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On the 15th of February 2017 Russian tourist Valentina Novozhyonova, 23, left her bungalow on Koh Tao and was never seen again. The news of the young girl’s disappearance took almost 3 weeks to emerge from the tiny island now being dubbed ‘Death Island’ by the press due to the extraordinary number of tourists who die in suspicious circumstances while holidaying there.
When it comes to strange goings on the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Valentia is no exception. While the residents of Koh Tao are appalled at the new nickname for the chunk of rock they call home, it is hardly surprising ‘Turtle Island’ has a bad reputation when it takes three weeks for a search to be called when a young backpacker goes missing. A post on the Koh Tao community page on Facebook even states that news of the missing girl should be supressed to protect the already dwindling reputation of the island. And now rumours are circulating that the body of a young girl was found six weeks ago partially burnt, eaten by animals and partially wrapped in T-shirts. Unsurprisingly this information was never made public and never appeared in any police report and was never passed on to Valentina’s grieving family who have been told that the search for the girl still continues, despite there being no evidence to suggest that it is.
Like many other cases in the past news reports suggested the girl’s disappearance was likely her own fault. Reports suggested this keen free-diver had never dived in the Open Ocean before, that she was depressed, taking medications and was perhaps mentally unstable. Should these reports be based on facts then waiting three weeks to start looking for her is only the more unfathomable. Another report suggested the girl had a dive buddy who had left the island, the police said they were waiting to interview the man on his return, but then the reports went silent, leading some to wonder if he ever existed in the first place and if he did why no attempt was made to find him and question him as to the young girls whereabouts.
But shoddy investigation is nothing new for Death Island. When the police got a call from a woman to say there were two dead bodies on the beach back in 2014 they didn’t even bother to ask for her name. The bodies belonged to Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, who were both bludgeoned to death. The world heaved a sigh of relief when the local head police man soon had CCTV evidence linking two men to the crime, one, the brother of the village headman was even arrested but Montriwat Tuwichavin was very soon released, coincidentally around the same time the very same policeman was taken off the case and posted elsewhere in Thailand. The police then focussed their attention on two tiny Burmese Migrant Workers who had no motive, no criminal history and no money to hire lawyers to defend themselves. They were arrested three weeks after the crime much to the astonishment of the general public who could not fathom why anybody who had committed a crime so heinous had stuck around. The men were subsequently charged and sentenced to death. They are currently on death row awaiting the outcome of an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Another British girl, Christina Marian Annesley was also found dead a few weeks later. She was a young journalist who had been staying bungalows eerily owned by Montriwat Tuwichavin, the man who stomped all over the murder scene of Hannah and David, despite having no reason to be there. He also threatened to kill Scottish Sean McAnna just after the murders saying he would hang himself and was responsible for the deaths. Sean fled the island, never to return. Had the Burmese boys been guilty one has to ask why Montriwat was as Sean described ‘looking for a scape-goat’.
Residents of Koh Tao often blame the press for the ever darkening reputation of the island, it seems not to occur to them that the inordinate death toll and endless shoddy police work is perhaps to blame. The parents of Christina certainly do not believe her death was adequately investigated and had, themselves, to contact the last person who saw her alive when the police did not bother to do so. The parents of Nick Pearson do not believe their son feel out of his bed, fell 50 feet over huge bounders and drowned without so much as a broken bone or bruise on his body and many people question how French born Dimeti Povse managed to hang himself in a shoelace with his hands tied behind his back, eerily the same fate that Sean McAnna was offered.
The travel companions of Luke Miller do not believe he died after launching himself off at DJ booth into a swimming pool in front of nobody when he did not swim and cannot fathom how such and would result in obvious hand print shaped bruises on his shoulders.
Most people have forgotten about Hans Peter Suter, a qualified rescue diver and Divemaster who went snorkelling around the time of the deaths of Hannah and David and washed up dead several weeks later on the mainland. They also forget that two other bodies washed up around the same time, who were they if they were not Peter? Nobody knows, nobody cares and nobody is looking into it.
Rumours also circulated that the young girl who found the bodies of Hannah and David and made that call to the police was found dead on a rubbish dump in Koh Tao, along with two other Burmese.
Of course rumours are not evidence, but there is also no smoke without fire. The general opinion of Koh Tao is now that it is a dangerous place rife with crime, run by mafia and policed by bribe-able officers who have a well-earned reputation for shoddy investigations, lying to the press, contaminating crime scenes and evidence and covering up anything that might damage the reputation of the island. The press in Thailand generally blur over vital information in fear of being sued under draconian laws that prevent them from criticizing the police and dozens of families are left unable to ever get closure as the list of deceased simply continues to rise.
Perhaps rather than blaming the press the residents of Koh Tao should speak out about what is really going on, stop saying they have to live there and therefor are too afraid to tell the truth, and find a place to live where life is valued, justice is served and the death toll is not hundreds of times higher than any other tourist destination known to man and innocent men are blamed for hideous crimes while the real killers run free!