The family of a British tourist who was shot in the crossfire of a gang fight in Thailand, have told of their devastation at his death.
As his family travelled to the Thai island of Koh Phangan to formally identify the body of 22-year-old Stephen Ashton, a statement was released via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office speaking of their shock at the “cruel and tragic circumstances” leading to his death.
Police in Thailand have arrested a man in connection with the death, and have confiscated a gun. Police Colonel Kittakarn Kramomthong, chief of police at the island’s station, said the man is expected to be charged with manslaughter.
The statement from the family 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 who passed away from a brain tumour in 2011 and the loss of his granddad a few months earlier.
“We were all so proud of him; he was a much loved son, brother, grandson and nephew. He will be truly missed by his family but also by the many friends he made during his life. We cannot comprehend how someone can carry out such a reckless act, giving such little value to human life.
The family also asked that their privacy be respected to allow them to grieve.
Thai police said Mr Ashton was with a group of friends and 300 other tourists celebrating the countdown to 2013 at a pub and restaurant called the Zoom Bar when he was shot by a home-made gun at Haad Rin beach shortly after 4am on new year’s day.
Heaven has gained another angel but we are all left at a loss. Daniella Murrell on Facebook
The Bangkok Post said he was visiting the island with four or five friends and was staying at Pink Bungalow on Haad Rin.
Confirming the identity of the victim, a Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are aware of the death of a British national in Thailand on new year’s eve and we are providing consular assistance to the family.”
Friends expressed their shock at Mr Ashton’s death and paid tribute to him on social networking sites.
Aaron Kelly wrote on Facebook: “Horrible news. Be good up there mate.”
Daniella Murrell added: “I still can’t believe the awful news I was told yesterday, heaven has gained another angel but we are all left at a loss… You are an amazing person & you will never ever be forgotten, it was such a pleasure to know you!! My thoughts are with your family at this devastating time… R.I.P Stephen sleep tight xx”
Jaydon Gibbs said on Twitter: “My heart is with his family. The nicest guy RIP Stephen Ashton xx”
Another Twitter user, Dean DeRosa, said: “Worst news for the start of 2013 ! R.I.P Stephen Ashton ! Was a good lad !!”
Robbie-Cameron Gray took to Mr Ashton’s Facebook page to express his grief and posted a photograph of the two of them as young boys.
He said: “Don’t want to believe it. Still got photos of us on my wall from football and school. Will miss you mate.”