Friends' shock at Torquay man's Thai murder
FRIENDS have spoken of their shock after a former Torquay rail worker was gunned down in a street murder in Thailand.
Stephen Phillips, 59, whose mother lives in Hele Village and used to live in Babbacombe, was shot execution style as he drove to his home in Baan Phai in rural Thailand on his small Honda motorcycle, with one bullet to his head, one to his abdomen and two to his legs. He died instantly.
Police have arrested and charged his young Thai bride and two men with conspiracy to murder.
Former neighbours in Torquay were shocked as details of the gruesome killing were revealed. His 81-year-old mother, Anne Kingston, lives in Hele Road. She did not want to talk about the tragedy.
Former neighbour Paul Field, who lived near Mr Phillips in Warbro Road, Torquay, for about five years said: "I was so shocked when I heard.
"He worked for Network Rail but he always said he was going to travel when he retired and sure enough he sold up the house.
"It is very sad. He was quite a naive person, I'd say. He lived alone but his mother used to come in and clean for him. Other members of his family would come down and stay with him during the summer for their holidays."
Two gunmen who are believed to have fled over the border into Cambodia are still being sought by police.
The street execution of the retired Network Rail supervisor was paid for by his 29-year-old Thai wife Wilaiwan Phillips, 29, police said.
She was arrested and charged along with her Thai-Chinese lover and the Thai man alleged to have driven two gunmen to the scene of the crime.
Britons living near him have described him as 'gullible and naive'.
Police say he may have inadvertently given his wife the cash to pay for his own execution. He had gone through a Buddhist marriage ceremony with Wilaiwan, but they were not married in a civil ceremony.
On August 16 this year he wrote a last will and testament in favour of his wife.
A friend from Manchester, where his relatives still lived, said: "He was back in the UK earlier this year and said he was not happy with his marriage. He'd had £12,000 in one bank account which he reported recently had been reduced to £300 by his wife.
"He was a quiet unassuming person. Apart from his marriage he loved the life in Thailand."
Network Rail spokesman John Baker said: "Stephen Phillips was a popular and well-known person locally. We are very sorry to hear of his untimely death in Thailand."
Other expats in Khon Kaen where he was a regular at the No. 1 bar in Khon Kaen said he was not happy with his wife.
Police said almost £12,000 had been withdrawn from his bank account. It is believed he had recently taken out a £200,000 life insurance policy.
After the killing three weeks ago Wilaiwan blamed his death on a 'Mafia group' who, she said, had cheated her husband.
A police spokesman said: "The driver has confessed and we know the identity of the gunmen. We believe they may have crossed the Cambodian border, but it is only a matter of time before we arrest them."