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BBC Wales's Nick Palit
"The inquest was told Kirsty Jones body had lain undiscovered in her hostel room for up to 15 hours"
 real 56k

Monday, 21 August, 2000, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Backpacker 'undiscovered for 15 hours'
Police at the Aree Guesthouse
Five suspects have been freed
The body of a Welsh backpacker strangled in a hostel in Thailand lay undiscovered for 15 hours, an inquest has been told.

Kirsty Jones, aged 24, from Tredomen near Brecon in Powys, was killed at the hostel in Chang Mai, north Thailand after a night out with a friend on August 10.

Coroner John Hollis told the inquest at Brecon that as Ms Jones had been strangled, the only conclusion he could draw was that she had been unlawfully killed.

"There is no reason why this particular chapter in the sad story of Kirsty Jones's tragic death could not be brought to a close," he said.

"The only verdict is one of unlawful killing."

Kirsty Jones
Kirsty Jones: Unlawfully killed

The verdict came as police in Thailand revealed they were holding only one man - Surin Chanpranet, the 47-year-old manager of the hostel - in connection with the death.

A second man, a tour guide, was released after questioning.

Coroner's officer Mike Eckley said Ms Jones was strangled within an hour of returning to the Aree House guesthouse in Chang Mai.

PC Eckley said she had returned to the hostel sometime after midnight, and her body was found at 1630 BST the following day.

"She lay undiscovered for almost 15 hours," he said.

"It would appear according to the information that we have that she was attacked almost as soon as she returned home."

Meanwhile, the chief Thai investigator in the case has been transferred after failing to make progress.

Police said a new investigator has been appointed.

Foreign nationals

It follows criticisms that police have dawdled in their investigation and made injudicious and confusing remarks to the public.

On Sunday, Thai police announced that forensic test results had cleared five foreign nationals - including three Britons - who had been suspects.

Steven Trigg, 27, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, Nathan Foley, 26, who holds both British and Australian passports, Australian Stuart Crichton, 28, and Frenchman Jacquel Wilfried were all given their passports back and told they were free to leave the country.

Andrew Gill, 32, the owner of the hostel, is being deported because his visa for Thailand was two years out of date.

The test results followed criticism of the Thai police over their handling of the inquiry.

An unnamed British Embassy official was quoted by a local Thai newspaper -The Nation - describing the investigation as a "shambles".

Conflicting accounts

The official also commented that lurid and conflicting reports of the case have left the family of Ms Jones, who was from Tredomen near Brecon in Powys, distraught.

Allowing local officers and journalists into the graduate's room before the forensic scientists arrived provoked early criticism.

And it was compounded by senior officers' conflicting accounts of the cause of her death.

But General Aram Chanpen, the region's police chief, told a news conference on Sunday that the investigation was going well.

He also revealed that police have two new witnesses - Thai students who had been staying near the Aree guesthouse and had heard Miss Jones's cries for help.

Mr Chanpen also said the search was on for the driver of a Tuk-Tuk - a motorised rickshaw - who is believed to be the last person to have seen Miss Jones alive after bringing her home from the night market.

Arrangements are currently being made for a public memorial for the Liverpool University graduate to take place later this week.

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See also:

20 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thai tests clear five suspects
20 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thai murder police face criticism
11 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Backpackers quizzed over murder
11 Aug 00 | UK
Thailand: Paradise lost?
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