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The Mirror February 2015

February 7, 2015

Brit linked to Bangkok body-in-a-suitcase bar girl murder protests innocence – while on the run

Shane Looker, 45, from Stoke is wanted for questioning after he was the last person seen with Laxami “Pook” Manochat before her her dismembered corpse was found in a suitcase

On the run: Shane Looker was with the victim the last time anyone saw her

A Brit linked to a sickening body-in-a-suitcase murder is protesting his ­innocence – while on the run.

Shane Looker, 45, was pictured on CCTV leaving a Bangkok nightclub with bar girl Laxami “Pook” Manochat.

It was the last time the 31-year-old was seen alive. A week later her dismembered corpse and a dead dog were found stuffed into a red travel case 70 miles away.

It was weighted with rocks and had been dumped in the Mae Klong River.

Now Looker, speaking through his lawyers, said he paid a bar in a red-light district to “spend time” with dancer Miss Manochat but ­insisted he did not kill her.

DNA tests on nail clippers, a toothbrush and skin under the victim’s nails have connected him to her gruesome murder, ­according to reports in Thailand.

Thai cops have turned to ­international police force Interpol to help them track him down. The whereabouts of builder and ­property investor Looker remains a mystery but last week he spoke to lawyers to stress his innocence.

On legal advice, he is preparing to hand himself in to the police. But he fears being held in a Thai jail would jeopardise his chances of mounting a proper defence.

He could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.

Looker, originally from Stoke, admitted ­picking up Miss Manochat at Rainbow 4 go-go bar in Bangkok’s seedy Nana Plaza, ­reputedly the ­world’s largest sex complex, and ­leaving with her.

He said: “Yes, I did know her. I’m ­happy to accept that I spent time with her.

“She is a bar girl that I knew previously and I ­accept that I paid the bar fine (cash given to the bar to take a girl away).

“There is no way in the world that I’d ever hurt any woman let alone kill her.

“This is a despicable crime which I vehemently deny. I look forward to proving my ­innocence in the fullness of time. I have been advised to get my affairs in order so that I can ­surrender to the ­appropriate ­authorities with a properly ­instructed legal team.”

Investigators believe he fled by train to neighbouring Malaysia with the aim of reaching the Spanish ­holiday island of Ibiza where he owns property.

Jason Coghlan, PR director of JaCogLaw legal service, with offices near Looker’s Bangkok home, told the Sunday People: “We have been ­contacted by Shane Looker.

“He has told me ­categorically he had absolutely nothing to do with this woman’s ­murder. We have ­advised him he needs to hand himself in to the ­authorities.

“But his concern, and ours as his legal advisers, is that this takes place in conditions which don’t affect his ability and right to ­defend himself against these very serious accusations.”

Mr Coghlan said: “The DNA that’s said to have been found doesn’t make him guilty of ­murder, nor does the fact he was with her shortly before she disappeared.

“There’s an inherent unfairness in trying to defend yourself when you’re in a Thai prison and haven’t had a chance to get your financial affairs in order.

“That’s ­something that needs to be addressed.

“Looker is ­obviously aware that it’s far better for him to hand himself in before he’s caught.”

He said Looker was not revealing the full details of his defence until he has had a face-to-face meeting with his lawyer. Then he will hand himself in.

Mr Coghlan added: “If the Thai ­authorities believe that they need to arrest him so they can ascertain whether he played a role in this woman’s murder, that’s fair enough.

“But if an innocent man is arrested and thrown into prison without any access to money with which to ­properly defend himself, there is obviously a much higher risk of a miscarriage of justice.”

Thai police said Looker entered the ­country on October 31 and was last seen with Miss Manochat two days later.

They were filmed hand-in-hand on CCTV in the Nana Plaza, an area that attracts thousands of foreign ­visitors every year in search of drink and sex.

Miss Manochat regularly sent her mum money by Western Union transfer and was ­reported ­missing when the cash did not appear.

On November 9 her remains were found in a suitcase weighed down by rocks in the Mae Klong River in Kanchanaburi, 70 miles south of Bangkok.

She was dressed in a black T-shirt, shorts and brown ­high-heeled shoes. A postmortem revealed that she ­had ­suffered a serious wound but had ultimately suffocated.

The town is where Allied prisoners of war built the infamous Burma Railway in the Second World War, immortalised in the film Bridge on the River Kwai, and is popular with tourists.

Looker’s ­identity ­remained a ­mystery ­until a tip-off to Thai blog “Stickboy” which gave his full name, ­nationality and an ­address in Hua Hin, 90 miles south of Bangkok, along with a photograph of his passport.

He had already left the country by the time police received the information.

The shorts and T-shirt he was wearing when captured on CCTV with Miss Manochat were found at his property.

Lead detective Pol Lt-Gen Werapong Chuenpagdee ­released a copy of Looker’s passport which showed he was born in July 1969 and gave his place of birth as Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire.

At the same time they released the CCTV ­footage showing the victim holding hands with a “well-built” white man.

Police believe Looker had fled to Malaysia by train in late November.

A taxi driver questioned by police claimed to have taken him from Gulliver’s Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi to Hua Hin at 9.30am on November 2, the day Miss Manochat disappeared.

The Stickboy blog said police had issued the CCTV images.

It read: “Over the course of the next few weeks, video footage and new photos were ­released with fresh appeals for ­information as police had few leads.

“At the beginning of December, there were several tip-offs to this site ­including Looker’s full name, nationality, his ­address in Hua Hin, a ­photo of his passport and where he was in hiding, all of which were passed on to Pol Lt-Gen Werapong.

“In mid-December, a search warrant was issued for a property at Tippawan 5 in Hua Hin, believed to be the residence of Looker.

“During the search, police discovered the shorts and T-shirt he’d been wearing on the night of November 1 when he was captured on CCTV.

“DNA samples taken from several items including nail clippers and a ­toothbrush matched DNA found in the victim’s nails.

“The investigation also led police to a store where Looker had purchased rocks similar to those discovered in the suitcase with the body.”

Police in the UK do not believe he has returned here.

A spokeswoman for the Staffordshire force said: “We are aware of the ­international interest in Shane Looker reported in the media but, at this stage, we not aware of any information to ­suggest he is in the county or the country.”

Article from The Mirror, 7 February, 2015