Englishman killed, burnt over charcoal in national park

Relatives of gentleman farmer's ex-wife admit murdering father of 5-year-old


An English country squire was killed and his body burnt on charcoal in a Thai national park after divorcing his Thai wife because of her gambling debts.


The body parts of Toby Char-naud, 41, were then scattered in Kaeng Krachan national park, a court in Phetchaburi was told on Monday.


Charnaud had sold Latimer Farm near Chippenham in Wiltshire, after falling in love with a bargirl in Bangkok and gone to live in Hua Hin, where he bought two bars to run with his new wife.


But, after taking his wife Pannada home to visit his parents in Britain, the marriage began to fall apart. Charnaud divorced Pannada, because of her gambling debts and gave her a Bt777,000 (ฃ11,000) settlement. They shared custody of their five-year-old son.


In April last year Pannada, 35, reported Charnaud missing to police, but in court she admitted, she had lied. On March 27 last year she had in fact helped five relatives and friends from her province of Yasothon in the Northeast to dispose of his body, although she denied premeditated murder and being an accomplice to murder.


Pannada Charnaud (formerly Laoruang) denied premeditated murder. But Boontin Puipong, 31, Sattri Sripatum, 28, Nipit Satabut, admitted murder with provocation. They have said they were provoked because Charnaud had interrupted them while they were drinking whisky.


Said Pannada: "I was at the market and returned home to find my ex-husband's body."


All were also charged with possessing a gun in a public place, deceiving police, and concealing the body. Two other defendants, Somsak Papai, 21, and Wisan Samaksri, 19, denied all charges. Their only involvement had been to return Charnaud's car after the murder, they said.


Back in Britain, Charnaud's sister Hannah Allen and his parents, Jeremy, 67, and Sarah, 65, had become suspicious of Toby's death and hired a locally based Scottish private eye.


He checked mobile-phone records and discovered that Toby had been at his ex-wife's house on the day he disappeared.


When police raided the house two of the defendants confessed and led police to where they had found the body parts.


Toby Charnaud had arrived to visit his five-year-old son Daniel, Phetchaburi Provincial Court was told. At first the relatives and friends of Pannada tried to kill him with a long-barrelled hunting musket but it backfired. Then they clubbed him to death with an iron bar and wooden staves.


They burned his body on a charcoal fire, with 20kg of charcoal they had bought earlier in the day, before cutting up the body and distributing the parts around Kaeng Krachan National Park on the Thai-Burma border.


The family's lawyer Boonchu Yensabai, who is jointly prosecuting the defendants said: "The only motive can be that Pannada expected to inherit everything through their son. We will appeal if she is acquitted of conspiracy to murder."


In a letter to the court, Mrs Sarah Charnaud, said: "For me, his mother, one of the worst horrors of his death is the fact that the first attempt to kill him failed and he would have been aware of his murderers making their fatal attack. His fear and concern for his son would have been overwhelming.


"Toby was a wonderful father to his son and it is so unfair that a small boy has been deprived of a great father and a father has been deprived of seeing his son grow up.


"We welcomed Toby's ex-wife into our home and family until they moved to Thailand and to repay us by murdering my son is beyond my comprehension.


"I trust the court will judge fairly and also understand that I cannot be there to hear the defence downgrade the value of human life and to hear more details of my son's horrific death."


The case was adjourned for a judgement on September 6.


Gentleman farmer Toby Charnaud predicted his own death in a short story competition for a local magazine in Bangkok, his sister Hannah Allen believes.


The story entitled "Rainfall" is about a British man called "Guy" who falls in love with a Thai woman and then his life falls apart.


She does not come home at nights. She builds up gambling debts. Eventually he is murdered by his best Thai friend, who unknowingly, is one of his wife's lovers.


He won first prize.


Said Hannah: " The story is eerie. I am sure he had his suspicions. It is difficult to come to terms with the fact that this woman was behind the murder of the father of her child."

Andrew Drummond


 Special to The Nation