Suicide, sex game, or murder? The death of David Carradine could be a case for the FBI

Family and friends of the actor, whose body is now back in Los Angeles, want US agents to investigate his death in a Bangkok hotel

The body of the film actor David Carradine arrived back in Los Angeles late yesterday, and, barring any last-minute legal interventions, his funeral is expected to follow soon. But the cause of his death is not likely to be laid to rest as quickly. Three days after a chambermaid found his body hanging inside the closet in his luxury rooms at a Bangkok hotel, there are now some very exotic theories being concocted about what happened in Suite 352.

The initial reaction that the 72-year-old Hollywood star must have committed suicide has been subsumed by claims that he was the victim of his own sexual shenanigans, or even that he was murdered. His family are sufficiently concerned about reports emanating from the Thai capital to ask the FBI to investigate, and Thai coroners have sent samples from the actor's body for toxicology tests. The results, they say, may not be known for three weeks.

The reason why so few are prepared to accept that suicide was the sad end to a lengthy career that included the worldwide TV smash Kung Fu, and, latterly, a starring role in Quentin Tarantino's film Kill Bill, is not so much to do with a lack of any note as with the position of the rope that killed him. Suicides tend to put a ligature around their necks and let gravity take its course. But Carradine's rope not only encircled his neck, but his wrist and penis as well. And you don't need to induge in the practice to know that this is strongly suggestive of auto-eroticism, a private procedure sufficiently dangerous to kill several hundred men in the US each year.

The hazardous idea is that temporarily cutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain will heighten the effects of a sexual climax. Pornthip Rojanasunand, director of Thailand's Central Institute of Forensic Science, and considered the country's top criminal evidence expert, said: "In some cases it can suggest murder. But sometimes when the victim is naked and in bondage, it can suggest that the victim is doing it to himself. If you hang yourself by the neck, you don't need so much pressure to kill yourself. Those who get highly sexually aroused tend to forget this fact."

Representatives for Carradine declined to comment on the speculation about auto-erotic asphyxiation, but his long-time family friend and former lawyer Vicki Roberts, who represented the actor in a past divorce, insisted Carradine had no history of practising the technique. But then auto-erotic asphyxiation is not something you put in a CV, and is generally known about only when it goes wrong and a body is found.

Mark Geragos, an attorney for Carradine's brother Keith, told CNN's Larry King: "The family want an investigation. I would think that the people in Bangkok would want to support an investigation and allow the FBI to go over there and assist in the investigation so we can get the answers to the questions."

The family say that Carradine certainly had no reason to kill himself. He had a happy marriage (to Annie Bierman, wife number five), had recently bought a new car, and had a full working schedule. He was in Bangkok to make a film called Stretch, shooting for which began only two days before his death, and he had several other movies lined up afterwards. No one who saw him in his final hours thought him anything less than buoyant. The night before his body was discovered, he had been drinking, but not heavily, and playing the piano in the lobby of his five-star hotel, the Swissotel Nai Lert Park. A member of the hotel staff said he was "very happy" and " smiling" the last time he was seen alive.

So if it wasn't suicide, or auto-eroticism, could it have been murder by person, or persons, unknown, who then arranged the scene to suggest a sexual experiment gone wrong?

Ms Roberts said press reports of how Carradine was found caused her to suspect foul play, and his agent, Chuck Binder, thinks his client was definitely murdered. He says that a footprint was found on Carradine's bed that was not his, and that the star's hands had been tied behind his back.

Yet investigators in Bangkok say there is no indication that anyone else had been in Carradine's room; no member of staff saw anyone enter his suite, and CCTV footage was similarly devoid of evidence of anyone unaccounted for in the vicinity.

The mystery goes on, and will continue for some time.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine