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Three months after Russian girl vanished from “Death Island” Koh Tao there are many more questions than answers

Three months after Russian girl vanished from “Death Island” Koh Tao there are many more questions than answers

By Ian Yarwood (Australian Lawyer)

Three months ago the Russian tourist, Valentina Novozhenova 23 disappeared from the Thai island of Koh Tao, also referred to as “Death Island” by expats living nearby.

The story was reported by the Samui Times on Friday, 3 March 2017 and picked up by The Sun newspaper in the UK on 6 March 2017.  The news then quickly spread around the globe.

The authorities on Koh Tao had apparently allowed over two weeks to elapse before starting any sort of a search.  However, once the international media started reporting on her disappearance a search for Valentina Novozhenova (sometimes spelled as “Novozhyonova”) suddenly became “urgent.”

I am yet to see any explanation from the Thai Police as to why they waited over two weeks before conducting any sort of a search.  Frankly, I don’t believe there is any good explanation.

Over the few weeks following the alarm being raised by the media, the Thai authorities presented the world with some theatre.  The Thai Police asserted that Valentina had mental health issues.  They claimed that Valentina had only ever been diving in swimming pools but that now she intended to engage in “free diving” in the waters around Koh Tao.  The police claimed that Valentina had a “dive buddy” who had since gone to the Philippines.  They released pictures of officers liaising with tourists on the beach.  They asked foreign divers to assist in underwater searches.  Remains were found in the waters of Koh Tao which the police said were believed to be human remains – possibly including a hip.  Days went by and later it was declared that the remains were of “marine life” and were not human.

It was all great theatre.  Time went by and there were enough red herrings presented and enough distractions and deflections that the mainstream media had nothing further to report on, unless they undertook some detective work of their own.

There were no news reports that police or anyone else were looking for a body or shallow grave on the island, which covers an area of only 8 square miles.

I do not know how remains that were determined to be of “marine life” could have been mistaken for a human hip.  In addition, the police never said what sort of “marine life” the remains had come from.

I had previously gone to great efforts to try to obtain answers from the Thai Bureau of Laboratory Quality Standards (“BLQS”) to ascertain whether or not the relevant police laboratory had appropriate accreditation to conduct certain DNA testing in relation to the trial of Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo for the murders of British backpackers, David Miller and Hannah Witheridge.  I was fobbed off for many months.

In the circumstances, I have not bothered to put any questions to the Thai Police in relation to the disappearance of Valentina.  I am happy for them to regard this article as an open letter though.  I am equally happy for members of the mainstream media (who have greater resources than I have) to put any relevant questions to the Thai Police and report their responses.

A few weeks after its first report, a person contacted the Samui Times claiming to be Russian and to have been one of Valentina’s close friends.

He said he wished to shed some light on Valentina’s disappearance and correct some of the statements attributed to the Thai police.  In particular, he said that:

  1. Statements about Valentina’s mental health issues were exaggerated and she was not suicidal, despite implied suggestions that she was perhaps suicidal;
  2. Valentina had experience free diving in the Black Sea to depths below 20 metres, contrary to statements from the Thai Police; and
  3. Valentina did not have a “dive buddy” and statements that she had one who travelled on to the Philippines were false.

Valentina at Fortress Swallow’s Nest Castle Crimea Black Sea

I did not know Valentina nor do I know her close friend.  I do not know whether the three statements in the preceding paragraph are true but I would be pleased to learn of any responses from the Thai Police and also to learn of any information the mainstream media might uncover.

Perhaps the Thai Police can explain the basis for their statements that Valentina had never been free diving in the open water and that she had a dive buddy (?)

In addition, I would be pleased to learn of any explanations the Thai Police have for delaying the search for Valentina and how they confused remains of “marine life” with human remains.  Finally, I would be pleased to learn why there was no apparent search for a body or a shallow grave on such a small island.

At present, it seems that the Thai Police simply wish to sweep Valentina’s disappearance under the carpet.



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