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An article published by the Samui Times on Saturday has angered a Koh Tao resident who, in a letter to the publication, insists there have been no suspicious deaths on the island that has been dubbed Death Island by social media users and some international news outlets. Steven Drylie, and ex-serviceman and paramedic in the Koh Tao Rescue Association claims the Samui Times “seems determined to sully the image of Koh Tao by continuously referring to the island as “Death Island” in spite of the fact that deaths are both, more common and less reported, in many other tourist destinations in Thailand. In fact, Koh Tao has been the scene of exactly two confirmed murders of tourists to the island”
In his angry correspondence with the Samui Times he says “Having been on the scene at the murders of David and Hannah, I can say that it was one of the most gruesome I have ever attended. Undoubtedly, the ensuing investigation was flawed. However, it should be noted that the national police and army were the ones heading the investigation and were on the scene within hours. This was by no means an effort led by our small local police team. Yet, they are the ones that are most often called out for criticism” this comment comes despite evidence that the brother of the local headman was seen trampling over the crime scene before the army and other police officers arrived on the island.
He goes on to say “In addition, saying that this is a mafia-run island is wildly inaccurate as any local business owner, western or Thai, will attest.” But goes on to say “But wealthy people being absolved of perceived sins is hardly a phenomenon strictly associated with Koh Tao.”
With regards to the death of Luke Miller Mr Drylie says “You recently reported Luke Millers death as another murder on this island without knowing as facts. Luke own autopsy showed high levels of alcohol, his death was a tragic accident but yet you continue to speculate and report falsely.” However during a conversation at the time of Millers death Mr Drylie told a member of the Samui Times when asked if he believed there was foul play involved “hmmm what do you want me to say? Did he hit his head while diving???? No, unless he bounced off the bottom of the pool several times” when asked if he believed foul play played a part he said “Not sure, I don’t think it was intentional, I think there was a fight” he also told the Samui Times staff member that even the investigating police officers asked the rescue team if the man had been dropped on his head several times after being removed from the swimming pool where he was found dead.
In his letter he refers to the missing Russian girl as a “risk taker” and suggested her dodgy freediving practices lead to her death.
With regards to Dimitri Povse, the French man found with his hands tied behind his back hung in a shoe lace he said “It is true that his hands were very loosely tied behind his back. We determined that he was easily able to tie his hands, step through the restraints and then hang himself. The restraints would have been enough to keep him from being able to save himself should he change his mind. But the most telling clue was the suicide note” an interesting observation when the ‘suicide note’ was never verified and photographic evidence suggests the man’s hands were tied anything but loosely.
With regards to Ben Harrington he said “Ben Harrington crashed his motorbike into a pole and died. Though tragic, it is hardly “suspicious” or unusual in Thailand, where the vast majority of the population uses motorbike transport.” But made no mention of Ben’s mother fighting since her son’s death to get information from the Thai authorities, even submitting Freedom of Information requests to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She says the family have been left with more questions than answers and now plans to lobby the government to change the law on registering deaths of British Nationals abroad.
With regards to Christina Annesley Mr Drylie said Christina Annesley was another supposedly “suspicious” death on Koh Tao. Aside from the fact that her own mother posted on her daughter’s Facebook page “We have lost our beautiful daughter Chrissie in Thailand of natural causes”, however the young girl’s mother demanded her daughter’s body to be returned to the UK for examination fearing a “cover up” by the local police.
With regards to Nick Pearson he says “Nick Pearson was another regrettable death. Lost in the rumor mill that is the Samui Times, is that both a western pathologist and coroner were unable to determine that Mr. Pearson’s death was the result of a murder. Beyond his mother’s “gut feeling” that there was foul play involved, no actual evidence of it was found.”
With regards to the death of dive instructor Jean Francois Louet, he says “he was found dead in Suratthani. Jeff had some physical health issues and reportedly some mental health issues, as well”
Mr Drylie goes on to say “Your continued bad and inaccurate reporting about Koh Tao is truly wrong. It is almost as if there is a personal vendetta against this island. I do know that one of your reporters became very close to the two Burmese boys is this the true reason why the continued targeting of Koh Tao??”
“In addition to sensationalizing and fictionalizing these truly heartbreaking deaths, some of the writers at the Samui Times are unwittingly casting a shadow across the entire nation. Does anyone over there really think that Samui survives in a bubble and will remain unaffected by the shameless, speculative accounts of so-called “suspicious” deaths on a neighboring island?”
“Look around this country, there are so many more tragic deaths. Any reporter is always welcome to come to Koh Tao to really investigate any story. This is what journalism is really about, right?”
What Mr Drylie fails to realise that the common denominator of all of these deaths is that parents are left scrabbling for information, not one of them is happy about the police investigation and all have been left with unanswered questions and the numbers of backpackers losing their lives in Koh Tao is at best alarming. And worse he insists incidents have not taken place without any investigation or even asking where and when it took place as it plain to see in the following comments on the Samui Times article.
It is the opinion of the Samui Times that these deaths warrant further investigation, governments have a responsibility to inform their nationals of the dangers as well as the numbers of deaths taking place on such a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand.