UDON THANI: The UK’s Lady of Hills was identified last year as 36-year Thai woman and mother of three, Lamduan Seekanya, whose death, police believe, may have occurred under suspicious circumstances. Now both her family in Thailand and her UK husband who also lives in the kingdom, want answers and closure.
Nearly a year after police in the UK finally identified a body, found in 2004 and buried under the epitaph ‘Lady of the Hills,’ as that of Thai wife Lamduan Seekanya, there has been no progress in the case with neither her body exhumed or an interview conducted with her husband at the time who is now living in Thailand. This week, Lamduan’s family, including her ageing mother, fear that the Thai woman has been forgotten about again as she had been 16 years ago when an investigation into her death became a cold case. Her husband has also expressed frustration at not being involved in matters to do with the identification of his wife’s body and the suspicion that he has grown up around him. 55-year old David Armitage lives in Thailand’s western Kanchanaburi province.
An elderly Thai couple and the family of a Thai wife who may have been murdered in the north of England have been kept in suspense since early 2019 on progress to do with the case of their daughter, Lamduan Seekanya, who would have been 52-years old this year.
Lamduan, in 2019, was identified as the Lady for the Hills, an anonymous Asian woman who was buried in the picturesque village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale after being found semi-naked on the hills nearby which are part of the UK’s famous Pennine Way.
It has emerged this week that authorities, despite police opening her cold case in 2018 and positively identifying the victim as well as reaching a conclusion that the woman had died under suspicious circumstances, have taken no further action on the case and Lamduan’s body has not even been exhumed.
The anguish of Thai woman’s family in Udon Thani
Lamduan’s family from Udon Thani in northeastern Thailand, who had always been anxious to trace their daughter in the UK after losing contact with her at a time when she appeared to be distressed about family and financial problems, say that they made a missing person report to Thai police in 2004.
The woman was 36 years old at the time and her body was later found by a stream in the Yorkshire Hills but UK police had no record of her disappearance.
The family told reporters this week that local UK police in North Yorkshire should have been made aware of their daughter’s missing person status in the area where the body was subsequently found, not far from her home in the United Kingdom.
They feel that an investigation 16 years ago with her full identity known, would have had a far better chance of establishing just how she died.
Reports to police in 2004 had not reached the local UK police police when Lamduan’s body was found
They told the press this week that their reports, filed in Thailand, would have made all the difference and instead their daughter was simply buried anonymously under the romantic title of the Lady of the Hills and forgotten about after a local coroner recorded an open verdict on her death.
Retired police chief blames UK Home Office unit for the delay in authorising a full and active investigation
This week, they told UK reporters that the police are again forgetting about their daughter due to inactivity in the case. Their view is supported by Adam Harland, the now-retired head of the North Yorkshire Police cold case unit.
He blames the UK’s Home Office, an impenetrable institution that is almost a law unto itself in the United Kingdom as it sits at the crossroads of the work of the police services and the administration of justice.
The body responsible, for authorising the investigation to move ahead and make progress, is the UK Central Authority which is responsible for coordinating and deliberating on cross border operations between the UK and authorities in foreign countries.
Of course, a key consideration behind all such deliberations is finance and an available budget.
UK tabloid The Sun is on the case
There was some activity this week in the case and the family have even received a visit from Thai authorities after the UK’s best selling newspaper The Sun, always a powerful force and the terror of faceless bureaucrats, did a follow-up story on the once again dormant case.
The family held a Buddhist ceremony in October for their loved one where a rite was performed to guide Luamduan’s spirit back to heaven.
Her mother is ageing and she anxiously wants to see her daughter’s remains repatriated and placed in the local temple. It’s the closest she will get to bringing her daughter home.
Story of another courageous Thai woman that cries out for justice from British authorities
The Thai Examiner has written about Lamduan’s story before. It is a story and path similar to many courageous Thai women who sacrifice their lives to make a better life for themselves, their families and for their new partners in foreign countries over the last few decades.
Lamduan’s story began in 1990 when she was working in Chiang Mai. There she met the future husband David Armitage. The couple married in Bangkok in 1991 and in July that year, they returned to the UK.
UK Thai couple settled in Portsmouth
Initially, life was good for the couple as they settled in Portsmouth. David had a job as a university lecturer and Lamduan, like many Thai women, had part-time work at a local Thai restaurant. They bought a house and visited Thailand regularly.
Then after some miscarriages, the couple suffered financial pressure as Lamduan could not work and they fell behind on their mortgage. They sold the house and later went to live in a rented house in Warwickshire and after that, to Mr Armitage’s family in Burton in Kendal, a small town in Cumbria.
Thai wife left her UK husband for a month in the year she went missing and returned to Thailand
In 2004, some months before she went missing, Lamduan left David and returned to Thailand. She later returned but the marriage was still in difficulty.
She complained of having no money to her family at home and later began talking about finding the money to bring her children back home to Thailand.
The couple had two children, a boy named George and a little girl named Charlena. Lamduan had a son from a previous relationship named Khwan.
The Thai woman’s disappearance earlier in 2004, when she returned to Thailand, is thought to be one of the possible explanations for why her husband, David Armitage, failed to report as a missing person when she disappeared for a final time later that year.
UK husband is not a suspect in the case although police are reported to be preparing to interview him
The circumstances of her disappearance in the UK had perplexed police who initially wondered why the Thai woman had not been reported missing by her husband. This was before the remains of the Lady of the Hills were positively identified as Lamduan and her particular circumstances came to light
Mr Armitage has since confirmed that he assumed his wife had returned to Thailand for a second time.
Police in the United Kingdom have not questioned the woman’s UK husband and have pointed out that at this point, he is not a suspect in the case.
Forensic tests carried out in late 2018 showed that the woman had died sometime between late August 2018 and the middle of September.
Person responsible for Lamduan’s death knew the local area surrounding the hills where she was found
The woman was found half-naked with no top, head down in a hillside stream, with her bra half ripped off and no shoes by hillwalkers.
A police investigator, who initially dealt with the case, said that whoever is responsible for the woman’s disappearance had known the terrain and would have had to have access to a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Now retired, Detective Chief Inspector Adam Harland, before the body as confirmed as Lamduan, had suggested that he would be anxious first of all, to question the Thai woman’s husband and discuss the couple’s marriage.
This was at a time when police had identified the body as that of a Thai woman and surmised that she may also have been a Thai bride.
Police, initially investigating the case, believed that the woman had died from hypothermia. She died in a secluded spot on the hills only accessible to someone with intimate knowledge of the locality.
Woman’s UK husband returned to live in Thailand
Mr Armitage, at some point later, returned to live in Thailand where he is a teacher in the western province of Kanchanaburi.
He is living there with the couple’s daughter Charlena while George, the couple’s son, works in China. Lamduan older son, Khwan, ironically now lives and works in the United Kingdom.
This week, speaking to The Sun, Lamduan’s husband claimed to have had absolutely nothing to do with the disappearance of his Thai wife in 2004. He also offered to be interviewed by police investigating the case.
He told reporters: ‘My position is that I have nothing to hide so why wouldn’t I want to talk to them?’
David Armitage questions why he was not consulted after his wife was identified on 2019
Mr Armitage also took issue as to why he had not been contacted by relevant authorities as Lamduan’s husband in relation to the case and particularly concerning the exhumation of her body.
He said he was being kept out of the loop and instead was subjected to suspicion and innuendo. ‘There is all this innuendo and people are left with questions and I’ve got no comeback on it in a country which is not mine,’ he complained this week.
He also said that he has also not been able to grieve for his wife. ’I have not been allowed to grieve. I wasn’t invited to the funeral and have not been involved legally in any of the exhumation of the body process,’ he pointed out.
UK man reveals contacts with the British Embassy in Thailand in relation to his wife’s case
The husband, who was married to Lamduan for over 13 years, has revealed that he has been approached by some officials from the British Embassy in Bangkok but gave the impression that contact is sporadic and at one point, he was contacted by an embassy official who alluded to some problems with his wife’s family.
As for Lamduan’s family, he says his feelings are sympathetic: ‘I do feel for her parents. I would want to know in their situation but some of the things they have said are not true.’
North Yorkshire police wish to interview Mr Armitage
It is being reported that British police in North Yorkshire do want to meet and question Mr Armitage about the disappearance and suspected murder of his wife.
The UK teacher has said that he absolutely has no qualms with that. ‘If the police want to formally speak to me I would cooperate and answer their questions,’ he said. ‘I made that very clear to the British Embassy here. No problem, I actually made that offer.’
However, the UK man has said that right now, after 16 years, he simply needs to get on with his life. ‘I’m bored of it. I just want to work and get on with stuff.’