Family of man shot in Thailand are 'devastated'


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The Independent Online

The family of a British trader shot dead in Thailand have condemned his killer's cruelty and recklessness, saying the death has left them "completely devastated".

Stephen Ashton, 22, a City trader from Purley in South London, was celebrating on the island of Koh Phangan when he was caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between two rival gangs on New Year's Eve.

Mr Ashton's family are due to arrive in Koh Phangan formally to identify the body and arrange for its repatriation. Police in Thailand have confiscated a gun and arrested a 26-year-old Thai man, named locally as Ekkapan Kaewkla.

In a statement released by the Foreign Office, Mr Ashton's family said: "We are completely devastated by the loss of Stephen from our lives.

"He has been taken away from us in such cruel and tragic circumstances in which he was an innocent bystander.

"We are comforted in the thought that he was having a fantastic time with friends after such a difficult period following the loss of his much-loved dad who passed away from a brain tumour in 2011 and the loss of his grand-dad a few months earlier.

"We were all so proud of him; he was a much-loved son, brother, grandson and nephew. He will be truly missed by his family. We cannot comprehend how someone can carry out such a reckless act, giving such little value to human life."

Tributes to Mr Ashton were pouring in today. Dawn Mason, 48, a neighbour of the family described him as a "very normal, likeable young man". Matthew Hitchmough, deputy manager of the Rectory pub in Purley, which Mr Ashton frequented, described him as "bubbly", adding: "He always had friends and girls round him."

Koh Phangan has rapidly grown in popularity among tourists since it featured in the 2000 film The Beach, and is famous for its "full-moon parties". But its increased wealth has also led to heightened security fears.

The Foreign Office says seven British nationals have been murdered in Thailand since January 2009, with Koh Phangan identified as a flashpoint. Its travel advice states: "Western tourists have been victims of vicious unprovoked attacks by gangs in Koh Phangan. These attacks are particularly common around the time of the full-moon parties and generally occur late at night near bars in Haad Rin. Exercise caution when walking in this area at any time, especially after dark."