Thais 'bungled murder hunt'

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The Independent Online

Thai police were accused yesterday of bungling the investigation into the murder of the British backpacker Kirsty Jones as five arrested Western nationals were cleared and a Thai suspect claimed he was tortured in custody.

Thai police were accused yesterday of bungling the investigation into the murder of the British backpacker Kirsty Jones as five arrested Western nationals were cleared and a Thai suspect claimed he was tortured in custody.

Ten days after the body of 23-year-old Ms Jones was found at the Aree guesthouse in Chiang Mai, a Thai newspaper reported a British embassy official as saying "the investigation has been a shambles". Other critics said the inquiry had been characterised by sloppy evidence-gathering, conflicting forensic tests, and a rash and inaccurate statements by detectives.

As the regional police chief, General Aram Chanpen, held a news conference to announce that the five foreigners - including three Britons - were no longer suspects in the investigation, the tour guide Abraham Narong, 34, marched into his office to complain that police officers had abused him in an attempt to gain a confession.

Mr Narong claimed: "I was dragged into their van, blindfolded and put face down on the floor. They were kicking me and standing on me, and told me to admit I was the murderer. Then they took me to a room and took off all my clothes. They made me lie on the floor and were standing on my chest.

They told me that I was a second-class citizen [as a Karen, an ethnic minority group] and that I should confess because then I would get a jail sentence rather than be shot."

General Chanpen said police had eliminated from the investigation Andrew Gill, 32, the owner of the guesthouse; Steven Trigg, 27, from Lowestoft, Suffolk; Nathan Foley, 26, who has British and Australian citizenship; Stuart Crichton, 28, an Australian; and Jacquel Wilfried, from France.

He said Surin Chanpranet, 47, the guesthouse manager, and Mr Narong, who took Ms Jones on a trek before her murder, remained "prime suspects", but admitted that DNA tests had not implicated them.

Police have also faced criticism from the family of Ms Jones, from the Welsh village of Tredomen, for saying at first that she was engaged in consensual sex when she was killed "accidentally".

General Chanpen revealed that he has two new witnesses - Thai students who heard Ms Jones's cries for help.

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