PHUKET: Mystery surrounds the death of Briton Stephen Harris, leaving his family saddened and confused.
Mr Harris’s body was was discovered at the Monte Carlo Hotel on Rat-U-Thit 200 Pi Rd on October 29. (See Gazette Online story here.)
At that time Pol Lt Col Boonlert Onklang of Kathu Police Station told the Gazette that an initial inspection by a doctor indicated the cause of death was a broken neck, and that Mr Harris, 46, had also suffered a dislocated right elbow.
Mr Harris’s remains were sent to Bangkok for autopsy before being repatriated to Britain in the middle of November.
However, when the body arrived in the UK, his family were unhappy at the cause of death – heart failure – as stated in the death certificate that accompanied his body.
Speaking with the Gazette yesterday, Angela Farmer, Mr Harris’s sister, said “The death certificate that came back with Stephen said that he had died of a heart attack.
“I wasn’t happy about that, so the coroner for Worcester [where Mr Harris lived] has opened an inquest.
“We’ve been told that Stephen did not have a heart attack, and we’re still waiting for the results from [a second] autopsy, although Stephen has now been buried. [The coroner here] can’t find a cause of death.”
Mrs Farmer said that Worcestershire County Coroner Victor Round, whose area includes Kidderminster, where Mr Harris lived, “…wasn’t happy [with the autopsy results from Thailand]. He is trying to get information from the Thai coroner who supposedly did an autopsy, but information is very slow coming through [from Thailand].”
Mrs Farmer also said that Mr Round found no fractures or dislocations to any part of Mr Harris’s body.
She added, “It’s been a very distressing time for all of us, as you can understand. [The Foreign Office] haven’t been of much help and it’s very hard to take, because we still don’t know the cause of his death.”
Ian Harding, a coroner’s official working under Mr Round, told the Gazette that an inquest was opened into Mr Harris’s death on November 23 and will remain open until inquiries have been made with the Foreign Office and the Thai agencies involved. He declined to comment further on the case.
Despite the fact that the body has been returned to the family, with a death certificate, police in Patong say they still have not received the official autopsy report.
Col Boonlert told the Gazette today that he is still waiting for the report to come from the Royal Thai Police Institute of Forensic Medicine (IFM) in Bangkok.
All he has received so far, he said, is a vague verbal notification that the cause of death was “failure of the circulatory system”.
In the meantime, investigators continue trying to puzzle out what happened in Mr Harris’s hotel room, Col Boonlert said. “We are still trying to find out who was with him on that day.
“One man who was among the last to see him didn’t appear aggressive or strong enough to kill someone this way [by breaking his neck].
“We have interviewed a friend called Peter, and the maid and the owner of the guest house. We are still trying to find other witnesses, but it’s not easy, because the bar was closed on that day.
“We have a list of people who knew him, but we have yet to speak with all of them.
“We are also waiting for the autopsy result. We have asked the IFM when they will send us the result, but have had no reply yet. We may have to wait a few months.”
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