The Times - UK (2022-01-24)

(Antfer) #1

the times | Monday January 24 2022 2GM 17


A British man who was fatally slashed
in the neck and back with a sickle in
Thailand was familiar with his sus-
pected killer, having exchanged greet-
ings for years, it has been claimed.
Marcus Evans, 49, a father of two
from Weston-super-Mare in Somerset,
had lived in Thailand for about three
years and had been drinking outside a
friend’s flat in the western province of
Kanchanaburi early on Saturday.
He was found dead with a deep slash
running from his neck down his back.
His friend, Shaun Dagnan, 54, was ad-
mitted to hospital with injuries to his
head and shoulder.
Wassana Muanchit, 33, named in the

The girlfriend of the British astrophysi-
cist killed by a stray bullet on a visit to
the US has paid tribute to “the one”,
whom she had planned to marry.
Katherine Shepard, 25, was lying in
bed next to Matthew Willson, 31, from
Chertsey, Surrey, at a block of flats in
Atlanta, Georgia, when they were
woken at about 2am by gunfire.
Moments later Willson was hit in the
head by a bullet that had travelled 300ft
before passing through an exterior wall.


nvestors seeking to
benefit from the UK
holiday market are
snapping up British
country house hotels
with £600 million worth of
independent UK hotels
changing hands last year
(Victoria Brzezinski writes).
The figure represents a
330 per cent increase
compared with pre-pandemic
sales in 2019, according to
Knight Frank and two thirds
of sales — about £400 million
— were in the country house
hotel market.
One on offer is Ston Easton
Park in Somerset, an estate
with a grade I listed house on
sale for £6 million, a snip
compared with its original
£9.5 million asking price.
The Palladian mansion was
the childhood home of the
Conservative MP Jacob
Rees-Mogg. His father,

William Rees-Mogg, editor
of The Times from 1967 to
1981, bought it in 1964 and
saved it from dereliction.
On sale via the joint agents
Strutt & Parker and Knight
Frank, the 22,000 sq ft

property lies 13 miles from
Bristol and was built in 1769
for Sir John Hippisley Coxe, a
politician and distant relative
of the Rees-Moggs.
Described by the historian
Nikolaus Pevsner as

“exceptionally sumptuous”, it
includes a grade II listed
gardener’s cottage, coach
house and 24 acres.
It was a filming location for
last year’s BBC’s production
The Pursuit of Love starring
Lily James, and for the
second series of ITV’s period
drama Sanditon, based on an
unfinished Jane Austen
novel, out in March.
BBC1 filmed its
forthcoming psychological
thriller, Chloe, there. The
series stars Erin Doherty,
who played Princess Anne in
The Crown, and is out in
Andrew Cronan, from

Strutt & Parker, said: “In the
1950s, the local authority
highways department were
going to knock down the
house and put a road
through. Local historical
society pressure groups saved
the house by getting it listed.
A big part of its grade I
listing were its beautiful
interiors and a plunge pool in
one of the ground-floor
bedrooms — a Georgian
ashlar stone bath set into the
floor. The Georgians jump in
and splash around for a
minute or two. That’s
apparently where the saying
‘taking the plunge’ comes
Rees-Mogg Sr sold Ston
Easton in 1978 to Peter
Smedley, who converted it to
a country hotel. In the early
2000s Andrew Davis’s hotel
group Von Essen paid

£5 million for it. His 33-hotel
chain went into
administration in 2011 and
the 23-bedroom property was
sold for £3 million in 2012 to
Hamilton Bradshaw — the
company owned by James
Caan, a former investor on
Dragon’s Den. A year later
Davis bought it back but it
closed in summer 2020. Davis
put the company into
administration later that year.
All offers have been
rejected so far — including
two in excess of £7 million
from British families with
plans to buy Ston Easton to
turn it into a second home.
The single largest hotel
deal of last year was the sale
of the Belfry Hotel & Resort
in Sutton Coldfield, acquired
by Goldman Sachs and Cedar
Capital Partners, for about
£140 million in November.


mean boom

for country

house hotels

The main house at Ston Easton
sits in 24 acres and the estate
has a gardener’s cottage. It
was the childhood home of
Jacob Rees-Mogg, top left


Thai ‘kills Briton for making noise at 4am’

George Styllis Kanchanaburi
Kaya Burgess

local press as Evans’s girlfriend, said he
had come back to their house to get
another beer. “That was the last time I
saw him alive,” she said. “When I was
walking back, a neighbour came and
told me to check up on my husband and
she kept on repeating and telling me to
check on my husband. When I went out
I found out he was dead.”
According to The Sun, she told a local
television station: “I was out of my mind
because I loved him so much.”
Panjai Chueahor, an interpreter for
the local tourist police, visited Dagnan
in hospital yesterday. She said that he
remembered little of the attack. “He
has a broken shoulder and a big wound
there and a fractured skull. He can eat
normally, though,” she said.
Police said the incident occurred

shortly before 4am outside Dagnan’s
apartment on Soi Sri Lanka, a street
popular with foreigners.
Photographs show the two men lying
on the ground in pools of blood outside
a house and wearing only shorts. Beside
them is a blood-smeared bench and a
stone table littered with beer bottles. A
sickle was found at the scene.
Prasut Thipphat, 23, has been
charged with murder and attempted
murder. He is being held at a police sta-
tion for questioning.
Panjai said the suspect had been liv-
ing with his grandmother near Dag-
nan’s home. Dagnan and Evans, who
had also lived near by, would often greet
the suspect and give him cigarettes, she
said. “They knew each other quite well.
They would pass and say hello to each

other,” she added. Panjai said that he
was registered with a hospital as having
mental health problems.
According to reports, the suspect told
police that he had been having trouble
sleeping as a result of the side effects of
a Covid vaccination when he grew irri-
tated by the noise the men were making
outside and attacked them with a sickle.
Neighbours said Evans and Dagnan
would often drink and play music out-
side Dagnan’s house into the night.
Dagnan told police that he and Evans
had been drinking since 4pm. He re-
called a man running at them and
attacking them before he passed out.
A Foreign Office spokesman said:
“We are in contact with the royal Thai
police... and are ready to provide con-
sular support.”

Prasut Thipphat, 23, has been charged
with murder and attempted murder

We planned to marry, says girlfriend of stray bullet victim

Police called it “a random act involving
the reckless discharge of firearms”.
Shepard, who had dated the academ-
ic for three years, told The Sun: “He was
a great guy and I really loved him dear-
ly. He was fantastic and had a great
sense of humour.
“We both knew we had found the
one. We knew we were going to get
married and we had talked about where
we were going to live and what we
would call our children.”
She told WSB-TV that Willson was
due to stay in Atlanta for three months

because they had been having a long-
distance relationship for some time. “I
picked him up from the airport, took
him to his favourite eating location —
and the next day he’s gone.”
She said she had told Willson she was
going to call the police after they heard
more than 30 shots being fired near by.
Shepard said: “His last words were,
‘Sure, I’m sure they are just messing
around.’ I was kneeling on my bed look-
ing out of the window to see if I could
see anything. I felt the bed move, Matt
was possibly getting up, and there was a

tiny explosion in our room. Then I
heard Matt’s breathing change and I
asked if he was OK. He had started to
slump over. I saw he’d been shot in the
head and started screaming.
“I knelt on the bed holding a towel to
his head and talking to him and shaking
him whenever he started closing his
eyes. He looked like he was looking at
me, but he wasn’t talking at all and he
was struggling to breathe.”
Willson’s sister, Kate Easingwood, 28,
a molecular biologist, said: “The chance
of this happening is mind-boggling.”

Peter Stubley

Matthew Willson, 31, had been dating
Katherine Shepard, 25, for three years
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