A retired rail worker was gunned down by hitmen after his young Thai wife used his money to pay professionals to carry out the kill, say police.
Stephen Phillips, 59, from Torquay, Devon, was shot dead last month as he rode his Honda motorbike near his home in the remote village of Baan Phai, about 250 miles north-east of Bangkok.
Mr Phillips’ 29-year-old wife Wilaiwan, and two Thai men, one believed to be her Thai-Chinese lover, have been charged by police with conspiracy to murder.
Officers think the former Network Rail supervisor may have unwittingly given his wife the money to pay for his own murder.
The hitmen shot Mr Phillips in the abdomen and both legs before a final bullet was fired at his head – a shooting which shows all the hallmarks of a classic ‘hit’.
It is believed Mr Phillips had recently taken out a £200,000 life insurance policy and almost £12,000 had been withdrawn from his bank account in the weeks leading up to the shooting, it was reported in The Sun.
However, Wilaiwan, whom Mr Phillips met on the internet, has denied any involvement in her husband’s death and said the couple had been cheated out of £7,000 by underworld mobsters in an investment scam.
She told police: ‘These men were not local. They travel from province to province and cheat everyone.
‘My husband was angry with me. He said he was going to meet him.’
According to Andrew Drummond, friends who lived near Mr Phillips in Thailand said he was nicknamed ‘the Wounded Buffalo’ because of his ‘gullible and naive’ nature.
‘He 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.’
Mr Phillips moved to the South-East Asian country after taking early retirement and got married two and a half years ago in a Buddhist ceremony.
Thai police did not comment on Wilaiwan’s story but a Khon Kaen Police spokesman said: ‘The murder investigation is ongoing and no suspects have been ruled out.
‘We expect to make an arrest within a week. Because a foreigner has been killed extra emphasis has been put on the investigation.
‘The driver has confessed and we know the identify of the gunmen.’