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Thailand's Killer Cops, Foreigners Killed While In Police Custody

Updated on February 3, 2012

Thailand's Killer Cops

In June of 2011, a report was published in the local Phuket papers that a Russian tourist had died while in police custody. The bizarre tale stated that Evgeny Otrubyannikov, 25, was found dead. apparently hanging by his shirt in a cell in Kathu Police Station. The report offered little details, however police officers claimed to have arrested Mr. Otrubyannikov, after he had apparently tried to set himself ablaze, covering himself with gasoline and also attempting to set fire to a group of rental motorcycles on Patong Beach Road. The owner of the rental motorcycles claimed that he had never had any previous dealings with the man, and he offered a statement under the condition of anonymity, the operator said that the man appeared at about 5:30pm with two gasoline-filled bottles and a cigarette lighter.

Violent disputes over motorcycles for hire are quite common on the island of Phuket, and many of the rental operators are known to have connections to the mafia. Police officers are also known to assist these corrupt rental operators in scams, extorting money from tourists, similar to the high profile cases of scams involving jet-skis. Despite the questionable manner in which this man was said to have taken his own life, and the bizarre unexplained behavior that lead to his arrest, there is no evidence to prove any wrongdoing by any police officers.

While researching this story, and digging through the archives for more information, I came across a similar event that took place in Patong almost 2 decades earlier. The similarities are disturbing, and in this case there is sufficient evidence to suggest that police may have participated in covering up the truth regarding the cause of death of another foreigner while in police custody.

Accusations of corruption involving police officers is common in Thailand, where it seems that cops live outside the law, with no accountability for their actions. These stories are so common, that it would be impossible to include all of them in just 1 article, so I have decided to write a series of articles titled "Thailand's Killer Cops". My intention is to increase awareness of just how common these incidents are, as the more people talk about issues like this, the more difficult it is for corrupt cops and governments to cover them up. In this article we will expose the shocking similarities of 2 separate incidents that occurred almost 20 years apart, unfortunately this is likely going to provide us with more questions than answers.

The Last Days of Charles Betcher

Phuket Thailand 1994 , American tourist Charles Betcher had come to Phuket to to dive with members of a local scuba diving club, when all of a sudden his holiday went horribly wrong. He had told his friends back in the USA that he was having problems with a woman named Malee Rakkandee, who worked as a masseuse on Patong Beach. He said that she had been asking him for money, and pressuring him about a loan. He also said that he feared for his life, and he had noticed two men following him and staring at him, trying to intimidate him.

A few days after expressing concern to his friends back home, Mr Betcher was involved in a series of bizarre events, where he is said to have behaved erratically and appeared to be out of control. First it was reported that Mr Betcher arrived at Phuket International Airport, where he ran past security and immigration, checkpoints all the way to the boarding area. He was taken by police to Vatchira Hospital for evaluation. A doctor who examined him there said "His face looked as if he had not bathed in two days," says Somjai Lertrakkul, an emergency-room nurse. "He didn't look crazy, but when he spoke he sounded crazy."

The following day he apparently showed up at a gas station, and threatened to ignite two of the pumps with a pocket lighter before attendants chased him away. In an attempt to explain the gas station episode, he said he did it because he wanted a big crowd around. He was afraid someone was after him. Another incident that involved damaging property at a souvenir shop resulted in Mr. Betcher being arrested and taken into police custody.

While in custody, Betcher was badly injured, and needed to be taken to the hospital for treatment. The police claimed that Betcher had rammed his own head into the cell wall repeatedly, causing his injuries, and they provided statements from other prisoners to back up this claim. While in the hospital, Mr Betcher asked doctors to contact the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, they placed a call to the Embassy, however they were unable to contact an appropriate official, so they left a message. According to U.S. Embassy staff, despite repeated attempts to contact Mr Betcher at the hospital, staff refused to let them speak with him.

On the night of May 16, Betcher died, allegedly of respiratory failure. His family was convinced that there was more to the story than they were being told, so they hired Dr. Robert Kurtzman, a respected forensic pathologist in Grand Junction, Colorado. Kurtzman concluded that Betcher had suffered the head cut and the neck injury at different times. What's more, he considered it unlikely that banging against a wall had caused any of the wounds. "The pattern of injury on top of his head is not typical for a person who runs into a wall," says Kurtzman. "It is consistent with a blow to the head by a narrow, hard object." According to a source close to the investigation, in November pathologists at the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington reviewed the autopsy data and agreed that Betcher was a victim of homicide.

According to the Betcher family, Charles had no history of mental illness, and was not known to use drugs, he didn't even drink alcohol. Charles Betcher was an accomplished mountain climber, a scuba diving enthusiast, and a respected member of the search-and-rescue unit in his hometown of Vail Colorado. The Betcher family believes that Charles may have been drugged and robbed, and they do not accept the findings of the Thai authorities.

With the consent of Thai authorities, the FBI dispatched several experts in September of 1994 to examine the dark stains in the cell where Betcher supposedly tried to kill himself. According to a report in People Magazine, the test results on blood stains in the cell where Thai police claimed Betcher had injured himself, concluded that one stain on the wall was not blood at all, while a stain on the floor was animal blood.

Now almost 20 years on, the death of Charles Betcher remains a mystery, however the evidence seems to suggest that there is more to the story than was told by the Thai police. In the case of Russian tourist Evgeny Otrubyannikov, the official police story was widely accepted, and to the best of our knowledge, no further investigation was carried out.



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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have viewed the Mekong many times from Nong Khai and Phon Phisai. I've mnlaiy been sat at market restaurants and once in the Tha Sadet market in Nong Khai myself and Wi were sat there eating fish looking at the quiet waters when all of a sudden a storm brewed on the Laos side and then whoosh, it whipped across the water and battered Nong Khai for a good twenty minutes. It was awesome. The river is a big big economic source for traders on both sides of the Mekong but when I look over at Laos I can't help but think as much as Thailand has its troubles Laos lags a long way behind in the standard of life its people live. A river that in someways divides two very different ways of life..-= Martynb4s last blog .. =-.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi there, you are more than welcome to join us this cniomg Thursday, 31 January at 0900hrs. You can connect with us on Skype at brian-thailand.The session will go for three hours (0900hrs-1200hrs) it is informal, yet structured. In this past week's session, we covered:* Empowerment Framework Strategy for transformation* Empowerment methodology* Some Empowerment Tools Techniques for Transformation and Behaviour Change Growing Edge Facilitation, Visualisation, Creating a Growing Edge* Qualities of an Empowering Guide (Coach)We are making available an MP3 recording of each dialogue as a means to continue and intensify learning for all parties, but also to prepare those who wish to join at a later stage.The next session will cover:* Rec-cap* Qualities of an Empowering Guide Principles of Manifestation Creative Thought, Mental Clearing, Vision* Empowerment Coaching Framework Intuitive Knowing, Practices, Steps in coaching* Understanding Major Growth Issues in the life of an individualSessions three and four will include:* Empowerment Methodology* Interventions* Growing Edge Facilitation* The Empowering Space Characteristics, Framework of operations. Ethics, Service Agreements* Use of various forms of learning and information processing techniques music, etc.* Other agreed topicsThe dialogue is meant to be flexible and remain able to adjust to the needs of the participants. There are three blocks to the process.The first block of the dialogue (current) is a mixture of exploration of theory and some practical exercises in-as-far as this is useful via electronic communication. This is a block of four three-hour sessions.The second block entails selecting three clients who will be coached by you the participant. During this period of six months, participants may hook up with a coaching buddy, or agree to be available to each other for regular exchange of experiences and ideas in support of each others' growth as a coach. We will agree on meeting as a group on two occasions via skype to share experiences in the larger group. During these sessions I will guide participants through a growth facilitation process as they present specific growth issues. This serves to reinforce the learning around transformation and growing edge facilitation.This is a block of six months.The third block will focus on wrapping up, sharing of learnings, exchange of highlights and growth experiences in coaching, Coaching as a social enterprise, focus on People, Planet, Profit, Marketing (Right notification), Use of electronic media and other forms in your coaching business, etc.This is a block of two three hour sessions.Please keep a look-out for an update here on this website.

    • TravelinAsia profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia

      Mr Singh,

      There is nothing to suggest that either of these two tourists came to Phuket seeking sex for hire. Mr Betcher came with a female friend from America, who returned home just a few days prior to his death. Let us not confuse the issue of corruption and violence with the sex trade. As much as many people would like to blame all the world's problems on sex and prostitution, there is no indication to suggest that prostitution had anything to do with the deaths of either of these men.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      9 years ago from UAE

      looks like the sex paradise is paying for its ungodly sins.


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