A 60-year-old former Perth resident faces the death penalty in Thailand after he was arrested over the fatal killing of a 46-year-old Hawaii resident in the northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai over the weekend.
William Thomas Douglas, who claims to be a Vietnam War veteran, handed himself in to Chiang Mai police one and a half hours after shooting dead 46-year-old American tourist Gary Bruce Poretsky in an all-night Thai restaurant popular with local Chiang Mai citizens.
Poretsky, a native of Massachusetts is reported to have gone to the Keari restaurant with a Chiang Mai female who he had befriended on his visit to the the northern Thailand city.
According to police Captain Somsak Pamthong, Poretsky’s arrived in Thailand two weeks ago with the main objective to receive dental treatment in Bangkok, where high quality dentistry is considerably less expensive than in the US or Europe.
“After he had the dental treatment he came here for a holiday,” Captain Somsak said.
According to restaurant staff the victim was introduced to the Douglas by the the girl who was accompanying him, on the mistaken belief that one foreigner would enjoy talking to another.
Douglas, a long-term resident of Chiang Mai, is fluent in the Thai language and has a Thai wife.
According to Douglas he has been “working for the police” during his period in Thailand, though Captain Somsak said there was no evidence to support this claim.
Other sources in Chiang Mai describe Douglas as somewhat of a loner and perhaps even a little unbalanced. He is known to have taught English at a number of local schools, though he does not have a work-permit to do so, and is not believed to hold any formal qualifications as a teacher.
Eye witnesses say the two men began talking and the discussion rapidly escalated into an argument. Douglas is alleged to have then withdrawn a 9-mm pistol and shot Poretsky three times in the head and upper body.
Following the shooting Douglas fled the scene but a short time later handed himself in to Chiang Mai police.
According to Captain Somsak, Douglas has admitted shooting the American but claimed he had no intention of killing him. “He said he disliked American’s and thought ‘they talk down to everyone and consider themselves better than everyone,'” Captain Pamthong said.
This view was substantiated by Douglas who said from the Chiang Mai police lockup that he had shot Poretsky, “because I didn’t like him¬† ‚Äì he was crazy.”
From his lock-up cell Douglas maintained his story that he was some kind of informer or under-cover operative for the Thai police.
Thai police have placed the Australian on suicide watch and said he is currently taking medication, though they would not disclose what that medication was or for what purpose.
Douglas will be formerly charged with premeditated murder at a formal sitting of the Chiang Mai court on Monday, March 24, a charge which carries a maximum penalty of death by lethal injection.
He will also be charged with failing to have a permit to carry a firearm, and not having a licence for a firearm.
He is expected to be remanded in custody at Chiang Mai Remand Prison pending the outcome of a ballistics report on the gun, bullets and casings found at the scene.
¬© John Le Fevre, 2008
Related: Aussie shooter front’s Thai Court
Chiang Mai;¬† Gary Bruce Poretsky; Murder; Thailand; Tourist Murder; William Thomas Douglas; Thailand legal system; Crime; Thailand; Northern Thailand
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