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Beautiful Phi Phi holds the answer to the riddle of two deaths

Phi Phi Deaths Riddle: 'It's Finished,' say Police

Friday, July 31, 2009
ALMOST three months on, whatever caused the deaths of two young tourists on the idyllic holiday island of Phi Phi remains a mystery.

Guests are back staying in Rooms Four and Five at Laleena, the unpretentious two-storey guesthouse that lies at the heart of the riddle.

Although the pair had never met, American Jill St Onge, 27, and Julie Bergheim, 22, fell ill in those adjoining rooms, and died suddenly, horribly, within hours of each other.

But why? Thirteen weeks on, nobody can say.

Although there has been speculation galore, official investigations have so far drawn a blank, and seem likely to continue to do so.

For grieving family and friends in America and Norway, hope of ever fully understanding what took place half a world away that weekend in early March seems to be gradually disappearing.

There is some understandable anger at the lack of answers.

Yet on the holiday island where Miss St Onge and Miss Bergheim died within hours of each other, life goes on.

At Laleena, owner Rat Chuped says seven of the 10 rooms are currently occupied . . . including Rooms Four and Five.

After the deaths, she even spent a night in one of the rooms herself, just to reinforce her confident belief that nothing in the rooms was the cause.

She still maintains that the guesthouse, owned with her husband since before the 2004 tsunami laid waste to the island, has no connection with the two deaths.

''I've called the police and an officer told me, 'Don't worry, everything is finished, it's over,'' she said to Phuketwan today.

''If that's the case, then I would like the parts from the air-conditioning unit returned, to save me from having to buy another one.''

Those air-conditioner parts and samples taken from household chemicals at Laleena may hold the last hope for an answer.

Researchers at a Thai university laboratory have yet to report whether the samples and the parts hold any clues to the mystery.

However, the potential clues were not taken until three weeks after the deaths, so the likelihood of a scientific revelation seems remote.

Today, Thai forensic officials in Bangkok rejected criticism that their report from the St Onge autopsy was inadequate, saying that it matched international standards.

An online blog, updated by St Onge's brother, says: ''The Thailand autopsy report is a joke. It was about three pages long and most of it was margin space and emblems.

''I believe here in the 'States an autopsy report starts at around 20 pages, and for something like what happened to Jill would be much longer.''

According to the blog, the autopsy ''did verify that there were NO drugs or alcohol in her system, so those bogus rogue Thailand reports from 'Government officials' can be put to rest.

''We are still waiting for some more reports to be translated from Thailand, and we have been in contact with Julie's family (the young lady that also died in the same guest house).''

The Thai autopsy reported low level of one particular enzyme, but that does not appear to hold great significance.

Although tissue samples were taken at the time of the Bangkok autopsy and tested in the US on behalf of the St Onge family, no conclusions on the cause of death have been established there or in Thailand.

St Onge's body was cremated and her ashes were carried home. It is believed Bergheim's body was transported to Norway, where police from her home town subsequently called for further investigations.

At one stage, Interpol's help was said to have been requested, but the international policing agency did not respond to email questions from Phuketwan.

American Ryan Kells, 31, who was travelling with Miss St Onge and also fell sick, then recovered, has consistently blamed the death of his bride-to-be on some kind of chemical.

There was a strange smell present in the room, he says, when they checked in that fateful Saturday, May 2.

The 19-year-old Norwegian woman travelling with Miss Bergheim, and already occupying the ground-floor room next door, has been less forthcoming.

She is yet to publicly reveal her views on what happened, although she too fell sick and only recovered after intensive care in two Thai hospitals.

The mysterious deaths remain just that. Tourists who have followed the two couples to the holiday island seem undeterred.

And on Phi Phi, where contented visitors provide the sole source of income, it's unlikely that locals will ever raise the deaths with strangers, or dwell on the mystery for long.

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Comments have been disabled for this article.


Yip, keep quiet long enough, the problem goes away, blah, blah, blah, blah .......

Posted by Mouse on July 31, 2009 16:18


Nice coverage on this story, PW. Usually, the mainstream media lets a story fall through the cracks if too much time passes, so it's great to see you guys keeping your teeth in this one.

Posted by MrLucky on August 4, 2009 08:22

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