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The shots that killed a Canadian expat on his birthday in Patong in 2009

Phuket's Dirty Dozen: Expat Victims, Villains

Friday, December 7, 2012
PHUKET: Murders are the most awful of crimes. On a holiday island like Phuket, where the sun is always shining and the mood is inevitably wholesome and cheerful, a killing should be the last thing on anyone's mind.

Yet last weekend a British man was extradited to Phuket to stand trial for the murder of an American and last night a Hungarian confessed to knifing a business partner to death on Phuket.

So, with some reluctance - because the sun is shining and our mood is inevitably wholesome and cheerful - we open the file marked 'Expats and Murder on Phuket.'

Phuketwan's reporting of sensational murders on Phuket extends back five eventful years.

We know of two killings that remain memorable from before that time: a young Swedish woman who was raped and murdered on a remote beach, and a Norwegian man who was attacked and killed while riding home from a bar in southern Phuket late at night.

The rapist was rapidly caught and punished. Nobody has even been punished for killing the Norwegian man.

By our count, 10 expats have been murdered on Phuket in the past five years, at the approximate average rate of two a year.

Five of those expats have been killed in cases initiated by Thais - although in one case it's not 100 percent certain who committed the crime.

The other five murders have been committed or allegedly committed by expats. We use the word expats with due consideration.

There was a time when some expats living on Phuket put the blame for every untoward incident on tourists - in much the same way as Phuket residents once put the blame for almost all serious crimes on Burmese.

Sad to say, expats are quite often the people whodunnit.

The one comfort that can be drawn by expat residents on Phuket is that in several cases, the alleged villains came from other places - Samui, Pattaya and Phi Phi - to commit murders on Phuket.

It's an aspect of quirky appeal that no holiday island really wants and that Phuket certainly has done nothing to deserve.

Levels of concern are greatest in the immediate aftermath of a murder. The pressure on Phuket police to solve the crime is intense.

Paranoia also breaks off its chain and runs wild. There never was a period on Phuket when expat residents were more disturbed than in February 2009, when two expats were murdered on Phuket in the space of a week.

One of the murders was solved. The other, to this day, leaves a killer on the loose, out there somewhere. It is not a pleasant thought on a sunny day, when the mood is wholesome and cheerful.

As well as 10 murders where the victims were expats, we should also add that expats were villains in one case of the murder of a Thai and a second alleged murder of a Thai.

Whether as victims or villains, the murders and alleged murders involving Phuket's expats are unforgettable. Only when justice has been served in all of the cases will we really be able to enjoy that sunshine.

Here they are, Phuketwan's 'Dirty Dozen.'

One Hungarian Too Many

THE MOST recent of the Phuket murders was allegedly committed by Moshe David, 38, a Hungarian who followed former business partner Peter Reisz, 47, to Phuket from their base on Samui and knifed him to death in a Phuket City house, dumping the body in jungle near Patong Hill. Status Case Partially Complete. Police say the killer has confessed. One or possibly two accomplices are still Wanted.

The Michelle Smith Murder

TOURIST and tour agent Michelle Smith, 60, was knifed to death by a bag snatcher on June 20 in the quiet Kata Noi holiday district of Phuket. Police in overdrive quickly caught the knife-wielder and his getaway motorcycle rider and the Australian's murderers were jailed within seven weeks. Status Case Solved.

One That Almost Got Away

PATONG police arrested taxi motorcycle rider Treerapon Kerinn, 24, as he returned to Phuket having fled after the killing of an expat in a parking dispute in Soi Sansabai in January. The victim's name and nationality remains unknown. Why police kept the case quiet at the time remains a mystery. Status Case Solved. Court Penalty Awaiting.

The Pattaya Swedish Connection

YOUNG SWEDES Tommy Viktor Soderlund and Johan Sebastian Ljung came from Pattaya to Phuket in August 2011 to capture and perhaps punish errant business partner Maksim Schantz. Schantz struggled and bled to death from a stab wound to the neck. The men commandeered a motorcycle at gunpoint but police apprehended them quickly. Status Solved. Court Cases Yet to Proceed.

A Historic Extradition

LEE AARON Aldhouse was extradited from Britain last week to face trial for the stabbing murder of American Marine Dashawn Longfellow in August 2010 at Longfellow's apartment in southern Phuket. Aldhouse, now in Phuket prison, admits the killing but says it wasn't premeditated. Status Solved. Court Case Yet to Proceed.

Body in the Burning Car

JAPANESE businessman Yukiho Yamada, 75, was found dead in a burning car on Phuket in November 2009. Police concluded that his Thai wife and her lover had been responsible. The lover was 21. She said she was 42 but police established that she was 50. She told of a husband beating her and bringing young women to their home. Status Solved.

Phi Phi Pair Settled Dispute on Phuket

DENIS CAVATASSI, then 42, is alleged to have paid three Thai men 150,000 baht to shoot dead Phi Phi restaurateur Luciano Butti in March 2011. It was decided the murder had to take place on Phuket because Phi Phi was too small. Status Solved. Trial Yet to Take Place.

Road Rage at a 7-Eleven Store

WORKING with sea eagles, Pittaya Srijitraporn, 33, earned his living at Kata Viewpoint but he had a dispute in trafffic with German expat Wolf-Dieter Kesselheim, 66, in southern Phuket in January, 2010. In a scuffle outside a 7-Eleven, he pulled a knife and stabbed the expat to death. Status Solved. Sentence: Thirteen Years and Four Months.

Battered Briton's Unsolved Killing

WITHIN days of a Patong expat's murder, Briton Ian Kenneth Stuart, 60, was battered to death in the bedroom above a property business in a shophouse near the Tesco Lotus intersection in Phuket City. The financial adviser may have been the victim of an intruder or an unhappy lover. Status Unsolved.

A Deadly Birthday

SINGAPOREAN Diana Goh Li Fun, then 32, paid professional shooters to kill her Canadian business partner Francis Alex Degioanni on the doorstep of his Patong home on his birthday in February 2009. Police quickly tracked them all down. His girlfriend and young child were in and near the black pickup as he was shot. Status Solved. Sentence: Life for Most Involved.

Expat as Villain I

AMERICAN Ronald Fanelli, a former US Navy officer known in online poker circles as ''Mad Yank,'' killed Sweetheart bar worker Wanpen Pienjai in 2010 and dumped her body in a suitcase by a Phuket road. He spent some time on the run before police arrested him hiding out on Phuket. He passed a sanity test and is now serving 10 years and three months. Status Solved. Killer Sentenced.

Expat as Villain II

NORWEGIAN Stein Havard Dokset allegedly killed his girlfriend in 2009 and let her body sit in a wheelie bin in a laundry in his Phuket house until Bangkok police conducted a raid earlier this year. Complicating factors include Dokset since denying the body belongs to his girlfriend, and the discovery that she was a bigamist. Status Solved. Accused Denies Murder. Trial Proceeding Slowly.

Two Previous Notable Murders

THE KILLING of Norwegian Simen Knudsen, at Rawai in 2007, apparently with robbery as a motive, drew international attention. So did the daylight murder of Swedish tourist Hanna Backlund at Mai Khao beach in 2008. A local man was swiftly arrested and put behind bars for Ms Backlund's murder. Mr Knudsen's case remains unsolved.

For fuller accounts of the murders and alleged murders, read the illustrated articles below.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


By my count seven of the murders have been committed by Thais, not three as mentioned.
1) Michelle Smith Murder
2) One that almost got away
3) Body in the burning car
4) Phi Phi Pair
5) Road rage at seven-eleven
6) Battered Britain (likely)
7) A deadly birthday

Posted by jimmy on December 7, 2012 13:45

Editor Comment:

Journalists are not good with numbers, jimmy. Thanks for the use of your fingers. Perhaps I should rephrase that:

Five of those expats have been killed in cases initiated by Thais - although in one case it's not 100 percent certain who committed the crime.


would be very interesting to listed how suicide, Phuket may have with farang ( no murder- suicide )

Posted by ratatoee on December 7, 2012 19:19

Editor Comment:

That's not a list we would compile. You may not be aware of this, but in some parts of the western world, suicides mostly go unreported. We report some, but only because there is no inquest system here. So we take an interest in deaths of all kinds, in place of a more conclusive system. There is no evidence that suicides among expats are more prevalent in Phuket or in Thailand than anywhere else. Mental illness affects about one in five people around the world - holiday destinations included.


Hannah Backland ( Mi Khao, March 15 2008 was raped? Her attacker claimed it was a rape attempt, but he murdered her instead when she fought back. Or was it one of those no semen present, means no rape.. cases? I always wondered, why he didn't he rape her - was it really just murder as her western sexuality was offensive? I was at the police re enactment, a larger circus of spectators I've never seen.

Posted by CBF on December 7, 2012 19:56

Editor Comment:

The murder took place just after Phuketwan began. We may be wrong about the rape attempt. Difficult in retrospect to ponder the rationale for her death. Based on slender contemporary reports, we'd just be guessing, as you are. Reenactments attract people, often for the wrong reasons.

One memorable aspect was the suggestion that tourists, women especially, should carry whistles. It seems so long ago:

Wednesday August 17, 2022
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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