In September 2004 a mystery emerged on the hills above a small, remote village in Yorkshire when the body of what police then believed to have been an Asian woman was found near a stream by hill walkers. At the time, for some reason UK police and locals, while keeping an open mind, were slow to draw any sinister conclusions. After a 2007 coroners court returned a open verdict, the body was laid to rest in a local church graveyard where a kind local man gave up his personal plot. The burial and headstone gave birth to the local ‘lady of the hills’ legend after a name was given to the deceased woman. However, unwittingly, the kind hearted actions of the local public may have helped and contributed to the disguise what is increasingly looking like the grim murder of a Thai woman who came to Thailand in 1995 after she fell in love with a UK man working in her country.
A Thai family in Thailand’s northern Udon Thani province is waiting anxiously to find out if the ‘Lady of the Hills’ Asian woman buried in a north Yorkshire village is that of the family’s daughter, Lamduan Seekanya, a Thai bride originally from the northern Thai region. An investigating UK police team have confirmed that they are currently carrying out DNA tests on the body. It comes as a former British policeman, once involved in the case, has told the BBC that he believes that the Thai woman was murdered by her husband and dumped on the scenic Yorkshire hills where her body was subsequently found. He believes that the man may have ‘got away’ with the murder which for over a decade lay disguised by the scenic beauty of where the body was found in September 2004.
A retired British policeman believes that a Thai woman whose body was found in the Yorkshire hills in 2004 may have been murdered by her UK husband. Former Detective Chief Inspector Adam Harland was speaking to the BBC News. He told reporters that he believes the ‘Thai bride’ was indeed murdered by her husband in September 2004.
Former UK police officer believes that the Thai bride was murdered by her husband in the UK
The retired police officer, who has always had an interest in the case which initially baffled UK police in 2004, explained to the BBC that, by the term Thai bride, he meant not just a Thai woman that had come to live in the United Kingdom but a woman from Thailand who had formed a genuine relationship with a white UK man and who had come to live with her partner or husband in Britain. It is now believed that the Thai bride may, in fact, by 37 year old Lamduan Seekanya. Lamduan first arrived in the UK in 1995 and married her UK partner in 2001 while back in Thailand. However this has yet to be confirmed by DNA analysis and tests currently being undertaken by Yorkshire Police. When speaking to the BBC, the former police officer was outlining his own thinking on the case. The detective believes that the Thai bride was murdered by her husband and then dumped in the area where she was found.
The body of the woman was discovered near a stream in a rugged, rocky and remote area on the hills of Yorkshire. The area is at least a mile from the main road and an even longer distance from the nearest town or village. The body was found half naked stuck between rocks in a running stream near the small north Yorkshire village of Horton in Ribblesdale.
Former UK police officer – ‘he’s got away with it’ on possible murder of Thai bride
The retired police officer fears however that, even if the Thai bride is soon positively identified, her husband may have scope to deny any involvement in her murder even though it appears no attempt was made to report her missing to the police in the UK or check on her whereabouts with her family in Thailand. This certainly shows, according to Mr Harland, that the relationship between the the woman and her UK husband had broken down. ‘The fact that no-one has reported her missing suggests the relationship has broken down and her disappearance was because she’s ‘gone back home’. In this case, her partner had a natural excuse to explain her absence and for that reason I think, for now, he’s got away with it.’
Thai family passes on name of Lamduan Seekanya to Yorkshire Police to assist enquiry
It comes as a spokesman for the Yorkshire Police in the UK confirmed that they have now received a specific name for the woman who has come to be known by local legend up to now only as the ‘lady of the hills’ after she was buried by them in the Yorkshire village of Horton in Ribblesdale. She was found on the scenic hills nearby. After no one came forward to claim that unidentified woman’s’ body at that time, locals buried the woman themselves with full ceremony. UK police reopened the case in 2016 and are now understood to be working towards confirming the identity of the woman. New forensic evidence, developed since 2004, has now led them to look at the prospect that the woman was a Thai bride who had met her end in the UK.
Thai bride had a happy relationship with her UK husband and two children. She visited often
At the end of last year, a Thai family in Udon Thani came forward both to claim the woman and provide the police in the UK with her identity. If they are correct, the woman, who would have been 37 years of age when she died and is, in fact, their daughter, Thai woman and Thai bride, Lamduan Seekanya. The couple are reported to have had two children and had a good relationship, regularly visiting Lamduan’s Thai family in Udon Thani as is customary for Thai women who marry foreigners.
Thai family gave press conference in Thailand
Lamduan’s mother and father gave a press conference in Thailand at the end of last year. They have shown photographs of their daughter who bears a striking and uncanny resemblance to the haunting pencil sketch that had been produced and circulated by UK police in Yorkshire for some time. Lamduan’s 72 years old mother, Joomsri Seekanya, has told the UK press that all contact between her and her daughter ceased in 2004 around the time that the body which became known as the lady of the hills was discovered by a group of hill walkers taking photo snaps in September 2004. It is understood that the Thai family have, through intermediaries, passed on both the name of their daughter and that of the UK man whom she married in 2001. They are also believed to be cooperating with DNA tests being carried out by Yorkshire police in the UK.
Thai bride’s family being assisted by a growing international Thai Women Network
In Thailand, the family of Lamduan Seekanya are being assisted by a Thai international group called the Thai Women Network (TWN). This is an active organization which seeks to assist the growing community of Thai women living in Europe and round the world. Most of these Thai women are married to western foreigners. The number of Thai women now living in western countries and the communities and relationships they represent are generally a very positive force for both Thailand and the western host countries.
Thai woman’s UK husband lived and worked in Thailand initially before the couple moved
Mrs Seekanya has told the media in Thailand that her daughter met a UK man who lived and worked in Thailand in the 90s. She returned with him to his country in 1995. The Thai woman and her UK partner appeared to have a very happy relationship and often returned to Udon Thani to visit her family with their two children. The couple were married in Udon Thani in 2001. Udon Thani is in north of Thailand. It part the Thailand’s poor and rural Isan region which has become very popular with foreigners opting to live a more laid back and less hectic lifestyle in Thailand.
Udon Thani – where the story of Thai Brides began
Udon Thani is also where the Thai Bride boom began in the 1960s when German and Austrian men began to visit the area seeking more traditional wives. Since the age of the internet began, the interaction between the Isan region and the rest of the world has taken off exponentially. This has seen hundreds of thousands of Thai women marrying western foreigners. It has even lead to Thai provincial government reports citing the level of inward investment into the region caused by the phenomenon which is generally positive but has raised concerns among some more traditional and conservative sections of Thai society.
Huge number of Thai women marrying foreigners and settling in western countries
The sheer scale of the movement has also alarmed some feminist groups in Europe and Australia who have demanded government investigations into alleged ‘abuses’ and the exploitation of Thai women. Most of the inquiries have discovered that the phenomenon is a healthy one. However, there have been findings that show Thai women without foreign language skills are at risk in western countries both because they are more isolated and also that they are less likely to become part of the workforce. The UK, like Germany and other countries worldwide, has now made it mandatory for all foreign spouses, including Thai brides, to learn English and pass examinations within specified time periods. In the UK since 2010, there is also a minimum income requirement for UK men bringing a foreign spouse into the country. Also in the UK, researchers have found that UK men living with Thai wives tend to be isolated as couples and less likely to be part of extended community groups that exist elsewhere in Scandinavian countries and even in Australia.
Thai bride Lamduan Seekanya married her UK husband legally in 2001 in Udon Thani Thailand
Information from the Provincial Justice Office in Udon Thani confirms that Lamduan Seekanya married her UK partner in 2001. A gold ring found on the body of the lady of the hills in Yorkshire was traced by the UK police after they reopened their probe in 2016 back to Bangkok and Thailand. The ring was made of an unusually high quality gold found in Thailand and of course, customarily used as wedding rings.
Thai mother believes the Yorkshire lady of the hills is her daughter from police sketch
The 72 year old Thai mother told a press gathering at the end of last year that she fears that it is indeed the body of her daughter. The similarities between her photos and the police artist’s impression are very striking. Now it is understood that the UK police investigation team involved in the inquiry are working to establish a DNA link between the lady of the hills and the family in Udon Thani. Yorkshire Police have confirmed that this is the case and have also appealed for anyone else with information to make contact with their inquiry team in confidence.
An unnamed source involved with the investigation told the Daily Telegraph newspaper in the UK recently: ‘It is very important to establish who this young woman was and this could be a significant breakthrough. Hopefully DNA tests can be carried out that will establish whether the remains are those of this woman’s daughter.’
Evidence now emerging causing the UK police to look at murder after 2016 reopening of case
Evidence in relation to the case has been tortuously slow to emerge. When the half dressed body was found in 2004, police found clothes nearby and half broken bra on the body. They had initially determined that the person may have died from hyperthermia although they did identify the body of being a female with Southeast Asian origins. The reopening of the case in 2016 brought more refined information. Forensics that had not been possible in 2014, utilizing isotopes, identified that the dead women had lived in the North Lancashire or South Cumbria region of the UK for the preceding two years. This means that the Asian woman was a probably a UK resident and the identification of the source of the pure gold ring as being from Bangkok in Thailand points the finger at the lady of hills, in fact, being that of a Thai bride. This has also raised the suspicion that the woman may have been murdered. No one came forward to report her missing although, as former Chief Inspector Harland suggests, this may not so be so unusual with a Thai wife who has returned home after a relationship has broken down. However, it is now firmly understood that Yorkshire police are investigating the possibility that the Thai woman, if it turns out to be Lamduan Seekanya, was murdered by someone in the UK.
Retired police officer believes body was dumped on the hills as suspicious circumstances in the death of the Thai bride emerge
There are however more signs pointing to foul play and suspicious circumstances. A post mortem suggested that the woman had been dead for 1 to 3 weeks when the body was found. However, the body is thought by pathologists in the UK to have only been out in the open at the spot where it was found for a number of days. The internal organs of the body were so badly decomposed that police were unable to determine exactly how the woman died. The body exhibited no explicit signs of external injury. The retired UK detective believes that the body was dumped in the area after the Thai woman had died elsewhere. The clothes found nearby including Marks and Spencer jeans and a top quite unsuitable for hill climbing.
UK Police believe killer could be a local or a person with a rural background and knowledge
Investigating police in the UK also believe that whoever dumped the body may have had a rural background or some such links. It would have taken a 4X4 vehicle to negotiate the barren and rocky track, well off the main road, that leads up to the area near the stream where the body was found. Investigating police also believe that the location of the body near the stream and grass area indicates that the person who left it there may have been aware that a more well known cave system nearby, Sell Gill Holes caves, was a very busy and often walked location. At the time the body of the ‘lady of the hills’ was located, police indicated that as well as being Southeast Asian, the woman weighed approximately 10 stone and was between 25 and 35 years of age when she died. The woman had shoulder length, dark brown hair and was 4 foot 11 inches in height. Lamduan Seekanya’s mother revealed that in 2004, her daughter would have been 37 years old.
Beautiful scenic spot may have been a perfect disguise for murder for over a decade
In 2007, a UK coroner returned an open verdict on the body that was found in 2004. Police had painted a picture of a possible Asian female tourist whose trek had gone awry and died from hypothermia taking off clothes and being found later half naked with a bra half pulled off. It has been known for sufferers of hyperthermia to take off their clothes in a frenzy while dying feeling that they are overheating when exactly the opposite is the case. The fact that woman’s body was found by hill walkers and the scenic nature of the area perhaps disguised the grim facts.
Kind hearted locals took the woman to their hearts and named her as ‘the lady of the hills’ with one local man in Horton in Ribblesdale even offering up his dedicated plot in the beautiful local graveyard to the stranger. The lady of the hills was given a full and poignant funeral by locals in a touching ceremony.
Mystery will end if the identity and fate of Lamduan Seekanya is established by UK police
It is thought that an end to the mystery of the ‘lady of the hills’ is now imminent. Investigators now await the DNA results and to see if there is a positive match to the Seekanya family in Thailand’s Udon Thani Province. The resemblance to the police sketches and circumstantial evidence point towards such a match. If that turns out to be case, then the identity of Lamduan Seekanya will have been established as the real lady of the hills. The next mystery to be solved will be to discover just how she died and quite possibly, who murdered her.