A 60-year-old Australian man has been remanded in custody and formerly declared a suspect in the fatal weekend shooting of 46-year-old American tourist Gary Bruce Poretsky 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 Mr Poretsky, a resident of Hawaii, in a Chiang Mai restaurant.
In a video conference hearing at Chiang Mai Local Court, Chiang Mai police captain Somsak Pamthong requested Mr Douglas be held without bail to allow police to conduct forensic investigations into the shooting.
Captain Pamthong said that even though Mr Douglas had admitted shooting Mr Poretsky 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.
Admissions already made
“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 Pamthong said.
According to Captain Pamthong, Douglas said he shot Mr Poretsky “because he doesn’t like Americans. He thinks they talk down to everyone and consider themselves better than everyone else”, he said.
Mr Douglas, who claims to be a Vietnam War veteran and a former member of the 5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, was not represented at the brief hearing.
After the hearing he said he had “no regrets” over killing Mr Poretsky, who was visiting Thailand on a two week trip to receive dental treatment in Bangkok.
Large amount of cash
At the time of his death Mr Poretsky was found to be carrying US$6,000 in $100 notes leading to 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”, a staff member said.
According to restaurant staff Mr 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.
Police have said they intend to charge Mr 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.
Mr 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, as is customary in Thailand.
Photos John Le Fevre
- American tourist not liked – killed (video)
- Arrest of William Thomas Douglas for the murder of Gary Bruce Poretsky in Chiang Mai (video)
He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.
He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.
In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.
Most recently he was the Thailand editor/ managing editor of AEC News Today . Prior to that he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.
In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.
Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me
Latest posts by John Le Fevre (see all)
- Kaavan’s great escape photo special (video & gallery) – November 30, 2020
- A real life fairy tale: Cambodia provides sanctuary to Kaavan, the world’s loneliest elephant (video & gallery) *updated – November 30, 2020
- Thailand’s young rice farmers boost income, slash costs with switch to organic, AWD method – May 29, 2015
- Does Thailand’s failure to communicate mask a bigger problem? – May 25, 2015