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UK police fly to Thailand to probe expat teacher's wife death (1)
Author: EnglishTeacher    2023-02-28


A British teacher whose Thai wife, known as the 'Lady of the Hills', was mysteriously murdered 20 years ago has refused to meet with detectives who flew 6,000 miles from Yorkshire to question him.

Even though David Armitage decided to snub the North Yorkshire cold case team who had travelled to Thailand, he could soon find himself at the centre of a Thai police investigation into the death of his wife Lamduan Seekanya in 2004.

The case has puzzled police for nearly two decades since Lamduan's semi-naked body was found in a stream at a Yorkshire Dales beauty spot, her murder has remained a riddle.

For 15 years after she was discovered by ramblers, she was unidentified and was buried in a churchyard with only the name 'Lady of the Hills' inscribed on her gravestone.

University lecturer Mr Armitage, 59, who lives in western Thailand, has always denied any part in the killing and told journalists three years ago he would be only too happy to give the British police a statement.


David Armitage


Lamduan Seekanya


Lamduan met Mr Armitage in 1990 while he was working as a teacher in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They moved to the UK and were living in Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria, with his parents when she disappeared. The family are pictured outside their home in Rugby, Warwickshire


Lamduan's body was found at this spot by walkers in the Yorkshire Dales in September 2004. 

Covid delayed the British team's trip to Thailand until this month when they worked alongside the Thai police's Department of Special Investigation (DSI), taking detailed statements from Lamduan's family and friends.

But the key witness in the case remains Mr Armitage himself.

Yesterday, the head of the DSI's foreign affairs and international relations division, Udomkann Warotamasikkhadit, said Mr Armitage had also initially agreed to come and give evidence.

But on the appointed day he refused. The police chief added: 'He said he didn't feel well and also had some personal issues.'

So the disappointed British police have headed home, at least for now.

Meanwhile a Thai government source has confirmed that it may launch its own investigation into the puzzling case under a law allowing murders of Thai citizens to be prosecuted wherever in the world the crime took place.

Murder in Thailand still carries a possible death penalty by lethal injection.

'If such an investigation was launched in Thailand, it would be with the collaboration of the British police,' said a Thai police source.

'No decision has yet been made, but nothing has been ruled out.'

In a major development, UK detectives also interviewed Lamduan's parents Joomsri and her husband Buasa in their village in north-east Thailand.

Joomsri, 76, wept quietly when asked about her daughter and said: 'I've answered so many questions about her. The British police were here for two days asking everything about her life and it's very upsetting to bring it all back again.'

Lamduan, 36, was living with David and their two young children at his parents' home in Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria when she vanished in 2004.

The Seekanyas reported their daughter missing to Thai police a few weeks after her disappearance, but it is not believed that the information was passed onto UK authorities.

Mr Armitage did not apparently file a missing person report about his wife. He told the couple's children that Lamduan had left him for another man, the family say.

Joomsri believes that Mr Armitage could answer questions the family have about their daughter's final days, but say he has not been to visit them.

From what Lamduan told her, she believes the Armitages' marriage was in trouble.


The Seekanyas, Joomsri (right) and Buasa (left)



She said: 'David also lives in Thailand - why wouldn't he have come here after she went missing to talk to me and my husband? He never showed his face here.'

Mr Armitage met his wife in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, where he was teaching English in 1990.

They married within a few months and then moved to Britain, where their two children, George and Charlena, were born. Lamduan already had an older son, Khwan, from a previous marriage, who now lives in Belfast.

After Lamduan's disappearance, Mr Armitage returned to Thailand, settling in Kanchanaburi near the Burmese border.

He teaches English for business at the city's Rajabhat University and has repeatedly denied any involvement in Lamduan's killing, despite a whispering campaign in some sections of the Thai media.

We attempted to contact Mr Armitage at his home, where neighbours said he has a new Thai girlfriend, but the gates were padlocked shut. 

His daughter Charlena, 23, declined to speak to our reporter and colleagues at the university said he had 'a few days off'.

Speaking to the media in 2019, he insisted: 'I didn't kill my wife. Absolutely not.'

He acknowledged there had been insinuations about his involvement in the case in the Thai media, adding: 'I know the inferences are there but I'm just getting on with my life. It's been a long time.'

He has also previously said he would cooperate with any investigation. 

Detectives believe Lamduan, mother of Mr Armitage's two children, was killed up to three weeks before walkers found her on September 20, 2004, on the Pennine Way near the village of Horton in Ribblesdale.


Mr Armitage 


Mr Armitage pictured with his daughter Charlena


Mr Armitage's son George pictured with his father

She was discovered by walkers face down in a stream wearing just socks and jeans. A ripped bra hung from her left arm. A T-shirt was found nearby and no shoes were ever recovered.

The advanced state of decomposition meant pathologists were unable to establish a cause of death but they did rule out stabbing, blunt force trauma and gunshot wounds.

One possible cause was hypothermia, but despite the fact she was wearing such flimsy clothing and no shoes, police nevertheless decided her death was not suspicious.

Medical experts discovered she was of south-east Asian origin and a coroner returned an open verdict.

Her headstone, paid for by local people in Ribblesdale, reads: 'The Lady of the Hills. Found 20th Sept 2004. Name Not Known. Rest in Peace.'

Following the new appeal, a relative of hers in the UK said she thought the dead woman might be Lamduan, and the focus then switched to Udon Thani, 350 miles from Bangkok, near the Laos border in north-east Thailand, where her parents provided DNA samples to confirm her identity.

Lamduan and David moved to England in 1991. They lived in Portsmouth and Rugby and photos show display an apparently happy home life. But Lamduan's family insist there were marital problems.

In 2003 they moved from Rugby to live with David's parents. Friends and family were later told that Lamduan had vanished or returned to Thailand. David himself returned to Thailand a few years ago with his two children.

Lamduan's mother Joomsri said her daughter's marriage ran into trouble. 

She added: 'He's British and Christian and we're Buddhist. He is a teacher which has a high status in Thailand but we are humble rural people. There were so many differences, but the only time I met him he did seem polite and he was playing with Lamduan's son from her first marriage. '

She said Lamduan made a tearful phone call to her just before she disappeared – calling a neighbour in their village as the family has no phone.

'She said she had no money, not a penny, and so obviously couldn't afford the flight home,' Joomsri recalled. 

'She said she missed home so much.

'It was a very short call. We've not heard a word from her since.'

Lamduan would keep in touch regularly with her parents and when, after a few weeks, the letters and phone calls stopped, they reported her missing to the Thai police.

Joomsri recalled that in 2016 Lamduan and David's son George, now 31, arrived at her home hoping to make contact with his mother. He was marrying a Chinese girl and wanted to invite his mother to the wedding.

Joomsri said: 'He said his father had told him that Lamduan left him and returned to Thailand to marry someone else.

'When I told George my suspicions that she was dead, he burst out crying and refused to believe it. I understand that it's not an easy thing for a son to hear. I have never heard from him again.'

We spoke at the half-finished shell of a house which is intended to be the family home, as their present one is in poor repair. 

But the money ran out long ago, not helped by a conman who fleeced the family for £10,000 with false promises to find Lamduan, before she was identified.

Joomsri is clearly tired of the questions and just wants answers, but has little faith she will receive justice from the law.

'I'm not asking the police for anything because I believe in karma,' she said.

'Whatever you have done in this world, you will face the consequences in this life or the next life. I don't want to get involved in other people's karma, it will take care of itself.'

Before she left for Britain all those years ago, Lamduan and her new husband David were blessed in a religious ceremony in the Buddhist temple in her home village of Baan Pone.

Now the only memorial to their lost daughter is a colourful shrine in the same temple's courtyard which her parents asked the monks to dedicate to her.

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