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Phuket's year of the knife: This one was used to kill Wanpen Pianchai

Phuket's Memorable Murders: Crime and Punishment 2010 Style

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
SOME moments from 2010 are seared into memory, and when it comes to crimes, the two that run deepest both concern American servicemen: DaShawn Longfellow and Ronald Fanelli.

The first fell victim to a coward's ambush with a knife, or perhaps even two knives. From all accounts, Longfellow was a gentle giant, and as a former marine who had been awarded a purple heart, a young man who deserved respect in life, and in death.

The open-air morgue at one particular Phuket public hospital is not a pleasant place, although the people who work there are as respectful as it is possible to be in these surroundings. One grey Phuket day earlier this year, we watched Longfellow's large body wheeled out on a trolley into the open air and transferred, with as much care as possible, into a humble plywood coffin.

Earlier, former US Navy officer Ronald Fanelli established the theme that encompasses this year's most sensational Phuket murders: escape from justice.

News has yet to reach Phuket about whether Longfellow's alleged killer, a kickboxer and thug named Lee Aldhouse, will be extradited after fleeing home to Britain from Thailand following the savage killing of Longfellow.

He will clearly escape justice if the Thai extradition request is rejected by British magistrates. These things take time.

Fanelli's case is more intriguing. He avoided police for about a month, laying low after killing Phuket bar hostess Wanpen Pianjai. It's a killing he admits carrying out, again with a knife, although he claims it was ''a horrible, horrible accident.''

Later came his second less predictable and more complex attempt at escaping justice: an application for a psychiatric examination to determine his sanity.

And so Fanelli, whom jailers at Phuket Prison describe as perfectly capable of coherent conversation, was transferred for a thorough psychiatric assessment to another institution in Surat Thani, where carers say they have difficulty making sense of anything he says.

Meanwhile, we've been trying on Phuket to clarify what happened in the period of about 24 hours between Fanelli picking up Wanpen at the Sweetheart Bar and her murder. We describe it as a murder, although Fanelli calls it a ''horrible, horrible accident.''

It is certainly true that any able-bodied man who plunges a knife twice into the body of a naked woman must be less than sane, and everything indicates that Fanelli at the time was both angry at himself and angry at the world.

Whether momentary madness is an excuse for murder remains in doubt. Fanelli packed his naked victim into a piece of luggage, carried it on a motorcycle to a lonely road in a relatively remote part of Phuket, and dumped it.

After capture, he struck a deal with Phuket City police so that he admitted the slaying, provided the full circumstances of the killing were not revealed.

In his deluded mind, Fanelli apparently imagined that his Thai wife and their young child might be prepared to reunite with him at some point in the future, provided the full horror or his crime was not made public.

It was their departure, apparently, that helped to trigger Fanelli's rage at the world. One senior police officer involved with the case has said that he believes Fanelli was deeply distressed at the time of the killing.

His wife and child had left him, heading home to northern Thailand. Fanelli had just a little money. He had no cash to cover his mobile telephone, or to pay the bill for Internet access at his rented house, south of Phuket City.

So he went for a ride about breakfast time that fatefully morning, stopped off at the Sweetheart Bar in Karon, asked whether there was a katoey ladyboy available, and settled on sharing a beer with the unfortunate Wanpen.

Later he would become the mysterious ''bearded stranger,'' the target of an island-wide manhunt.

Fanelli and Wanpen apparently rode aimlessly around Phuket on the motorcycle for much of her remaining time on earth. The following day, we believe, at Fanelli's house in Phuket City, Wanpen apparently became keen to have sex so she could be paid and go back to the bar. Fanelli took out his anger and frustration on Wanpen with the knife.

Tragically, the only account of what happened that fateful day is Fanelli's, and it's a sordid tale, becoming more sordid as he seeks to rationalise his ''horrible, horrible'' crime.

It's been four months so far. Phuket sources say that psychiatrists are willing to continue examining Fanelli for as long as it takes to accurately determine whether he is sane.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


"Phuket's Memorable Murders: "

It's like your almost celebrating things ...

Defo gone downhill this site ...

Posted by Sean on December 22, 2010 11:12

Editor Comment:

How odd, Sean. Earlier this year, you made the following comment. We didn't publish it at the time because we're modest. We are still doing what we did back then. We haven't changed our approach. But perhaps you have. Here's what you wrote:

Pure speculative journalism towards the end there by 'The Guardian' Some might even say lazy journalism. Thats why it has the reputation it has.

Otherwise, we can always trust in PW to go to the wire in finding the truth. You stand heads and shoulders above the rest here, keep p the good work! :)


It is a strange title as the word memorable is more often associated with memories of a good nature, however I have no suggestions of what else to call it..

Posted by Matt on December 22, 2010 16:09

Editor Comment:

Looking back at the most significant crimes of the year, it's hardly strange to choose the most memorable events. Those who can't find serious faults will find non-existent ones. If these two murders weren't both unforgettable, we wouldn't be writing about them.


Surely unforgettable murders. And I'm glad to read an update here.

I won't judge journalism, but do like to point out that here, people just seem to be pointing out typos and bad word choices in the articles, making rude remarks on the people in the news, and trashing other commentators.

That said, I hope justice will be served and that these two men will be convicted (and not too lightly!)

Posted by Tinkerbell on December 22, 2010 21:38


Yes Ed your right. And of course I meant what I said earlier in the year. I also meant what I said for this article.

Posted by Sean on December 23, 2010 20:19

Editor Comment:

So Sean, your quibble about ''memorable'' - which can mean either good or bad - puts us in the same league as The Guardian. You love us one minute, and you hate us the next.

I don't have any problem with that.

Saturday January 23, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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