Thai monk charged with murder of British tourist

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The Independent Online

Hong Kong

A Buddhist monk was last night charged with murder and robbery after he confessed to killing Johanne Masheder, the 23-year-old British woman who went missing in Thailand in December.

The monk, identified by the police as Yodchart Suephoo, 25, confessed to the police yesterday after Miss Masheder's body was found in a small cave where the monks of the Khawpoon Cave Temple usually throw away dead animals.

The cave, a popular place for visitors, is in Kanchanaburi, 80 miles west of Bangkok. The town is the site of the notorious bridge over the River Kwai, where some 60,000 Allied soldiers died while being forced by the Japanese to build it.

The monk denied raping Miss Masheder, from Wincle, Cheshire, although he admitted raping another Western tourist last year. He said Miss Masheder had died during the robbery when he pushed her down a ravine. An Australian woman complained that she had been raped by a monk while visiting the cave, alerting the police.

Mr Yodchart told the police he was an amphetamine addict who used the money he stole from Miss Masheder to buy drugs. He has previously spent two years in jail for rape. Like many other former convicts in Thailand, he joined a monastery following his release. Mr Yodchart is expected to be formally charged today.

Miss Masheder arrived in Thailand on 28 November, shortly after qualifying as a lawyer. She stayed in Bangkok with a family friend and from there she went to the northern city of Chiang Mai and joined an elephant trekking tour. Travelling further north, she called her parents from a town in the infamous Golden Triangle area and returned to Bangkok on 11 December.

She was last seen on 17 December by the son of a hotel maid who was tipped by her. It is likely that she was killed shortly afterwards when she travelled to Kanchanaburi. Her parents, Stuart and Jackie Masheder, flew to Thailand to help in the search for their daughter. Mr Masheder, a chemical company executive, was at the scene of the discovery yesterday and is believed to have helped identify the body.

Mr Masheder is thought to have left for the Thai capital, Bangkok, where the couple - said to be "extremely distressed" - were being looked after by the British Consul.

The Foreign Office yesterday confirmed that the body was Miss Masheder and said local authorities were holding a post mortem examination.