A 60-year-old Australian man has been remanded in custody and formerly declared a suspect in the fatal weekend shooting of a 46-year-old American tourist in the northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai.
William Thomas Douglas, a former resident of Willetton in Western Australia, surrendered to Thai police on Saturday one and a half hours after he is alleged to have shot and killed Hawaiian resident Gary Bruce Poretsky in a Chiang Mai restaurant following an altercation.
In a video conference hearing at Chiang Mai Local Court, Chiang Mai police captain Somsak Pamthong requested Douglas be held without bail to allow police to conduct forensic investigations into the shooting.
Captain Somsak said that even though Douglas had admitted shooting the American tourist and had surrendered himself with the weapon to Chiang Mai district police, Thai law required bullets and casings found at the scene to be matched to the weapon surrendered by Douglas.
“We do not expect this case to take a long time. Mr Douglas has already admitted he shot the American tourist, but he said he did not plan to kill him,” Captain Somsak said.
According to Captain Somsak, Douglas said he shot the American tourist “because he doesn’t like Americans. He thinks they talk down to everyone and consider themselves better than everyone else.”
Douglas, who claims to be a Vietnam War veteran and former member of the 5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, was not represented at the brief hearing.
After the hearing Douglas said he had “no regrets” over killing the American tourist, who was visiting Thailand on a two week trip to receive dental treatment in Bangkok where high quality dentistry is considerably less expensive than in the US or Europe.
At the time of his death Mr Poretsky was found to be carrying US$6,000 in US$100 notes and there is some speculation by friends of the dead man in Hawaii that given the obscure location of the restaurant that this could have been a robbery gone bad.
Restaurant staff where the shooting occurred said Mr Poretsky had arrived at the restaurant in the company of “a dark skinned Thai woman identified in local media as having the first name Jirewadee.
They were drinking and the girl invited the man who did the shooting to join them. According to restaurant staff Douglas had shown Mr Poretsky he was carrying a gun earlier in the evening and Mr Poretsky had berated the Australian for carrying a weapon.
An argument then ensued but this was earlier than when Mr Poretsky was shot.
When asked in the court holding cells why he had shot the tourist, Douglas said, “because I didn’t like him – he was crazy.”
Police have said they intend to charge Douglas with premeditated murder, a charge which carries a maximum penalty of death by lethal injection in Thailand. He also faces a number of firearms offences.
Douglas said he plans to plead guilty to the charge of murder when he is formerly charged in the hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.
¬© 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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