A family drama reached its climax early on Thursday morning when the 41-year-old American set fire to the family home and subsequently hanged himself.
A neighbour raised the alarm and called the fire brigade at around 03:00. Several firefighters and fire engines scrambled to the scene. Rescuers and paramedics were accompanied by police officers from the Sattahip Provincial Police Station.
Rushing down Soi Sataheep Sukumvit 13 in Chon Buri’s Sattahip district, one of the firefighters at the scene commented: “There were no street lights or other sources of light out there. It would normally be in complete darkness, but we knew we had reached the right place because the house was in flames at the end of the soi.”
The house, which Thairath’s journalists say did not have an obvious house number, was the home of the White family: 41-year-old Matthew Brian White, his wife Dorothy White, son Ethan White and their only daughter Mayrisa White.
Talking to firefighters on the scene, Farang Deaths were told that the fire looked suspicious: as if it had been started intentionally rather than accidentally. Another firefighter at the scene, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “After we extinguished the fire, we came across a body and some strange writing on the wall.” Mr White’s family was not on the scene, and no further bodies were discovered.
The body of Mr White, a US citizen, was found dangling from a ten-metre-high water tower. He was wearing only military shorts and had somehow attached a nylon cord to the roof of the tower and jumped in – his hands handcuffed behind his back.
The Superintendent of the Sattahip Provincial Police Station, Pol Col Chalotorn Brembri, has been assigned to the case. Even though the investigation has not yet been concluded, he released a statement saying that the “evidence strongly pointed to suicide as the cause of death”.
Pol Col Chalotorn later explained: “It looks like Mr White committed suicide by jumping off the water tower with a rope around his neck.” He went on to say that a photograph of his tongue hanging out of his mouth suggested that he had not immediately broken his neck and that he showed signs of having panted for air during his last moments. He died of strangulation while everything around him burnt down.
The fact the victim was found handcuffed with his hands behind his back supports the suicide theory, Pol Col Chalotorn said that he “might have cuffed himself to make it impossible for him to break free once he had jumped off the tower – to make certain of his death in case he had any second thoughts.”
Investigators photographed the writing on walls of the water tower. One said:
“Are you happy now? You and your family have stolen everything from me including my daughter and my life. Now you have all exactly as you wanted”
Another found on the scene said:
“THIS IS LIFE”
“the GIFT of life is not true it is POISON” (sic)
On one wall were the names of Mr White’s wife Dorothy and their children Ethan and Mayrisa.
Even though firefighters eventually managed to bring the fire under control, there was little left of the house. The fire also destroyed a nearby car and a scooter belonging to the family.
What had driven Mr White to commit suicide and destroy his family’s livelihood is still cause for speculation. His motives are under police scrutiny. Meanwhile, the Daily News contacted his wife who informed them that Mr White had sent her a picture showing him setting fire to the house.
“We still have a lot of work to do to get to the bottom of this,” Pol Col Chalotorn said. “Until we find out otherwise, we’re working under the assumption that Mr White deliberately set his house on fire and committed suicide because of serious family problems.”