Family left ‘devastated’ after son shot dead at party on Thai island

THE FAMILY of Stephen Ashton, who was shot dead at a New Year’s Eve party in Thailand, said yesterday that they were “completely devastated by the loss of him from our lives”.

He was an innocent bystander simply enjoying New Year cele­brations, they said.

Mr Ashton, 22, a city trader from Purley, south London, was caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between rival gangs. He is said to have been killed by a stray bullet as he danced with friends at a beach bar on the paradise island of Koh Phangan.

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Colonel Kittakarn Kramomthong, chief of police at the island’s station, said officers had arrested a 26-year-old Thai man and confiscated a gun.

The man is expected to be charged with manslaughter.

It was reported that Mr Ashton’s family had travelled to Thailand and were on the way to Koh Phangan to identify his body formally and make arrangements for his repatriation.

British ambassador Mark Kent is expected to visit the scene today.

Thai police said Mr Ashton was with a group of friends and 300 other tourists celebrating the countdown to 2013 at a pub and restaurant called the Zoom Bar when he was shot by a home-made gun at Haad Rin beach.

In a statement issued by the Foreign Office, his family said: “As a family we are completely devastated by the loss of Stephen from our lives.

“He has been taken away from us in such cruel and tragic circumstances, in which he was an innocent bystander simply enjoying New Year celebrations.

“We are comforted in the thought that he was having a fantastic time with friends after such a difficult period following the loss of his much-loved dad, who passed away from a brain tumour in 2011, and the loss of his grandad a few months earlier.

“We were all so proud of him; he was a much-loved son, brother, grandson and nephew. He will be truly missed by his family, but also by the many friends he made during his life.

“We cannot comprehend how someone can carry out such a reckless act, giving such little value to human life.”

Mr Ashton’s MP, Richard Otta­way, said he had been in touch with the Foreign Office to ensure everything was being done to support the investigation.

The Conservative MP, who chairs the foreign affairs select committee, said: “I am assured that they are doing everything in their power to get to the bottom of Mr Ashton’s death, and in supporting his family.

“I have written to Mr Ashton’s family to offer my help in any way that I can. I am determined to ensure that … whoever is responsible for this heinous act is held to account.”

Friends paid tribute to Mr Ashton on social networking sites. Aaron Kelly wrote on Face­book: “Horrible news. Be good up there mate.” Jaydon Gibbs said on Twitter: “My heart is with his family. The nicest guy RIP Stephen Ashton xx.”

Neighbour Dawn Mason, 48, described Mr Ashton as a “very normal, likeable young man”.

His family moved to Purley about three years ago, she said.

Koh Phangan, situated north of tourist haven Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, is a popular destination for backpackers and students on gap years.

One of its attractions is its monthly full moon party at Haad Rin Beach, and many people know it as the setting for Alex Garland’s novel The Beach.

Mr Kent warned of risks to western tourists and urged people to read the travel advice on the Foreign Office website.

“Most people have a very enjoyable holiday, a very trouble-free holiday,” he said. “But there are risks and we’ve set these out in our travel advice.”