Luke Joshua Cook was arrested by police at Suvarnabhumi Airport in December 2017 with his Thai wife Kanyarat Wechapitak with whom he ran a small business empire in Pattaya. Both were subsequently charged, convicted and sentenced to death. Both were released from prison this week with Mr Cook being deported back to Australia.

An Australian and American man together with a Thai woman who were sentenced to death in 2018 by the Rayong Provincial Court followed by the Appeals Court upholding their convictions and death sentences in February and March last year, have been released from prison. On Tuesday, the defendants saw the case for drug trafficking against them dismissed by the Thai Supreme Court after it delivered its verdict on the matter. One of the men was 37-year-old Luke Joshua Cook whose story was aired extensively by Australian media last year when his 63-year-old father, Paul Cook, told 9 News Channel that his son and his 43-year-old Thai wife had been framed.

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37-year-old Luke Cook and 43-year-old Kanyarat Wechapitak after the pair were arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport and charged in December 2017 with drug trafficking and attempting to import 50 kg of crystal methamphetamine into Thailand from a source in China via a yacht as part of a plot linked to the Hells Angels biker gang in Australia.

The Thai Supreme Court on Tuesday, the 14th September 2021, dismissed all charges against Australian Luke Joshua Cook and another American defendant, Californian Tyler Gerard concerning an alleged plot to import a large consignment of crystal methamphetamine into Thailand aboard a yacht in 2015.

37-year old Mr Cook and his wife 43-year-old Kanyarat Wechapitak were both sentenced to death in September 2018 by Rayong Provincial Court for their part in the plot after being arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport in December 2017 while on their way to Australia for a holiday.

Wife also freed by a stunning court decision which ended a four-year nightmare for the Aussie Thai couple who lived an affluent life in Pattaya 

Ms Kanyarat was also freed last Tuesday by the court’s decision which quashed her conviction.

The couple had run a substantial business in Pattaya including a small hotel before their life was turned upside down by their arrest and conviction when the death sentence was imposed.

Thailand carried out its last execution in June 2018 without prior notice and in 2009 put two convicted drug traffickers to death by lethal injection. 

The death penalty against Mr Cook and American Tyler Gerard who was arrested for his part in the plot also in 2017, was subsequently upheld by the Rayong Appeals Court in February and March last year.

Imbroglio linked with Wesley Schneider, a career criminal with ties to the Australian Hells Angels gang

The case against the Australian, his wife and the American involved a range of characters, many who have now either departed from Thailand and some who are unaccounted for, who formed part of an imbroglio linked with the criminal activity of the murdered Hells Angel’s criminal gang associate Wesley Schneider.

Mr Schneider, a career criminal, and de facto leader of the Hells Angels Pattaya network had ties with the Australian biker’s gang of a similar name and plotted to import drugs into Thailand.

This later evolved into a scheme to transport illegal drugs by yacht from Pattaya to Australia hidden in a specially built keel of a sailing craft after first importing a consignment by sea from wholesalers in China.

Royal Thai Police suppressed the gang in Pattaya after the gruesome murder of Schneider in 2015

The notorious offshoot of the Australian biker’s gang was suppressed effectively by the Royal Thai Police in Pattaya after the murder of Mr Schneider by members of his own gang following the failed drug trafficking scheme.

His mutilated body was found in a shallow grave near Pattaya after he had been murdered by the gang who tried to extract money and information from him.

Mr Cook and Mr Gerard as well as the elusive Mr Anthony Bagnato were arrested in connection with the abduction, torture and murder in December 2015 of Wesley Schneider.

Both Cook and Gerard received minor sentences for their part in activities linked with the murder including ferrying a suspect out of the kingdom via Cambodia.

Police to re-arrest Australian death row inmate after he is released under court order at Bangkwang prison

Mr Bagnato was sentenced to death for his part in the murder but was discreetly released from Bangkok’s Bangkwang Prison by court order sometime later and vanished.

Many journalists in Australia have since tried to track down the gang member but to no avail.

Condemned Australian’s father, Paul Cook, pursued his case on media channels last year pleading for help

Last year, after the Rayong Appeals Court upheld the death sentence against his son, Mr Paul Cook, the father of Luke Cook, made an emotional appeal on Australian TV for authorities there to make representations to the Thai government on his son’s behalf.

The older man vehemently denied his son’s links with the biker gang and criminality in Pattaya.

‘My son is a good man,’ he told 9 News in Australia last year. ‘I can say now my son is no Hell’s Angel, he has not ever been associated with a group like that.’

He claimed that his son was a legitimate businessman who ran a tourism enterprise in Pattaya with his wife Ms Kanyarat and flew in and flew out to maintain his job offshore where he worked in the catering industry.

Luke and Kanyarat were very well known as a power pair in Pattaya running Jolly’s Piss Stop Bar and Restaurant and the attached Jolly’s Hotel in Soi Bua Khao.

Convicted couple were highly respected and well known in Pattaya with a thriving business concern

Paul Cook claimed that his son had been framed in relation to the case while police sources in Pattaya have let it be known that they were satisfied with the case against both the younger Australian and his wife.

Pattaya Police sources had confidence in the case

Officers were in no doubt that the group constituted a criminal gang.

However, last March, from prison, Luke Cook made a desperate public plea protesting his innocence.

‘I am not asking you to feel sorry for me, I just ask you to consider the facts as they happened,’ he posted on Facebook. ‘I was not involved in any way in the importation of drugs.’

Thai legal firm took up the case last year after their appeal was rejected by the Rayong Appeals Court

Last week, a Thai legal firm, Thailand Bail, issued a press release stating that the firm had taken on the case just after last year’s Appeal Court verdict where the death sentences against the two men were upheld.

It stated that on the 14th of September 2021, the Thai Supreme Court had dismissed all charges against the two men and the woman linked to the elaborate plot to import crystal methamphetamine.

Both men were deported from Thailand with the assistance of their legal team. Mr Cook is now understood to be back in Australia while Mr Gerard has returned to the United States.

Background to the case is a yacht called ‘Jomandy’ which picked up a drug consignment offshore on June 15th 2015 from a craft sent from China

The background to the drugs case was the plot to import drugs from criminal kingpins in China funded by the Hells Angels Bikers Gang in Australia through Mr Schneider.

A company was formed by Mr Schneider called Global Marine Solution which purchased the yacht ‘Jomandy’. The yacht was then transferred to Mr Cook and his Thai wife, Ms Kanyarat.

On June 15th 2015, it is understood from police sources that Mr Cook and Mr Gerard were aboard the yacht when it set off from a marina in Pattaya to rendezvous with Chinese craft offshore picking up 50 kg of crystal methamphetamine.

Later, approached by a routine patrol of the Royal Thai Navy, a decision was made to throw the drugs overboard resulting in bales of narcotics turning up in coastal areas shortly afterwards prompting a police investigation.

Father pointed the figure at Scotsman and former police volunteer Douglas Shoebridge wanted in Thailand for human trafficking

Mr Cook claimed that his son’s arrest and conviction was linked to the activities and evidence of a Mr Douglas Shoebridge, a one-time police volunteer in Pattaya but later unmasked as a human trafficker importing African prostitutes onto the streets of Bangkok.

Scotsman known as ‘Big Daddy’ escapes Thailand before arrest warrant is issued for human trafficking

In 2020, the Australian’s father claimed that Mr Cook and his wife Kanyarat moved in the same circles as Mr Shoebridge in Pattaya and that Mr Shoebridge held a grievance against the pair as he was once refused when he requested a loan from the couple.

Shoebridge has also been implicated by an inquest into the death of Mr Schneider in New South Wales which linked him to the rented house where the former crime boss was tortured and murdered.

Mr Shoebridge aka ‘Big Daddy’ has both UK and Australian citizenship hailing originally from Scotland.

He is the subject of an arrest warrant issued in Thailand in 2019 linked with human trafficking. According to unconfirmed reports, he may be currently living in Australia.

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Further reading:

Australian man pleads for help for his son and Thai wife sentenced to death for failed drug trafficking plot at sea

Scotsman known as ‘Big Daddy’ escapes Thailand before arrest warrant issued for human trafficking

Police to re-arrest Australian death row inmate after he is released under court order at Bangkwang prison

93% of Thai people want to see the death penalty put to use to curb shocking murders and drug gangs

Pattaya police arrest 6 people in major drugs raid on a house linked to Aussie crime gang network