CHIANG MAI, Thailand – When Kirsty Jones, 23, left her home in Tredomen, Wales, in 2000, she had no idea it would be the last.
Kirsty was a Liverpool University graduate. Her parents, Glyn and Sue Jones ran a 400-acre beef and sheep farm.
Her mother described her as “bright, intelligent, independent” with the “world at her feet.”
After graduating from college, Kirsty decided to travel for two years. By early August 2000, she had visited Malaysia and Singapore before arriving in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is known for its Buddhist temples, vibrant nightlife, and historic walled center. It’s popular among backpackers, digital nomads, and expatriates (expats) for its low cost of living.
Hostels are a backpacker’s preferred lodging choice because they are inexpensive, and there are plenty in Chiang Mai.
Three months into her trip, Kirsty arrived in Chiang Mai on Aug. 4, 2000, and checked into the Aree Guesthouse and Massage School on Moon Muang Road Soi 9. The room was 60 Thai baht (THB) ($1.73) per night and big enough for a bed but not much else.
Aree was known as an establishment where drugs were readily available. In 1999, the Royal Thai Police (RTP) shut it down for six months after a backpacker died of a heroin overdose. Whether Kirsty knew about drugs at Aree remains unknown.
The trip was going smoothly for Kirsty; she took pictures of elephants and the jungle on a three-day trek in the hills as part of a tour group. She also befriended several other travelers, including British backpackers Nathan Foley, 27, and Sarah Wiggett. The new friends hung out at a Thai bakery and Irish bar together.
On Aug. 9, 2000, the trio dined at a Thai restaurant in the evening. Afterward, Foley left to call his girlfriend in Spain while Kirsty and Wiggett strolled around the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, where vendors sold crafts, food, and souvenirs.
Wiggett returned to her guesthouse at 11:30 p.m. It is unclear what time Kirsty returned to Aree or whether she was alone. The bazaar is about a 25-minute walk to Moon Muan Rd Soi 9.
On Aug. 10, 2000, Kirsty’s battered body was found in her room 15 hours after she had been raped and strangled. She was face down, partially clothed, with a piece of dark blue sarong wrapped tightly around her neck. She had been wearing the sarong as a skirt.
The delay in reporting her body was unclear initially, but the investigation into her murder was in shambles from the beginning.
When police arrived on the scene, reporters and a Thai television crew had already been inside Kirsty’s room.
British journalist Andrew Drummond contacted a local reporter, Pim Kemasingki, to go to the crime scene and report back to him. At the time, Drummond was based in Bangkok, 400 miles south.
According to Kemasingki, reporters in Thailand are usually the first to arrive at a crime scene because they carry police radios. She estimated at least 20 people had entered Kirsty’s room, and some had touched her belongings and bed sheets, contaminating any evidence the killer might have left behind.
BBC hired Kemasingki the next day as their interpreter, working with British reporter David Willis.
Within two days of the murder, the case made international headlines, and the police focused on seven possible suspects — five foreigners and two Thai men.
Australian Stuart Crichton, 28, was staying at Aree. RTP arrested him after finding heroin and marijuana in his room.
Glen was an ex-Mormon who claimed he was a former CIA spy. He was staying in Thailand to recover from head injuries from a car accident.
A known heroin addict, Stephen Trigg, 27, had traveled for four years before arriving in Chiang Mai. At 1 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2000, he heard Kirsty scream, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, get off me, get off me.” When other guests came to investigate, he ordered them to return to bed and mind their business. Trigg and another suspect went downstairs but decided not to open Kirsty’s door after wrongly concluding she had been in a lover’s quarrel.
Trigg later said he believed the killer was a Westerner. When he heard Kirsty’s screams, he said it did not sound like she was talking to a local.
Foley, who had been with Kirsty and Wiggett for dinner, did not return to Aree until 3 a.m. on Aug. 11, 2000. RTP questioned him for 13 hours. Foley, an Australian, had stopped in Chiang Mai on his way to Kent, England, to visit relatives for the first time, The Guardian reported.
Andy Gill, a 32-year-old expat from Northern Ireland, was the owner of Aree. Some reports say he bought the guesthouse with an inheritance fund; others say he had sold his home in Andorra to pay for it.
Gill was a member of Chiang Mai Hash House Harriers, a running club for expats who love to drink but want to stay fit.
He claimed he was not at the guesthouse when Kirsty was killed and that a Thai friend would testify he did not return to his room until after the murder.
Gill had a Thai girlfriend and had been living in Thailand for 12 years. He voluntarily disappeared after the murder because he did not want the police to discover his visa had expired two years before.
Police arrested him at a Chiang Mai bar on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2000, after discovering the expired visa. He was fined 2,000 THB ($57.49 ). RTP later charged him with conspiracy to commit murder. Gill denied involvement in the killing.
Surin Chanpranet (in some reports, the last name is listed as Channet and Janpamet), 47, is the most suspicious of the eight suspects. He was Aree’s manager and ran a Thai massage school on the upper level of the guesthouse. According to The Daily Telegraph, Aree was in his name as foreigners cannot own land in Thailand. Police found amphetamines and marijuana in his room and a postcard of a nude foreign woman in bondage.
Police arrested him in connection with Kirsty’s death. He was the man with Trigg who told the guests to go back to bed after hearing Kirsty’s screams. However, Chanpranet had an alibi, albeit weak, provided by his wife, Panthipa, who suffered from a brain injury and mental instability. She told the police her husband was in their second-floor room all night, except when he and Trigg heard the noise from Kirsty’s room and left to investigate.
About five weeks after the murder, Chanpranet claimed he observed Gill having sex with Kirsty through curtains. He later changed his story and said he only saw Gill leaving her room. Chanpranet died in 2007.
Narong ‘Abraham’ Pojanathamrongpongse, 34, was also a Chiang Mai tour guide. After the murder, he burst into the police press conference and told reporters that a group of plain-clothed men, who he assumed was police officers, kidnapped, drugged, stripped, and tortured him.
Kemasingki wrote, “He was threatened with summary execution and told that since he was only a hill tribe and not a real Thai citizen, he should confess to the murder of Kirsty Jones and help the country.”
Narong refused. At some point, he passed out, and when he awoke, he was in a jail cell at the police station.
Kemasingki saw visible signs of a beating on Narong and believed his account of the kidnapping.
Some reports say that a Thai tour guide named Johnny had escorted Kirsty in a group of nine backpackers on the three-day hiking expedition southwest of Chiang Mai and was one of the last people to see her alive. Other sources say the guide was Narong.
A young Aree maid initially told the RTP she had discovered Kirsty’s body between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 10, 2000.
Nong Nee, 17, later admitted to lying about the discovery and said that Chanpranet had found the body sometime between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., hours before Kirsty’s death was reported to the police. Some reports say Gill found the body.
Nee claimed that Chanpranet and Gill ordered her to keep quiet while “they figured things out.” Gill knew when the police showed up that they would likely find out about his out-of-date visa. Chanpranet worried about the drugs in his room.
Thai police were convinced that Kirsty was murdered by one of the seven men. They were optimistic about an arrest within the days following the killing.
But the murder investigation was botched from the beginning, starting with the trampled crime scene. Then came the outlandish claims.
Before the release of the autopsy results, the Chief of Police for the Municipality, Colonel Prasit Thamdi, asserted that Kirsty had consensual sex with a man, and he unintentionally strangled her. “She knew her killer. Her death might have been accidental,” he said.
After the autopsy revealed Kirsty had suffered a violent sexual assault (Drummond reported in 2016 that it occurred anally), Kemasingki said reporters published Thamdi’s statement in over twenty newspapers worldwide. Within 24 hours, he was sent to Isan, a region in northeast Thailand.
The only evidence that would prove guilt or innocence was DNA. And the DNA itself would become the object of a bizarre tale.
Seminal fluid was recovered inside Kirsty’s body and on the sarong that strangled her and sent for DNA testing. All eight suspects willingly gave blood samples to the authorities, who tested Chanpranet’s friends, three Thais and a Frenchman.
Colonel Suthep Dejraksa told Kemasingki a wild story that he had heard on the night of Jones’s murder about a foreign man who paid a few tuk-tuk drivers for their seminal fluid; the foreigner then must have planted it inside Kirsty’s body.
Later, in 2002, Thai police said transvestites Jessada Wiriyasakul, 28, and Cha Kesarachai, 26, confessed that Chanpranet hired them to find false DNA to plant at the scene to cover up for the killer.
Dr. Tanin Bhoopat, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Forensic Medicine at Chiang Mai University, said Jones’s violent rape caused the seminal fluid to lodge deep inside her body and occurred before death. Dr. Bhoopat also said the DNA belonged to an Asian male.
DNA testing ruled out all 11 male suspects. The foreign nationals were given their passports back and allowed to leave Thailand. Police dropped Gill’s murder charge in November 2000.
RTP was heavily criticized for how it handled the murder investigation.
After hearing concerns from the Jones family, Dyfed-Powys Police flew to Thailand in 2001 to assist the RTP. Welsh forensic experts also arrived in Thailand and secured the killer’s DNA. Police revealed the results in January 2002.
Dyfed-Powys Police said that the DNA did not match Narong’s, but the testing showed a remarkable similarity to his DNA; they believed it belonged to one of Narong’s relatives.
The media “scrambled to find members of Narong’s family who could possibly match the DNA,” Kemasingki wrote. But their inquiries revealed nothing.
In 2011, Welsh police investigated a tip about a man named on a YouTube video as a possible suspect in Kirsty’s murder. An Australian man uploaded the video and said the police needed to investigate a Thai professor at Chiang Mai University and another man, both seen near the Aree guesthouse around the time of Jones’s murder.
The other man was a Thai tourist police officer, but a DNA test ruled him out. Dyfed Powys Police requested a DNA sample from the professor, but he initially refused. However, he eventually relented and tested negative.
In August 2020, Thai police closed the Jones murder case after the 20-year statute of limitations on murder expired. Even if police identify the killer, police can never charge him with the crime.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
Kirsty’s case had many discrepancies in all the information I found. I’m sure that had much to do with how the media received the details.
Kirsty’s murder is kind of weird. We have all these suspects, some of whom appear guilty, but DNA ruled them out.
Trigg and others heard Kristy’s cries for help and ignored them. A lover’s quarrel? WTF? They could have knocked on the door to see if she was okay. If they had, she might be alive today.
We know the killer was an Asian male and possibly a relative of Narong’s.
The killer could have spotted Kirsty and Sarah Wiggett at the bazaar and followed Kirsty to Aree. He might have forced himself into her room as she unlocked the door.
We do not know what Kirsty did after she and Sarah went their separate ways at 11:30 p.m. Did she go directly to Aree or make a stop along the way? How did she get back to Aree? Walk? Use a tuk-tuk? The latter seems likely, so maybe the killer was her driver.
Maybe she had befriended a Thai man and willingly let him into her room, then rejected his sexual advances.
We know she was in her room at 1 a.m. when Trigg heard her telling someone to get off her and leave her room.
Undoubtedly, Aree was a shady place to stay, and Kirsty probably did not know about the drugs and whatnot that went on there. Or maybe she did and did not care because it was cheap.
Kemasingki wrote in her series of articles that the RTP had investigated claims of Chanpranet and Gill “secretly filming guests through a hole in the floorboard,” but they found no videos. Part of those claims involved the men purposely putting Kirsty in the room below one of theirs. But nobody could confirm that rumor.
There were whispers of a pornography ring at the guesthouse, but nothing more substantial.
I have a feeling that Chanpranet and Gill KNEW who killed Kirsty, and I wonder if they were involved indirectly, without evidence.
Who do you think killed Kirsty Jones?