Pattaya Daily News

24 October 2009 :: 22:10:56 pm 1789

Brit Accused of Attempted Murder Part 1

This is an authentic, first-hand account, plus interviewed clarifications, of how easily a relatively commonplace argument in Thailand can take on nightmarish proportions, rapidly becoming reminiscent of Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, as the protagonist is accused of attempted murder following a street confrontation after a loud party. The story is worthy of inclusion in the recent ‘Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand’ series currently being broadcast by the UK’s Bravo TV.
Advertise Here

The Setting of the Scene
Barry, a respectable English businessman, house-builder, one-time advertising manager of the UK’s ‘Which Computer’, chairman of squash at the Chichester Lawn Tennis Club and Olympic yachtsman of good standing, who had never harmed anyone in his life, retired to live in Sri Racha on a relatively new ‘village’ five kms. away from the town centre, composed of about 174 middle class Thai households, with only 6 foreigners.

In the time he’d been living there, he’d had no altercations or fallings out with his neighbours, whom, for the most part, were civil, but communication was limited to brief acknowledgments. Then one fateful day, the neighbours immediately opposite decided to throw an extremely raucous party, erecting a 60’ long by 12’ wide canopy in the middle of the road in front of their house to accommodate it. Alan, the witness to the incident takes the account on from here –

On Friday evening, at about 18.00 hrs, the music started across the road; it went on for about 6 hours. The next morning from 10 am till midnight (14 hours), the TV was blasting out loudly some Thai comedy shows. The television was a large 50” model with speakers aimed directly towards Barry’s House, which is only 4 metres away. The noise was so loud we had to shut all doors and windows to hear the Australian tennis.”

Background

Barry and his Thai wife, Bee, had already put up with 1 year’s harassment from his neighbour and his family’s constantly inconsiderate behaviour, which included, apart from perennially loud TV, allowing their dog to bark at all hours of the day and night and the wife frequently dragging a screaming child up and down the street, seemingly trying to get him to eat. On this occasion, even despite the excessive noise, first with the party and then the TV, having gone on for a total of 20 hours, the couple decided not to cause trouble or complain personally.

The Snooker Room
Later, on what was now the Sunday evening, Barry and his friend Alan, who was staying briefly with the couple, were playing snooker in the room nearest the neighbour’s house. To fully appreciate the house’s unusual configuration, one should imagine a room forward of all the rest of the house, connected by the veranda to the snooker room with a full-size snooker table. It’s an open-air room with white canvas blinds 6 ft high, instead of solid walls, that do not reach ceiling height, allowing ventilation on three sides of the room. At about 9:45pm, Barry heard a noise from across the road, he looked from the veranda and saw an individual standing there in relative darkness.

Scene 1:The Initial Confrontation
Barry had his music playing on the stereo system, which is relatively small in comparison with his neighbour’s. When PDN interviewed Barry, I asked him if he had turned the stereo up loud in retaliation to his noisy neighbour, he said “yes, but, my small speakers are no comparison to the neighbour’s 50″ cinema surround-sound kit he was using.” The first Barry knew that anybody was around was when a gate was opened and he saw this individual standing there, who he didn’t actually recognise, but initially took for his neighbour, and asked him if he was happy having disrupted the community for 20 hours, adding:

“Having played your music for 20 hours, you can now listen to mine!”

The person replied, in perfect English (somewhat unusual for Thailand“Turn your music off. It’s too loud.” At this, Barry walked across his garden to stand on the narrow wall, which has a large wooden fence on top, which reached almost to the top of Barry’s chest. Before he was able to say any more, he slipped and lost his footing and fell off the wall. Getting back up, Barry somewhat indignantly shouted “You have no respect for your neighbours and you tell me to turn my music off after what you have done!”

The Party Debris
During the party, Barry said the partygoers had spilled across the road, many of whom had placed food, glasses and cigarette butts on the wall and stanchions of the fence. Some of this was pushed off the wall by Barry but some remained on the wall, with a glass on top of one of the stanchions. At the time the party was actually going on, Barry told PDN that he had been extremely irritated by this inconsiderate behaviour, but had kept his cool. At this point, I asked Barry if he had been drinking that evening and he replied that he had a few to calm himself down, but was not drunk by any means.

Scene 2: The Glass Throwing Incident
However, after the man demanded that he should turn off (note, not turn down) his music, Barry felt his anger rise to boiling point, fuelled by the remark made by the man, perhaps also alcohol-fuelled, but more so from the man’s complete lack of respect for his neighbour’s privacy, and retorted:

“Get your f***ing food and crap off my wall,” turning to pick up the glass on top of the stanchion with his left hand, but went off balance and threw the glass across the road. He said that he had only intended to throw it in the direction of the house, not directly at the individual. However, the glass inadvertently happened to strike the man on the hand, instead of landing in the road. Something Barry didn’t actually learn about until later.

Barry then got off the wall, and went back inside the house. Three to four minutes later, expecting the person to have gone away, he again went outside into the road, intending to pick up what he expected to be broken glass so it wouldn’t present a hazard to children, he later told PDN.

Barry continued, “What made me very fearful was when I walked out there were two people. I felt vulnerable. I’m in a strange country. I live amongst neighbours whose language I can’t speak and they’d just had a party with 30 or more people, mostly men and there I was at 10 o’clock on Sunday evening; there could have been 10 guys in the house for all I knew, so I became hesitant. I considered going back home but, pressed on, kneeling down looking for the glass fragments; keeping my distance because, as I said, there might be even more guys inside, all pissed-up. I was more worried about being beaten up by 2 – 4 guys than anything else, so I kept as far away as possible; 6 – 10 ft at times. I was just about to stand up and go home because no glass could be seen when the first individual, who I had hit with the glass earlier said, holding out the glass ‘Are you looking for this?’ to which I replied something like ‘ah, there it is or ‘You have the glass,’ I asked if I could have it and he said ‘NO!’, pulling back the glass to his chest. I shrugged my shoulders as if to say ‘OK’ and was just about to turn and go; that’s when I thought I saw a punch coming from my right, from the person I later found out was my real neighbour, and not the guy who I had first confronted and had mistakenly assumed to be my neighbour.”

Scene 3: Alan’s Vantage Point
Alan, in the meantime, continued playing snooker alone, but saw Barry go outside after about 3 or 4 minutes. He heard voices from across the road and stood on the stool and peeked over to see what was happening. At this point, Alan said, there were three people in the road: Barry, who was actually kneeling down, (looking for broken glass, he later told Alan), the first man who had demanded Barry’s music be turned off and another. Alan told PDN that he was concerned that the first Thai had been joined by a second and was afraid even more were about to emerge from the neighbour’s house (see reference at article’s end).

Barry’s Rising Apprehension
I then asked Barry how well he knew his neighbour and if he had recognised either of the two men. He said that he had only seen his neighbour in passing, and had never spoken directly to him. The neighbour’s house was apparently similar to a railway station, with so many people constantly coming and going that Barry didn’t know who his neighbour actually was; he only actually found out 2-3 months later. He had initially taken the first man to be his neighbour (especially as it was quite dark), from his manner, the fact that he had demanded the music be turned off and the way he’d answered Barry’s questions.

Scene 4: The Knife-Wielding Incident
Alan pointed out that neither of the 2 Thais was aware of his presence, as he was shielded by the white canvas blind. He could, however, despite the still erect party canopy in the road, see clearly, largely because the neighbour’s garage light was illuminating the scene, but didn’t want to emerge having had a triple heart by-pass operation and not wanting to exacerbate the situation.

As the three of them were standing there, apparently speaking normally, the second man, who was standing to the right-hand side, swept his hand up to his head, as it transpired only to brush away a lock of hair from his forehead. Barry suddenly bent down and produced a 15-inch plastic knife from behind his back, where he had put it after going back into the house previously. I asked Barry in the interview why exactly he had done this and he said:
“I was ‘spooked’ and convinced I was about to be punched by the second guy; therefore, I took evasive action, which led to me drawing the plastic knife to defend myself … to ward him off, in self- defence.”

The first man, who was standing 6 feet in front of Barry holding a mobile phone and the glass, was no threat; he just stood there looking at Barry. Then Barry ducked down to fend off the expected punch, pulled out the plastic knife and swung round in a clockwise direction, passing 3-4 feet in front of the first man, towards the second man on his right, holding the knife up in the air; essentially, Barry told me, as a deterrent as he was expecting him to throw a punch. They both stood transfixed, until Barry happened to glance back towards where the first man had previously been standing, just to make sure there wasn’t going to be a sudden attack from him. But there was nobody there; he had apparently beaten a hasty retreat to end up 30 – 40 feet distant. Barry then chased the first man down the road for a bit, “because he continued to mouth it off,” Barry said, before returning home to resume his snooker game. He said he was somewhat exhilarated, seeing how effective his plastic knife-wielding ploy had been.

Scene 5: The Arrest

At about 10:30pm, Barry’s wife, Bee, came into the snooker room saying the police had turned up at the gate and wanted to talk. Not exactly apprehensive, Barry walked out to the front gate holding the cue by his side, and lent up against the gate. The next thing Alan saw was Barry being manhandled, his arms pinned behind his back, into a police van. All told there were 30 policemen involved in the arrest! When Barry arrived at the police station, he was told he was being charged with the attempted murder of a police officer! The man who had originally ordered Barry to turn off his music, it transpired, is a serving, plain-clothed police major, although he had at no time announced this.

Taking Stock
I asked Barry if he had at any time during the altercation had an inkling that the man he had confronted was a police officer. He said he had no clue, but that he would have welcomed the presence of a police officer then he could have complained to him about the neighbour having caused a civil disturbance. I then asked if he would have confronted him in the way that he had if he had known. To which he replied that as far as he was concerned the man, as a police officer, should have acted as an arbitrator, not as an agent provocateur. Barry thinks that when becoming a police officer one would have to vow to uphold the law, to protect the population and help provide a safe and legal system in which to live. Barry asserts that the individual in question did not fulfil any of these conditions.

He said that he would never have confronted him as he had and certainly not with a knife-like implement if he’d known he was a policeman. I then asked Barry about the plastic knife.

He said that he had got the idea from an American newspaper article where a man had used a plastic knife in a liquor store robbery.

The robber had been prosecuted for robbery, but not for the use of an offensive weapon because it was made of plastic. Barry said it had struck him that this was a safe way to dissuade people who might wish to attack you from actually doing so. Barry also told me that he frequently sailed with his wife in the United States, often anchoring in remote anchorages, where one must be on the constant look out for robbers.

With this in mind, he had gone to a toy store and bought a kid’s knife, cut and shaped it to look real, sprayed it to look even more realistic, but only ever to be used to deter threats, (which had worked at the liquor store heist) never offensively, plus the fact that a plastic knife wouldn’t have exactly been of much use in a life-threatening situation, anyway. Ironically, Barry later discovered from his wife’s subsequent conversation with Barry’s neighbour that he (the neighbour) had a gun in his house to defend his family; whereas, Barry only had a plastic knife, albeit realistic-looking, to defend his wife!

I then asked Alan if he regarded Barry as a hot-blooded individual, prone to violence and he answered quite the opposite, that in all the 5 years he had known Barry he had never known him to lose his temper, let alone threaten anyone’s life. Barry confirmed this, saying he wasn’t a martial arts’ fanatic, and in his condition wasn’t exactly capable of inflicting serious harm on anyone, nor had he at any point in his life. He said that he had come to Thailand hoping for a quiet retirement and to befriend the Thais. Unfortunately, he’s only managed to gain one real Thai friend, so far, namely James Wattana, the snooker champion, though it’s not through want of trying. He said when he first moved to the village-estate in Sri Racha, he had been prepared to open up his snooker room to the whole neighbourhood, but no one had taken him up on his offer. He said that while the people on the estate weren’t antagonistic, they weren’t particularly friendly either, which is why he’s seriously thinking of moving to a location with more foreigners where he can feel more at home and is more civilized than Sri Racha.

I further asked Alan if he thought Barry had been justified in confronting the individual who turned out to be a police officer and he said:

“It looked as if the first man, the policeman, might have been threatening, when he first came over and said ‘Turn your music off’. You read about so much that can happen. Barry didn’t really know who either of them were. First, there was one guy, then there were 2; there could have be another 6 guys for all Barry knew, all tanked up – you don’t know how far they’ll go or anything. The next thing you know you’ve been hit over the head with a lump of wood and it’s all too late. You’re in a very dangerous situation when it’s that dark. It all happened very quickly… It all got out of hand.”

Barry, when asked about the role of the police officer he said “on reflection the main thing is the policeman not revealing his identity. He should have acted as a peace maker, as police officers are expected to do; this gentleman didn’t do that.” That also applied to the village security men who should have intervened on Friday and Saturday nights because of the noise level, or on Sunday night due to the altercation, but who chose not to.

Don’t forget to log on for the next episode: the first Kafkaesque court appearance !

Contact PDN Team:
Warina Punyawan
editor.pdn@gmail.com

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : Stories

Comments in News


    
CAPTCHA Image
*

The messages you read here are opinions from the public and posted into the Forum automatically. The systems owner is not responsible for any content in the Forum or any comments posted. There is no proof that the contents posted are genuine or not, even if the name of the poster is real, th erefore, please use common sense when reading the Forum. If there are topics which are against the law or immoral, please contact webmaster@pattayadailynews.com