were to be delayed for a few days and then went on to make a baffling – and disturbing – statement to the Daily News. As he was relaying the three day delay of the DNA results, Colonel Prasit added that as to the matter of Surin’s larger than usual sexual organ – ! – it was because he apparently injected it with olive oil to make it bigger – again, ! You would think that the reporter would have followed up this statement with a question, “Er, sir, please can you tell us what the hell you are on about?” But, as with much of the local reporting at the time, more questions were raised than answered.
None of us really knew what to think of this (though we all had a good time taking the piss out of the beleaguered Colonel Prasit, who was a zinger king of the crime – remember his offensive comment after the crime about how Kirsty was enjoying consensual sex and that her death was an accident?) until the 24th of August, when he went on to say that the damage to Kirsty was so extensive that he was sure that the murderer was not only sadistic but was physically large – hence the focus on Surin’s penis. Many weeks later I remember talking to Dr. Thanin Bhoopat, the forensics doctor, and asked him about the colonel’s statement. I am not going to go into details, as I know that Kirsty’s mother reads this, but let’s just say that Colonel Prasit was, as ever, talking utter nonsense. A quick Google search and I can tell you that Colonel Prasit has not suffered from his incompetence and gaffes. In fact he is now deputy police chief for Nakorn Rachasima…
So, back to Surin. As his wife Panthipa attested, he was apparently having a shower at the time of the murder and when he heard all the noise coming from Kirsty’s room, he went down to inspect, but by the time he put his ear to the door all was quiet, and not wanting to invade anyone’s privacy, he told everyone to go back to bed and leave it alone. However, by this time it was pretty much acknowledged that the DNA proved that the murderer was Asian, not foreign, and since Narong the guide had just been kidnapped and tortured, and the police had to be most circumspect in bandying his name around as suspect, Surin was looking better and better to the police (in fact, we later found out that in spite of the police’s continued insistence that the men who tortured Narong were not policemen, but third party troublemakers (to what purpose?) a Colonel Panya Nirattimanon was transferred out of Chiang Mai to Lampang the day the news broke about the kidnap, implying that he was complicit). Because of the marijuana found in his room, he was promptly arrested. And while in jail for drugs possession – he had been in jail twice before for possession of heroin – his wife oversaw Aree Guesthouse, which was, by this time, virtually empty. Andy Gill was in jail for visa overstay, all the guests had left and while the media would still be hanging around, and Aree was still the focal point of the investigation, it was mostly deserted. Panthipa was a champion of her husband’s innocence and repeatedly told the police and us that Surin had suffered from a back injury years before and couldn’t possibly rape Kirsty as he doesn’t really have sex anymore. She then went on to say that she was miserable at Aree as every night Kirsty’s ghost could be heard and none of her friends would stay the night with her and that since all the guests had checked out she only had 20 baht left to her name and nothing to live on.
On the 22nd of August the police rushed to Aree Guesthouse again. They got there to find Panthipa locked in her room about to hang herself. Panthipa, 36, had had a brain injury many years ago and had a history of mental instability. Through the door, she told the police that she missed Surin, that the police wouldn’t allow her to post bail for him nor to visit him in jail and that she couldn’t bear it anymore. She said that she was going to kill herself unless the police brought her husband to her immediately. You can imagine the scene at Aree, less than two weeks after Kirsty’s body was found, and here we were with the wife of one of the suspects about to commit suicide. The media were circling, the police sirens were wailing, the emergency vehicles on standby and every Somboon and Sombat in the neighbourhood was out to be part of the latest drama. I wasn’t there. I was out somewhere, I can’t remember, and only got there as the crowds were dispersing. So what I am telling you is what I remember from conversations with people at the time – along with some fact checking (a rather loose term, considering the source) with the local papers.
Talking to the police through the door, Panthipa was crying hysterically and said that she didn’t want to live anymore. Suddenly she flipped a switch which turned off all the lights in the top floor. The police, at that point, broke into her room and found her hanging by the neck with a nylon rope. Fortunately they manage to extricate her in time and she was rushed to hospital, where she recovered over the next few days.
I got to know Surin and Panthipa very well over the coming months. She was a fragile woman who was off centre, but who was blindly devoted to her husband. Surin, who I have heard died about five years ago, was a known drug dealer, a philanderer and an all-round charlatan, but he did take good care of her and I hope that she is still alive and doing well today. It was actually heartbreaking talking to her a few days after her attempted suicide to hear her talk about having lost everything with the murder of Kirsty, her massage students, her income, her friends, her husband, “it would be nice if people cared for the living as much as they do for the dead,” she said.
The much-anticipated DNA results came out on the 25th of August. None of the seven suspects were a match. The police were back to square one. A 30,000 baht award was put up, one of Surin’s French friends was taken to the hospital to get his DNA tested (in spite of the repeated insistence by the forensic pathologist that the perpetrator was of Asian descent, the police were still – and believe it or not, some are still today – trying to pin the murder on a foreigner.) Apparently they still thought that Surin could be involved and the theory du jour was that he was in cahoots with a previously unknown foreign mafia gang operating out of the Night Bazaar.
Our favourite colonel distinguished himself with yet another statement, following the DNA results, saying that while cleared by the DNA, the men were still considered suspects as they could be complicit in the crime. A crime that the doctor insisted had only one perpetrator, was about to be spun into a conspiracy. He expanded by saying that the extensive injuries to Kirsty made him suspect that one foreigner and one Thai were involved – harping back to the comment of the larger man. He then said that the murderer had left one piece of evidence at the crime which is being analysed and which would lead to the murderer. Not sure how he was going to manage to pin this on Surin (DNA cleared) and a farang (no DNA evidence) as a raping murdering duo.
In spite of the DNA results clearing all the prime suspects, Colonel Suthep Dejraksa, who was to have a bigger role in this case as the time went on (and who is also currently the Commissioner General Suthep of the 5th Region Police), announced that the case was not a hard one to solve and the he would have good news in the near future. A further four men’s DNA were about to be tested – all friends of Surin’s, three Thais and the French guy – and it was believed that the case was soon to be solved. About two weeks after the crime, Colonel Suthep and a team went back to search Kirsty’s room and collect more evidence, discovering a fingerprint, which was to get the police very excited for the next few days as they tried to get a match. I wasn’t holding my breath on this one as on the day Kirsty’s body was found, her room was crowded with journalists and policemen before any evidence was collected, and the room was open to the curious all through the following weeks prior to the discovery of this crucial fingerprint – even I had been in the room many times by then.
On August 30th, all 11 DNA samples failed to match those found on Kirsty’s body. For the first time since Kirsty’s body was discovered on the 10th August, the police said that the case may not be easy to solve.