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Policeman who killed Calgarian sentenced to 37 years in prison

A Thai policeman who killed Calgary backpacker Leo Del Pinto in January 2008 has been sentenced to 37 1/2 years in prison for murder.

Former sergeant Uthai Dechachiwat was told that his sentence would run consecutive to a 25-year sentence he received for murdering his 18-year-old Thai bride by clubbing her to death while he was out on bail.

In a case beset with controversy and claims of cover-ups, Dechachiwat did not look at Del Pinto’s father, who went to Chiang Mai provincial court in northern Thailand for the sentencing.

“This man pleaded guilty at the last minute to avoid the death sentence, just as he did when he murdered his wife,” said Ernie Del Pinto, who travelled with his wife Clara and sister Madeline.

“But I have some satisfaction of knowing that now aged 43 he stands a good chance of dying in jail.”

Leo was 24 when he was gunned down by Dechachiwat in the village of Pai in Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province.  He was with fellow Canadian Carly Reisig from Chilliwack, B.C., who was also shot but survived.

Dechachiwat said he was acting in self defence against an attack from tourists who were having an argument he was trying to break up.

No locals would give evidence against the police until the Thai National Human Rights Commission stepped in. Its investigation showed police were deliberately trying to cover up for Dechachiwat. The commission found its own witnesses and gave them protection.

It also ordered separate forensic tests which showed Dechachiwat shot down at Leo as he was falling, while the former officer had said it was he who was falling.

Ernie and Clara now plan to visit the place where Leo was gunned down.  A ceremony will conducted there by Buddhist monks

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