Luke Thornton has been advised to plead guilty as he is due to go on trial in September with the men who beat him to a pulp last May. Otherwise, the legal proceedings could drag on for at least 6 months during which time he may not leave Thailand. The man hasn’t seen his children in the UK for four months and a guilty plea or verdict may have implications for his life in Thailand with his wife Saifon. It could even see him imprisoned.
A UK man with a Thai wife in Mae Hong Son has been left stranded in Thailand for months and is facing criminal charges before a Thai court. All this in the aftermath of being beaten within inches of his life by a Thai gang in the mountainous town of Pai on May 20th last.
A UK father of three children ranging in ages from 8 to 14 is unable to leave Thailand where he is currently out on bail facing charges of being involved in a fight on May 20th last.
38-year-old Luke Thornton was savagely beaten and left for dead that night in the mountainous town of Pai in Mae Hong Son province in northern Thailand. His story was featured in the Thai Examiner online newspaper in early June. The UK man was then recovering from invasive surgery on his skull and eye socket and was being closely guarded and supported by his Thai wife of four years, Saifon Petchkrajang.
Visited by officials and police while recovering in a hospital in Chiang Mai and received apologies
He had been visited at the hospital by local authority officials and the police in Pai who even briefed him on their investigation into the attack and posed for photographs with the local and national media covering the story. He was handed hampers and issued an apology for what had happened.
Things turned nasty for Luke later in June
However, weeks later things turned decidedly nasty for Luke. It was the day of the beginning of legal hearings as the three men who very nearly beat him to death that night, came before the court.
On the day of court, he was told he was also being charged also in connection with the violent affray
As Luke entered the courtroom which he described as more like a small bedroom, he was suddenly informed that he too was being charged for his role in relation to the incident. A sharp, shocking sting in the tail on the day the UK man looked at as his moment for justice.
Flabbergasted and soon behind bars
The 38-year-old Luke who is an air conditioning engineer from Bristol was flabbergasted by what he was hearing. He had come to court to experience some sense of justice, instead, before he had time to think, he was escorted to the cells of the court facility that he later described as appalling and disgusting. The UK man, dressed for the court, found himself sitting on a concrete floor staring out from behind prison bars with two other local Thai people who were vomiting into a stinking hole in the floor that served as a toilet.
Suffering from PTSD from the savage attack including flashbacks for which he is taking medication
While he has recuperated from the physical damage of the attack which included a fractured skull and completely broken nose, he has developed PTSD symptoms where flashbacks of the brutal attack haunt him. He has been put on strong medication for this including Xanax. ‘I can’t stop replaying it in my head,’ he told the local media in Bristol this week.
A loan for a friend bailed him out of jail after spending hours in a filthy court holding cell
Luke had to resort to borrowing from a friend of his, a tattoo shop owner in Pai who brought roughly ฿40,000 to court to bail him out so that he could return to be with his wife. He still ended up spending hours in the filthy holding cell and must now face up to the prospect of being sent to a Thai prison.
Night out without his Thai wife led to a disaster that keeps having repercussions and is not yet finished
The nightmare for Luke Thornton began on May 20th when he decided to take some time to go out alone in Thailand. The UK man, while he has been married to his Thai wife for four years, lives in the United Kingdom and had gotten into a routine travelling regularly to Thailand to be with his 33-year-old wife. He first met Saifon when she was a Muay Thai boxing instructor when he had decided to take up the sport.
Luke became the focus of the gang’s ire and they pursued him until he was beaten senseless
On the night in question, he says that he was sitting with friends in a part of Pai near a school when a gang of local men turned up on a motorbike and used the bike engines in an attempt to provoke them. Initially, Luke’s focus was in trying to keep his friend from lashing out but he says he soon became the focus on the men’s apparent passion for a fight. He was threatened by them and verbally abused.
A video of the scene does appear to show the UK man engaged in fighting with the circle of attackers but on closer inspection, you can see that he was being corralled into a location where the attackers felt safe to set upon until the man was left for dead.
No mercy even as the UK man made a wai gesture
A particularly revolting sight in that video circulating online shows the UK man at one point dazed and on the ground trying to use a wai gesture to show respect or submission only to be further viciously attacked.
Mr Thornton appears to have passed out and told the UK media this week that he felt as it if the attacks were repeating. The ultimate terror for him came when he heard one of them ask another what they would do with the body.
Crawled to a local hotel where rescuers were called
He managed to crawl away from the scene to the reception area of a nearby hotel. From there he was taken by emergency services to the hospital. Before doctors could operate on him, he asked to see his wife who was shaken at what had happened to her husband.
He received 40 stitches that night but the next day he knew that the physical damage as more severe and was taken in a minivan by a friend down the mountainous roads to Chiang Mai where doctors diagnosed the full extent of his condition.
This required expensive medical treatment including advanced procedures. At one point, Luke’s eye socket was taken out and fitted back in again. He did not see for 1-month following the operation.
Now he is facing a personal crisis stranded in Thailand and with a criminal charge pending
Now, he is facing another impending crisis. He has run up medical bills and is staring at the very real prospect of being convicted for engaging in the street brawl. He has told the UK media that he still does not fully understand the specific nature of what he has been charged with as his Thai lawyer cannot communicate with him fully in English.
The UK man has not seen his children in the UK in nearly four months and is severely shaken by the incident. He was due to fly home in June and now his fate is as yet quite uncertain. ‘I just want to go home to my kids,’ he told Bristol Live in Bristol, formerly the Bristol Post newspaper.
Out on bail until September 9th next, when the Brit must sit in the dock with his three attackers
As he is out on court bail, the British man’s passport is being held by Thai police. His scheduled court appearance is on September 9th when he is expected to sit in the dock with the three men who severely beat him on May 20th. He says that he has been advised that it may be in his interests to plead guilty to the charges against him.
Otherwise, apart from a harsher punishment if found guilty, he is also facing the possibility of the court proceedings dragging on further while he is cut off from his family and livelihood in the United Kingdom. A guilty plea may lead to a jail term or a hefty fine. It may also have implications for the British man’s prospects of returning to Thailand and seeing his wife if he is convicted of a crime in the kingdom.
Foreigners must avoid all conflict situations
It is understood that the basis of the charges, based on Thai law, against Luke Thornton is that he was seen on various video footage engaged and fighting with the parties at the outbreak of the violence. He had has admitted this but claims it was in self-defence.
It is reported the UK that the British Embassy in Thailand is providing some assistance to Mr Thornton.
For foreigners in Thailand, it highlights the absolute necessity of taking precautions to avoid any sort of confrontation in the country be it verbal or physical. The potential consequences are simply too severe as in this story. Yet, any perusal of the shocking video footage will show that the UK man is lucky simply to be alive.