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Observers gather at the spot where the unidentified body was found

ID of Missing Phuket Man Demands Certainty

Tuesday, February 14, 2012
PHUKET: In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, quite a few families were handed back the wrong bodies. Even with husbands looking at the faces of wives, mothers looking at children, misidentifications were made, not just once but quite often.

The resulting sad confusion took some sorting out. Years later, Phuketwan went to the cremation of a man's wife - for the second time. On the first occasion, a woman who had not been his wife had been cremated.

These errors, hushed up then, caused huge confusion to the identification process. Many of the errors were made because relatives, grieving and deeply traumatised, are not always able to make accurate identifications.

This is one of the reasons why international standards require 99.9 percent certainty of identification, and why there are only three ways of achieving this: through dna matching, through dental records, or through fingerprints.

Identification from photographs or from items of clothing and even from tattoos is a useful aid, but experts do not accept these pointers as conclusive proof.

Many of the families of British victims of the tsunami especially wanted their dead relatives returned, and told the British media how they felt.

But the families were obliged to wait until authorities were able to confirm with absolute certainty, using dna, dental records or fingerprints, that the bodies were the correct ones.

The same certainty will be required in the case of Mark Robson, 27, a missing South African who was travelling on his British passport when he vanished on Phuket last month.

His family in South Africa now believes, on the basis of similarities and at least one photograph, that a dead man found hanged near Freedom beach is their son.

Problems of the kind experienced during the tsunami are now surfacing. The headline in one online outlet today says: 'Slain man's family slams Thai officials.'

It reports Mr Robson's sister as saying: ''There is a lot going on at the moment and we do not even know where the body is.

''Thai authorities have been giving us the run-around. All we know is that the body is at one of the police stations.''

Having spoken to officials on Phuket who say they have been in regular contact with the family, the Robsons should be reassured that all is being done to speed the process.

Phuketwan has been told the body of the hanged man is still in the province of Surat Thani, where it was taken for autopsy - there are no autopsy facilities on Phuket - and where the match from dna, dental records or fingerprints will eventually determine whether it is Mark Robson.

Until then, sad though it may seem, patience is essential.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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With all the deaths on and near Phuket lately it would probably be a good idea to have autopsy facilities available here.

Posted by richie on February 14, 2012 13:38

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And the even sadder part, the actual murder aspect gets covered up. The relatives had better fly here fast and make a a serious ruckus if they hope to get to the bottom of what really happened.

Posted by JingJing on February 14, 2012 15:07

Editor Comment:

There is no ''actual murder aspect'' except in a few mixed-up minds. There is certainly a mystery about what Mark Robson did in his final days, if he is the hanged man.

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'Slain man's family slams Thai officials.' Insensitive, sensationalist journalism at it's worst. I know that Keith and Merneen, Mark's parents are very appreciative of all the Royal Thai Police are doing for them.

Posted by Frank Tomenson on February 14, 2012 15:12

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Condolences to the family, I have shed tears reading about this and can't even imagine how they feel

As a decade-long resident here I demand more into the investigation of this horrific tragedy.

At least an effort to find out where he was staying, where he rented a motorbike from, which bank did he last withdraw money from? Was it in Patong. There should be CCTV footage of this from the bank.

Did he see something he shouldn't have?
I know in my early naive days in Phuket explored some areas even in Kata I would not dare to explore now, especially alone, knowing what I know now.

Thank goodness for the tourist police! I hope some effort with his photo is circulating guests houses and internet cafes At least to find his belongings.

Posted by Nancy Botwin on February 14, 2012 16:06

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Good reporting.
Trouble in paradise?

Posted by David Australia on February 15, 2012 08:46

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Well said, editor. It is natural that emotions would be running high at a time like this, but this is precisely when cool heads need to prevail. This is not the time to be second guessing the police.

Posted by matt on February 15, 2012 17:25

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My fiance from SA, Durban was found dead on the beach in Phuket also. this was over 8 years ago...and to date we don't know what happened. Two different autopacies...had different conclusions.. one was drowning and the other sand axphysiation. I hope the family of Rob at least get closure...which is what we have not.

Posted by Anonymous on February 15, 2012 22:09

Editor Comment:

Hello, In this recent case, the man was found hanged beside a creek not far from a beach. Drownings are different, and sadly, Phuket does have more than it needs. Sometimes, there's a lack of coordination between the authorities and the families in cases of deaths among expats on Phuket. It should be possible even after eight years for the South African embassy in Bangkok to help you to find closure.

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I am only an "armchair forensics expert", but drowning and swallowing sand do seem to go hand in hand? I don't think even I could spin a conspiracy theory out of that?

Posted by Jesse on February 16, 2012 13:16

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This is so sad. I cannot imagine losing a child. Hopefully, the young man is identified soon and the family can work towards finding peace.

Posted by EWren on February 17, 2012 03:59


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