Cornwall

Liam Whitaker death: Open verdict into Thailand police cell hanging

  • 15 August 2014
  • From the section Cornwall
Bangkok. Pic: Thinkstock Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Liam Whitaker was on holiday in Bangkok

An open verdict has been recorded into the death of a man from Cornwall found hanging in a police cell in Thailand.

Liam Whitaker, 24, from Helston, died last October after being arrested in Bangkok for possessing methamphetamine.

At a hearing in Truro, coroner Dr Emma Carlyon said she accepted he died from hanging and there were no injuries showing anyone else was involved.

But she also said she was not satisfied there was a legal level of proof that he killed himself.

'In good spirits'

Mr Whitaker was with three friends on the holiday.

James Meredew told the inquest that, after having some drinks, he and Mr Whitaker took a ride on a tuk-tuk [three-wheeled vehicle].

Mr Whitaker asked the driver about buying drugs and the two left Mr Meredew for a short while, Mr Meredew said.

Soon after, police stopped and searched the British pair, finding a small bag of methamphetamine, before taking them to Chanasongkram police station.

Mr Meredew told the inquest officers asked to be given 400,000 baht (£7,500), and he left the station to return the next day with money. He said Mr Whitaker was "in good spirits" when he left.

When he returned, he was told by British Embassy staff Mr Whitaker had died.

'Gap in evidence'

In written evidence, Lt Col Panoosak Smeri of the Thai police said Mr Whitaker was found hanging by his belt from part of the ventilation system in the bathroom of a juvenile detention room about 20 minutes after he asked to go to the bathroom.

He said officers followed correct procedure afterwards.

A UK forensic examination found drugs and alcohol in Mr Whitaker's urine, including alcohol, methamphetamine, ketamine and diazepam.

Det Con Dan Skelton, of Devon and Cornwall Police, told the inquest Mr Whitaker had taken drugs but there was still a "gap in evidence".

He said there was no mention in Thai police reports about the 400,000 baht and no information about any talks officers and Mr Whitaker had after Mr Meredew left.

Dr Carlyon said Mr Whitaker had taken drugs "at some point prior to death" but it was unclear what effects those had had on him.

After the ruling, Mr Whitaker's mother, Andrea, said: "People need to be aware of what's happened. It's a dangerous place."

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