British man charged over killing in Thailand

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A British man was charged yesterday with raping and conspiring to murder Kirsty Jones, the Welsh backpacker found strangled in a guesthouse in northern Thailand last month.

A British man was charged yesterday with raping and conspiring to murder Kirsty Jones, the Welsh backpacker found strangled in a guesthouse in northern Thailand last month.

Andrew Gill, co-owner of the Aree Guesthouse in Chiang Mai where Ms Jones, 23, was found, was already in police custody when he was told of the charges. He was arrested a few days after the murder whenpolice discovered his Thai visa had expired.

Mr Gill, 32, from Lewisham, south London, has denied any involvement with the murder, claiming he was not at the guesthouse on the night Ms Jones was killed. But police say they have DNA evidence that links him to the crime. If found guilty, he could face the death penalty.

British embassy officials will be seeking clarification of the conspiracy charge when they travel to Chiang Mai today. Major-General Aram Chanphen, the regional police chief, said police were still searching for an accomplice but did not give his name or nationality.

On the night of 10 August, Ms Jones, from Tredomen near Brecon, Powys, was heard screaming for help from her room in the Aree Guesthouse, but her cries were ignored by fellow guests, who presumed it was a lovers' tiff. Her partly clothed body was not discovered until 4.30 the following afternoon, lying face down on the bed with a cloth around the neck.

Mr Gill, who has lived in Thailand for 12 years and bought the hostel with £10,000 he inherited from his mother, made himself scarce for two days after the murder. He was eventually arrested in a bar. Friends said he was avoiding police because of his out-of-date visa. "He didn't want to be deported," one said. He was fined £33 for the visa offence and shouted out "I didn't do it", as he left court to return to his cell.

During the month-long investigation, Thai police were accused of brutality and "bungling". One official at the British embassy was quoted as calling the investigation a shambles. Journalists were allowed to walk over the scene of the crime, Ms Jones's Thai trekking guide claimed he was threatened with death if he did not confess, and her relatives complained about police officers giving conflicting details and making lurid and unfounded remarks to the press. The chief investigator was removed from the case.

Police took samples of blood and hair from Mr Gill and nine other foreigners who were staying at the guesthouse, including two Britons. One of them, Nathan Foley, had heard Ms Jones's cries for help. "I heard her shout, 'Get out! Get out! Help me! Help me!' But I travel a lot and hear these rows all the time. If I intervened every time my face would be like a jigsaw," he said at the time.

Samples were also taken from four Thai men, including Surin Chanpranet, 47, the guesthouse manager and co-owner, who is still a suspect.

The original round of DNA tests failed to match material found at the scene of the crime. A police source told The Nation newspaper that the most recent tests had concentrated on tissue samples found embedded in Ms Jones's fingernails.

Comments