Hostel owner charged with Kirsty murder

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Thailand Police have charged a man with conspiracy to murder backpacker Kirsty Jones, British Embassy officials said today.

Thailand Police have charged a man with conspiracy to murder backpacker Kirsty Jones, British Embassy officials said today.

Andrew Gill, who owned the Aree guesthouse in Chiang Mai, where Miss Jones, 23, of Tredomen, Powys, was killed on August 10, has been charged with her rape and conspiracy to murder.

Gill, 32, of south London, has been in a Thai police cell since two days after the body of Miss Jones was discovered face down in her dingy hostel room, where she had been strangled with her own sarong.

He was originally charged with having a visa two years out of date but police had also questioned him about the murder, which he denies.

Today as he was led from a cell in the central police station in Chiang Mai, 422 miles north of Bangkok, to an interview room he shouted out: "Not guilty!" friends said.

Confusion remained about why the police had charged Gill, who was apparently cleared in the early stages of the investigation by DNA tests on blood and hair samples he gave voluntarily.

Reports in local Thai newspapers claimed Mr Gill had been identified as the killer by the guesthouse's Thai manager, Surin Chanpranet, 47, who has been held by police on drugs charges since shortly after the murder.

Friends of Gill's today reacted in disbelief at the development.

One, who did not want to be named, said: "This is unbelievable. There is no way Andy did this. This whole investigation has been a joke from start to finish. I know Andy well, and he is just not capable."

Thai police have been on the back foot over the investigation since attracting widespread accusations that their methods were "shambolic".

Detectives originally suspected eight men including Gill, five of whom were foreigners.

But after several rounds of DNA tests, they admitted they were unable to find a match with the killer's DNA, which they identified from samples at the scene of the crime.

A week and a half after the murder, the police chief overseeing the investigation specifically confirmed that all five foreigners had been cleared by DNA tests.

Miss Jones was on a round-the-world backpacking trip when she was killed.

Other residents in the £1-a-night Aree guesthouse heard screams during the night but did not investigate because they thought it was just a lovers' quarrel.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Bangkok said: "We were told by the police this afternoon that Andrew Gill had been charged today with rape and conspiracy to murder.

"We will be paying him a Consular visit tomorrow morning to ensure he has legal representation and make sure other things like next-of-kin are informed.

"I understand he has to have a first court appearance within 48 hours."