A holidaymaker from Croydon was shot and killed at a Full Moon New Year’s Eve party in Thailand, Thai officials reported yesterday.
The victim has been named as City trader Stephen Ashton, 22, of Purley.
Ashton lived with his mother and sister, who released a statement through the Foreign Office this morning. It 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.”
Ashton is believed to have been caught in the crossfire between two rival gangs on Haad Rin beach in Koh Phangan at around 4am on January 1. The fatal bullet was fired from a homemade gun.
Lieutenant Colonel Somsak Noorod, a local policeman, said: “He was shot in the side while he was dancing on the beach.”
Ashton was taken for treatment at Bandon International Hospital on nearby island Koh Sumai, but pronounced dead shortly afterwards. His mother, Diane, 48, a solicitor, has returned to the UK from a skiing trip and will travel to Thailand within the next two days to formally identify her son’s body.
Thai police have arrested 26-year- old Ekkapan Kaewkla for the crime.
The internet has been flooded with tributes to Ashton, who resigned in November and was reportedly planning to travel from Thailand to Australia in 2013.
He was remembered as a “top bloke” who gave up his job in 2011 to nurse his sick father. Facebook friend Daniella Murrell wrote: “Heaven has gained another angel but we are all left at a loss.”
Robbie-Cameron Gray, a childhood friend, said: “Don’t want to believe it. Still got photos of us on my wall from football and school. Will miss you mate.”
Koh Phangan is famous for its all night “full moon” parties, which thousands of UK tourists flock to each year.
Around 80,000 revellers arrived on the island for New Year celebrations this week, despite Foreign Office warnings of a high rate of robberies, violent assaults and sexual offences against tourists in the area.
UK ambassador to Thailand Mark Kent tweeted an updated version of the Foreign Office’s Travel Advice for British Nationals in Thailand. It now reads: “On 1 January 2013 a British national was killed in a shooting incident while at a beach party in Haad Rin.
“Exercise caution when in this area at any time, especially after dark.”