British father describes 'ghastly' confrontation with his son's killer
EXCLUSIVE: British father describes ‘ghastly’ moment he came face-to-face with the man who killed his son in a Thai forest, his fury at confronting the ‘coward’ and how his family are ‘heartbroken’ to lose the child they ‘loved very much’
- Body of Woramet Ben Taota, 16, was found in a grove in Thailand on Sunday
- His father Steven Graham, 60, furiously confronted the killer today
The grief-stricken father of a British teenager murdered in Thailand has spoken of his fury after coming face-to-face with his son’s killer, who he branded a ‘coward’.
Steven Graham fought back tears as he described how he became overwhelmed with anger as the suspect was taken to the scene of the horrific crime, where he shouted through the window of a police car: ‘Look me in the eye you b***ard.’
Mr Graham’s son Woramet Ben Taota, 16, was killed on Saturday in Lampang, northern Thailand. His body was found a day later, prompting Mr Graham to rush from his home in Eastbourne, East Sussex to the country.
Today, the British businessman approached the police car carrying Chaiwat Boongarin, 44, who has admitted to killing Ben. The window was briefly lowered before Mr Graham shouted: ‘Scum, look at me in the eye.’
Speaking from northern Thailand after confronting Boongarin – who has confessed to the crime, Mr Graham told MailOnline that he and his family have been left ‘heartbroken’ to lose the child they ‘loved very much’.
The devastated father (pictured) of a British boy found battered to death in Thailand has furiously confronted the man who has admitted to murdering his son, screaming at him through the window of a police car: ‘Look me in the eye, you b***ard’
Sex crimes convict Chaiwat Boongarin (pictured in handcuffs being led by police), 44, said he hit 16-year-old Woramet Ben Taota with a stick when a drug deal went wrong, according to Thai police. Police took him to the forest where Ben’s body was found for a crime reconstruction
The body of Ben, a dual national, was found in a Thai forest on Sunday, prompting his father Steven Graham (pictured shouting through the window of a police car in Thailand on Wednesday), 60, to rush to the country by plane
‘We are heartbroken, 100 per cent heartbroken. Ben was a 16-year-old boy. He was such a joy,’ he said. ‘And so because of all of this and after a 12-hour flight my mind was racing. I was thinking non-stop about Ben. This morning I was very emotional.
‘The way the Thai police do it here is so different from back home.First, we are told to go to the police station and they brought him out.
‘The police told us they were taking us to two locations. The first where he killed Ben and the second where he dumped the body.
‘It was really weird to see it pan out. There must have been up to 100 people who had come out into the street to shout and at abuse him.
‘That’s the way they do it here,’ he said.
Footage from the scene showed Mr Graham, Ben’s mother Ooy Taota, along with other relatives and friends, shouting at the killer as he arrived in a police truck.
Mr Graham – visible shaking with rage – stared through the tinted window of the police truck, his nose inches from the glass, pointing with his finger at the killer sitting in the back seat.
After being moved further back to allow the killer to exit the truck, the devastated father continued to stare him down, yelling over a wall of uniformed police officers.
‘Take his mask off, I want to see his face, you’re a coward,’ Mr Graham shouted at the killer and those escorting him. ‘You’re a coward. Look at me. F**king look at me you b***ard. No you can’t look because you’re a coward. Look at me. You b***ard.’
Boongarin, wearing a mask and a bulletproof vest, was then paraded in handcuffs before being taken to the secluded spot in dense woodland where Ben was found battered to death on Sunday morning, for a crime scene reconstruction.
Officials say the Boongarin claims Ben and his girlfriend Suraphltchaya Khamsa, also 16, were methamphetamine runners for him, but they stole the substances from him. The thug, who has previous convictions for sex crimes, is said to have lured Ben to a forest and then beat him to death with a stick before Khamsa fled.
While police have located Yam – another girl Ben was said to be romantically involved with, and who he was seen with on Saturday – Khamsa has not been seen since Ben’s body was found with a deep wound on his head and cuts across his face.
Police have said that more than 30 officers and sniffer dogs from Lampang Provincial Police and the Border Patrol Police had started scouring the woodland on foot and used drones for aerial views in search of the missing teenager.
Mr Graham said: ‘It was dreadful to see [Boongarin], just ghastly. And the girl is still missing. She is known as Ping Pong and she is only 15. She was the girl who was on the back of Ben’s motorbike. And they went together to where this bloke was.
Going to the scene today, he said, ‘may not have been as straight forward as I was first told but there’s possibly information that links her to what happened.
‘The suspect has admitted to killing Ben but he won’t say anything about the girl.
‘So either he has done something terrible to her or she had some sort of involvement and he is giving her time to get away.’
Steven Graham, a businessman who travelled from his home in Eastbourne, East Sussex, was pictured today wearing a blue t-shirt and glasses as he approached the police car parked near to where the body of his son was found (pictured)
Pictured: Ben’s mother Ooy Taota is seen being blocked by a police officer from getting to her son’s killer, who is out of frame. Boongarin was showing police the scene of the crime
Pictured: A family photo showing father Steven Graham (left), mother Ooy Taota (centre) and Woramet Ben Taota (right)
Recalling his beloved son, Mr Graham continued: ‘All throughout the flight I was thinking about Ben. I thought about him as a baby.
‘He was half Thai and half English. But he looked more English than Thai. When he was a baby he had blonde hair. He stood out in a crowd. He was a cheeky little boy.
READ MORE: Grandmother of British boy, 16, found dead in Thai forest says she fears he was lured to his death
‘People would stop in the street and stare at him. As a result he had a lot of girlfriends.’
He added: ‘I last saw Ben was a while ago, seven months ago. Me and his mum have split up but we’re are still on good terms. Ben adored his mother.
‘He adored motorbikes. He was very good at motocross. He had won medals and trophies. I loved him very much.’
During the confrontation, Mr Graham was comforted by Ben’s mother Ooy Taota, who also yelled at the killer, along with several relatives who gathered at the scene.
Footage showed the family watching on as officers escorted Boongarin on the crime scene reconstruction. He was seen showing them a black scooter on a small road running through the dense Thai forest.
As Mr Graham tried to get closer, he was stopped by other officers. The father is heard in a video telling the officer: ‘I just want to say…’ before choking up with tears.
Ooy Taota – wearing a Guns N Roses T-shirt – was also heard berating the killer as the crowd followed him down a road, as Mr Graham was again heard shouting: ‘Get in the car, you f**king coward. May you rot in hell.’
Taota was then seen trying to break through the line of police to get at her son’s killer, and had to be restrained by others at the scene. The footage ends with Boongarin being led under police tape and into the woods by police.
Speaking at the scene, Mr Graham said: ‘I just want to throttle him. He’s evil. He’s pure evil, scum.’ Ooy added: ‘I cannot understand what happened. My son was a good boy, now he will never grow up. I hope the murderer dies in prison.’
Sex crimes convict Chaiwat Boongarin (left), 44, said he hit teenager Woramet Ben Taota (pictured right with his father Steven Graham) when a drug deal went wrong, according to Thai police. Police said Boongarin claimed he got into an argument with the teenager before killing him
Dual national Taota (pictured) borrowed his mother’s blue scooter and was seen riding with a girl on the back before he was found dead the next day in Lampang province on May 7. His body was later found in a grove, with injuries resembling blunt force
Boongarin’s confession and the confrontation with Ben’s father comes after haunting CCTV footage emerged showing the last sighting of Ben in his hometown of Lampang on Saturday – the day before his body was found in the forest.
Officers said Boonkarin confessed to killing the teenager after an argument broke out, which Boonkarin claims was over drugs, the police have said.
Boonkarin became very angry and hit the boy to death with a piece of wood because he believed Ben stole something and was lying, according to reports.
The 44-year-old, who had connections to the local drug trade, was released from prison eight months ago after being convicted of sex crimes.
Police Major General Mongkol Sampawapol said: ‘The killer was angry because he believed that Woramet kept the drugs for himself and his girlfriends, so he hit Woramet with a stick several times until he died.’
Ben borrowed his mother’s blue scooter and was seen riding with a girl on the back before he was found dead the next day in Lampang province on May 7. His body was later found in a grove, with injuries resembling blunt force.
His devastated British father Steven Graham, 60, a businessman who runs a thatched property insurance firm, has travelled to Thailand to speak to detectives there, who say they are searching for a second girlfriend amid fears for her safety.
Police said he was ‘romantically involved with’ Khamsa, riding pillion with him at around 4.25pm as they visited her grandfather. They dropped off another girl, also seen on the bike, then rode away together at 7.18pm in darkness.
Ben’s first girlfriend, Yam, has been found and she is safe.
Police have ruled her out of the case.
Officers claim to have seen Boonkarin on a black Honda motorbike on Saturday night with a woman they believe to be Khamsa.
Ben’s grandmother Lilian Graham told MailOnline on Tuesday that she believes he was persuaded to go to the forest where he was murdered.
Speaking from the family home in Eastbourne, East Sussex, Mrs Graham said: ‘Ben was with a girl and they went to the forest to meet a man. But something must have happened. And the man killed Ben. They don’t know what has happened to the girl.’
Mrs Graham added: ‘It’s been a real shock. We are all devastated. Ben’s father Steve is going to Thailand tonight.
‘I wanted to go out there with him to support him. But he wouldn’t let me. He said the flight was too long and it would be too upsetting.’
Mrs Graham told how Ben was born following a long-distance romance between her son Steve and the boy’s mother.
The footage (pictured) shows that Ben had a girl police said he was ‘romantically involved with’ Suraphltchaya Khamsa, 16, riding pillion with him at around 4.25 pm as they visited her grandfather
CCTV showed the last sighting of Woramet Ben Taota, 16, (pictured) who went for a motorcycle ride with his girlfriend Yam, also 16, in his hometown of Lampang on Saturday
She said: ‘Steve met Ben’s mum Ooy when he was in Thailand on holiday with friends. She became pregnant and Steve went back many times.
‘I went out to visit them as well. I really love it out there. But they lived too far apart and sadly their relationship didn’t work out. But Steve and me really loved Ben. He was really special. A real character.’
Police Major General Sampawapol said on Tuesday that officers are actively searching for the missing girl. He said: ‘Suraphltchaya’s nickname was Ping Pong. She also had a close romantic relationship with the deceased. She is still missing and we are actively searching for her. She was the last person to see Ben.’
On Wednesday, said the search operation for the girl had been expanded.
‘The search operation has now been expanded to include the forests and roads within three miles of the nearby villages. We have deployed a drone to capture aerial images to survey the roads and the densely overgrown grove forest from above.
‘Officers have been searching since 10am this morning. The phone messages have also been checked and the murderer is being interrogated,’ he said.
Police said the suspect had been released from prison around eight months ago following previous convictions for sex crimes.
They claimed that he was seen riding his black Honda Wave motorcycle without a licence plate on May 6 at around 9pm and parked it at his relative’s house with a young woman they believe is Ben’s girlfriend, Suraphltchaya.
The motorcycle was found by officers, May 9, behind a cow shed close to the home.
Sampawapol added: ‘The suspect told his relative that he wanted to leave his motorcycle at their house.
‘He told them that he was looking for a rental house for his mistress. He then left the house with another motorcycle and returned the next morning.
‘After that, he rode the black Honda Wave and left it near the hut before officers found it on May, 9.
‘We are still searching for the young woman and believe that she is still safe.’
Dual national Woramet Ben Taota, 16, went for a motorcycle ride with the girl named Yam, 16, (pictured) in Lampang province on May 6, but neither of them returned to their homes
Officers had reported that the teenager’s phone and cash were missing from his shoulder bag, and suggested he might have been robbed. They believe he was killed elsewhere and left in the woods as there were no signs of struggle.
Thai media reported that Ben’s body was found by a garbage collector who was at work on Sunday morning.
Police Colonel Sittisak Singtongla, superintendent of the Mae Tha Police, said: ‘The station received a notification at 10.15am that a deceased person was found in the undergrowth.’
Investigative teams from Mae Tha Police Station and Lampang provincial investigation team, along with forensics officers, forensic medicine doctors and staff from Tanna Krua Forest Rescue attended the scene.
Thai media reported that the teenager was found with his back against a tree wearing a black long sleeve T-shirt and jeans.
Police said that the body has been taken to hospital for an autopsy.
‘We are currently tracking down individuals close to the victim, including his female companion. She is a key figure in this case since she is the last person to see him alive.’
Ben’s mother told police that her son had said goodbye to her on Saturday evening and said he was ‘going to work with friends’ but he did not give any more details to her. With the news of his death, friends took to Facebook to leave tributes for Ben.
Woramet Ben Taota’s devastated father Steven Graham (left), 60, a businessman who runs a thatched property insurance firm, is travelling to Thailand to speak to detectives there
The parents of the missing girl were said to have ‘pleaded’ with the media to help find their daughter.
The police said they are not ruling out any motives, attributing the killing to a possible love affair, a personal conflict, or a work dispute.
Police Colonel Sittisak added: ‘We have not yet finalised the issue.
‘It is still unclear whether it was a robbery, because the phone and cash of the deceased were not found, but we still cannot rule out other issues.’
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