British new-year reveller shot dead at Thailand beach party

Stephen Ashton, 22, caught in the crossfire between rival gangs of youths on party island

A British holidaymaker was shot dead in Thailand hours after welcoming in the new year with friends at a beach party.

Local media on the party island of Koh Phangan said Stephen Ashton, 22, was caught in the crossfire between two groups of Thai youths.

Police Colonel Kittakarn Kramomthong, chief of police at the island's station, said officers had arrested a 26-year-old Thai man and confiscated a gun.

The man is expected to be charged with manslaughter, he said.

Mr Ashton, form south London, was celebrating at Haad Rin, a stretch of beach famous for its “full moon” parties. Shortly after 3am an argument broke out between a group of locals at Zoom Bar, one of the many beachside party venues that line that stretch of shore. As one of the men walked away from the bar he reportedly pulled out a gun and began firing into the crowd, hitting Mr Ashton in the side of the chest.

“He was shot in the side while dancing on the beach,” a police spokesman told the AFP news agency. Reports suggested a Thai man was also injured.

Mr Ashton was taken to hospital but could not be revived. A nurse told The Independent: “Doctors spent 40 minutes trying to resuscitate him but there was nothing they could do.”

Dawn Mason, 48, a neighbour of Mr Ashton’s family, described him as a “very normal, likeable young man”. His family moved to the upmarket area of Purley, south London, about three years ago, she said. “They’ve always been very nice neighbours. I went to the house today and the family just seem in complete shock.”

Mr Ashton’s mother, Diane, is flying back to the UK from a skiing trip after hearing of her son’s death, Ms Mason said. Mr Ashton’s family said they were too distraught to speak tonight at their home.

Meanwhile, friends left tributes to Mr Ashton on social networking sites. Aaron Kelly, writing on Mr Ashton’s Facebook profile, said: “Horrible news, be good up there mate”.

The killing is likely to raise fresh concerns over the safety of tourists on Koh Phangan, an island once renowned for hippy beach parties that has since transformed itself into one of South East Asia’s party capitals, pulling in hundreds of thousands of westerners. The island had been bracing itself for a deluge of extra tourists over the weekend because the full moon – which fell on Friday – coincided with the New Year celebrations. According to local tourism officials, 80,000 people turned up for Friday’s full-moon party and a further 100,000 were expected to see in 2013 across Haad Rin.

The influx of tourists has brought much wealth to Koh Phangan but the island has also acquired a reputation for violent crime. The Foreign Office’s travel advice for Thailand warns that revellers are particularly vulnerable at full-moon parties in Haad Rin.

Gun violence is not uncommon in Thailand, which has by far the highest gun ownership rates in Asia, with 15 out of every 100 people owning a firearm. According to Thailand’s Justice Ministry the number of young people carrying guns has increased 32 per cent over the past nine years.

In recent months a string of gun-crime stories has generated debate in Thailand about the prevalence of weapons.

In October a senator accidentally shot his secretary after he pulled out an Uzi machine gun at a dinner table, and the month before that a Gangnam Style “dance off” in Bangkok between two rival gangs descended into a shootout.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant - ACCA, ACA or ACMA - Construction Sector

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant (ACCA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Recruitment Genius: Freelance AutoCAD Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot