British father who confronted son's alleged killer speaks of agony
‘Ruthless Thai drug dealer lured my boy to his death in honeytrap murder’: British father who confronted 16-year-old son’s alleged killer speaks of agony after brutal death in remote jungle
- EXCLUSIVE: Steven Graham claims son was lured to death in honeytrap murder
- Body of Woramet Ben Taota, 16, was found in a grove in Thailand on Sunday
A grieving British father believes his vulnerable son fell into the clutches of a ruthless drug dealer in Thailand – and was then lured to his death in a honeytrap.
Successful businessman Steven Graham angrily confronted the killer of his son, Woramet Ben Taota this week, as police staged a reconstruction of the murder in the jungle outside Lampang, in the north of the country.
And today the horror worsened as police found the body of tragic 15-year-old Suraphltchaya Khamsa, who was last seen disappearing into the jungle on the back of Ben Taota’s blue moped.
Fighting back tears, Mr Graham, 60, screamed ‘Look me in the eyes, you b*****d!’ at suspect Chaitwat ‘Wat’ Boongarin, as police held him back.
The boy, whose father knew him as Ben, was found battered to death in woodland outside the remote village in northern Thailand where he had grown up with his Thai mother.
This week, MailOnline travelled to Lampang to visit Steve and Ben’s 50-year-old mother Ooy at the spacious home where Ben grew up and where Steve, who divides his time between the UK and Thailand, often visited.
Woramet Ben Taota, 16, (pictured) was found in a grove in Lampang, Thailand on Sunday, after being brutally murdered
The heartbroken parents of 16-year-old Woramet Ben Taota, who was killed on Sunday, believe their vulnerable son fell into the clutches of a ruthless drug dealer in Thailand
This week, MailOnline travelled to Lampang to visit Steve (left) and Ben’s 50-year-old mother Ooy (right) at the spacious home where Ben grew up. Pictured: The devastated parents hold treasured photos of their beloved son
In an exclusive interview, the couple spoke of the agony of losing their only child but also the ongoing mystery surrounding his brutal and, as yet, unexplained murder.
For while Thai police have arrested a 44-year-old man on suspicion of Ben’s murder, they are still piecing together how he was killed.
The parents revealed how police believe Ben was lured to meet his killer by a 15-year-old girl who had become hooked on methamphetamine pills.
Ben had ridden to the secluded spot on his scooter with the girl on the back.
Steve, who runs a business insuring thatched-roof properties, wiped away tears as he told MailOnline: ‘Ben was lured to meet his killer in some kind of honey trap set by this young girl.
‘She is only 15. She and Ben have known each other since they were young. They were close.
‘But she is believed to have been in a relationship with this man Wat.
‘He had recently been released from prison and it is clear he was a prolific drug dealer. A very evil man.
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
Steven Graham, a businessman who travelled from his home in Eastbourne, East Sussex, was pictured 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
‘Wat was supplying her with drugs. Somehow Ben got involved with him. This is because the girl was involved.’
For days the whereabouts of the girl was unknown, but police in Thailand confirmed today that her body had been discovered buried in woodland just off the main north-south highway near Lampang.
READ MORE: Body of 15-year-old girl accused of luring British boy to his death in Thailand is found in woods
Suraphltchaya Khamsa (pictured) had become associated with the 44-year-old convict as part of a twisted honey-trap
Her parents and grandparents identified her body at the scene from the braces on her teeth and the jewelry she had been wearing. They broke down in tears when it emerged that their daughter had been murdered.
Police are now continuing to interrogate sex crimes convict Chaiwat Boongarin, 44, who allegedly admitted killing Ben but denies murdering Suraphltchaya, whose nickname was Ping Pong. He is likely to face the death penalty if convicted of either or both cases.
Steve also explained how earlier this week, just hours after flying to Thailand from the UK, he found himself face-to-face with Ben’s alleged killer, a convicted child sex offender and drug dealer who was released from prison just eight months ago.
That bizarre encounter, which took place during a police reconstruction on Tuesday at the site where Ben is said to have been killed, saw Steve, who had only got off a plane a couple of hours earlier, shouting and swearing at Chaiwat Boongarin in front of TV cameras. The shocking drama of those few minutes has left him reeling.
‘Usually I am very English and reserved about my emotions and my anger,’ he says.
‘But after spending that long flight from the UK thinking about my beloved Ben I was just grabbed by the throat by the situation. I used some terrible words. It just flowed out of me.’
But while he and Ben’s mother are struggling to come to terms with the loss of their son, they are determined to understand what happened to him. They want to know the truth.
‘I have a dead son who suffered horrific injuries,’ he says. ‘I don’t need to know exactly how he died. But for his mother, the details are important. She needs to know what happened. This will give her closure.’
Steve Graham and Ooy Taota stand outside their family home in Thailand where a photo of Ben sits so that well-wishers can pay their respects
Ben as a child pictured with his now heartbroken mother Ooy Tontan, 50
Successful businessman Steven Graham angrily confronted the killer of his son this week. Pictured: Ben as a child with his father
Ooy, who understandably struggles to speak without breaking down in tears, adds: ‘For me, Ben was everything. He was my heart, my soul. I gave him all of me.’
This week MailOnline spoke to Thai police as well as the family of the girl, called Pong, in an attempt to piece together the events leading up to Ben’s death.
Pong’s family, speaking before her body was found, said that the young teenagers, who had known each other since they were toddlers, were at their home in the village of Banjua on Saturday evening.
‘The last I saw of her was on Saturday night. Pong was here with Ben and then they got a phone call and they went off,’ says Pong’s grandfather, 60-year-old livestock farmer Charoon Annaeua.
Moments later the pair were captured on CCTV, riding a turquoise moped belonging to Ben’s mother. It was the last time Ben and Pong were seen alive.
‘When they didn’t come back, I called her,’ says her grandfather. ‘The last time I called was at midnight on Saturday night.’
The following morning, a local recycler, collecting glass, plastic bottles and cans to sell along a twisting country lane less than four miles away from the village, spotted Ben’s body and summoned the police. They believe he was murdered elsewhere by his killer who then tried to conceal the teen’s body in bushes.
Pong’s body has been sent for an autopsy to find traces of rape or sexual assault, police confirmed.
Ben had grown up in the remote village in northern Thailand with his Thai mother
Ben as a toddler pictured with his mother Ooy Tontan. She told MailOnline: ‘He was my heart, my soul. I gave him all of me’
There were signs of bruising on her face and they believe she was hit with a solid object until she died.
It was 7am, UK time, on Sunday morning that Steve received a call from a family friend Thailand with the news that his son was dead.
‘Everything went grey,’ he says. ‘In my darkest hours I would fear that the phone would ring and Ooy would say that Ben had had a motorbike accident. But not this.’
Among the theories being pursed by Thai investigators is that Ben had become caught up in a drug deal and that he was lured to his death in the forest.
His alleged killer, was a supplier of methamphetamine pills. Known locally as ‘yaba’ a Thai word meaning ‘crazy drug’, users face up to 20 years in prison.
Steve doesn’t know how his son became mixed up with this man: ‘Wat was a prolific drug dealer. A very evil man. He was supplying Pong with drugs. Somehow Ben got involved with him. Ben was 16 and did stupid things like all boys do. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve said: ‘Don’t do that’ or ‘For God’s sake, take care’ or ‘with girls be careful’.’
He breaks down in tears before adding: ‘Ben was polite and very charming and handsome but he was also naive, like all 16 year olds. They do stupid things. He got involved with this evil man and it ended so tragically.’
The terrible events of the past week are a world away from the joy that surrounded Ben’s birth in 2006.
The grove where Ben’s body was found by a street cleaner in the bushes
Suraphltchaya Khamsa, known as Pong, who had been with Ben on the Saturday night
‘The last I saw of her was on Saturday night. Pong was here with Ben and then they got a phone call and they went off,’ says Pong’s grandfather, 60-year-old livestock farmer Charoon Annaeua (pictured with his wife)
Steve, who had recently divorced, first met Ben’s mother Ooy while visiting a British friend in Thailand in April 2000.
‘Ooy was working in a hotel and we hit it off,’ he says. ‘I went back home and we stayed in touch. Back then you couldn’t send texts and no-one was really using the internet so we would send each other letters by fax.’
After selling his business, he decided to pursue his relationship with Ooy.
‘I was 40 years old. I thought I would rather be in Thailand with Ooy,’ he says. The couple bought land in Ooy’s village and spent £20,000 building their home.
‘I used to wake up at dawn, go outside, into the fields with a cup of coffee, to smoke my first cigarette and I would think ‘this is perfect’, recalls Steve. Over the next couple of years he divided his time between the UK and Thailand, spending around four months of each year in Lampang.
After four years together, when Steve was 45 and Ooy was 35, the couple decided to have a baby.
‘My father was not a very nice man so when Ben was born I vowed to be the absolute opposite of my own father; kind, thoughtful, caring.’
As a toddler Ben stood out among his young playmates thanks to his blond hair.
Steve, who had recently divorced, first met Ben’s mother Ooy while visiting a British friend in Thailand in April 2000 . Pictured: The couple pictured with Ben as a baby
As a toddler Ben stood out among his young playmates thanks to his blond hair
‘People would stop in the street and stare at him,’ says Steve. ‘He was a cheeky little boy. He stood out in a crowd.’
As soon as he could walk he was kicking a ball. His parents bought him a Manchester United shirt.
‘We used to say to him: ‘You are a little Beckham’,’ adds Steve.
Ben attended a local school but, thanks to his father, he grew up speaking both English and Thai. Steve and Ooy decided he would be better off living in his mother’s country.
‘They had a better life in Thailand,’ says Steve. ‘Why bring them to Britain? I could give them a much better life here, working in England and living in Thailand.’
But mother and son did visit. The first time they came, when Ben was a baby, Steve was living in Sudbury in Suffolk.
‘It was so cold,’ says Steve. ‘To be honest, Ooy didn’t really like it. We went to Wells-next-the-Sea to go to the beach but after the beaches of Thailand, Ooy was not impressed.’
Ben’s mother describes her beloved son as a ‘happy, cheeky little boy’.
Ben attended a local school but, thanks to his father, he grew up speaking both English and Thai. Pictured: Steve and baby Ben
Ben’s mother describes her beloved son as a ‘happy, cheeky little boy’. Pictured: Ben and his mother Ooy
‘When I was expecting him, I remember wondering what he would look like,’ she says. ‘After he was born, I held him all night. He was just like Steve.
‘And after he was born, he was Steve’s number one. He gave him everything.’
She paints a picture of a dutiful and loving son: ‘If I was upset he would hug and cuddle me. He would help me work in the fields or around the house and even try to make the dinner if I was worn out.’
But Ben’s dream, say his parents, was to work with motorbikes. A keen rider and a member of the Sop Prap Motorcycle Club, he won several motocross trophies and hoped one day to open his own motorbike repair garage.
‘We were preparing a plot of land for where it would be,’ says Ooy. ‘We were going to build it after the harvest.’
All these plans for the future vanished the moment Ben’s parents learnt he was dead.
‘I don’t know how I will survive after the funeral,’ says Ooy. ‘Maybe I will have to leave this house.’
Thai police says that their prime suspect, Chaiwat Boongarin, has admitted killing Ben but won’t say anything so far about what happened to Pong. He claims instead that somebody else attacked her and buried her body in the woods.
Suraphltchaya Khamsa’s desperate grandfather, 60-year-old farmer Charoon Annaeua, at the scene where she was found in a shallow grave just off the motorway
Ambulance workers wrapped the body up and have took her to hospital for forensics
A source told MailOnline that killer Wat led officers to Suraphltchaya Khamsa’s grave
According to Steve: ‘He is denying anything to do with her disappearance to save himself. If he is convicted of murdering Ben he will be given a life sentence. But if he is convicted of killing two children he will be executed. They do it by firing squad here.’
He wasn’t sure what to expect before he first set eyes on his son’s alleged killer.
‘I thought he would be intimidating but he looked like a penniless Thai peasant,’ he says.
‘It was so weird, seeing him like that. It’s the way they do things here.
‘He will never see the light of day again. Either he will die of old age in prison, be killed there or be executed. He deserves whatever he gets. He is a waste of breath.’
For the time being, Steve and Ooy are trying to focus on the practicalities thrown up by Ben’s tragic death. Ben had a 16-year-old girlfriend, Yam, who has also been left heartbroken. Steve and Ooy plan to take her shopping and to buy her a gold bracelet to remember him by.
Then there is Ben’s funeral on Monday, something they are dreading while being determined to pay tribute to their son.
Buddhist monks will come to the family home and pray for their son before carrying his body to a sacred site for cremation.
‘We will do all we can for Ben with grace and style,’ says Steve. But his voice falters and he shakes his head in despair at what he has lost.
‘It’s just such a waste of a young life,’ he says. ‘Ben was such a joy and I loved him so much. I thought this place was paradise when I first came here. I could never have imagined that something so terrible could happen here.’
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