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.

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

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on