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Family and friends of Purley tourist shot dead in Thailand on New Year's speak of their shock

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THE family and friends of a Purley man shot dead while celebrating New Year's Eve in Thailand have spoken of their shock and paid tribute to a man "everyone loved".
Stephen Ashton, 22, of Verulam Avenue, who worked in finance in London, according to friends, was hit in the crossfire of a gun battle between two gangs of local youths while seeing in the New Year at a beach party on the island of Koh Phangan.
Reports suggest Stephen, who went to nearby Riddlesdown High School, was shot in the chest as the battle broke out at the Zoom Bar at about 3am local time. Attempts were made to revive him at the scene but he was later pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.
Speaking at his home tonight his sister, Emily, told the Advertiser: "It is just such a shock. We are still trying to get our heads round it. It hasn't sunk in.
"He was just on a holiday and we are just trying to come to terms with it."
Stephen's father, John, also died within the last year to two years. His mother, Diane, who the Advertiser understands is not in the country, is flying back to the UK after hearing of her son's death.
Stephen left the UK around the beginning of December and was planning to live in Australia for a year or two after stopping off in Thailand, said Taylor Mitchell, 22, one of his best friends from school.
Taylor, who revealed Stephen's nickname was "Big Hands", added: "He was one of the nicest blokes you will ever meet. Everyone loved him. He was popular and no one had a bad word to say about him.
"He just went out there to enjoy himself and this is a terrible accident that shouldn't have happened. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't think anyone can believe it's happened.
"He was never in any trouble, he just loved going out with his mates."
Lewis Collins, another long-term school friend, said: "He was going for about two months then onto Australia to stay there a year or two years.
"He just wanted to go out there and enjoy himself. There was a leaving party for him before he went where we went out for some drinks and that was the last time we saw him. None of us have known anyone who has died in our lives and it is just a huge shock."
Stephen was often seen drinking at The Rectory pub on Brighton Road and was also a regular in tapas bar Las Fuentes on Purley High Street, which he liked because his dad was also a regular there before he died, the Advertiser was told.
Tributes to Stephen have also begun flooding in on his Facebook page.
Sammi Maynard wrote: "Awful news, taken way too early, Rest in peace, my thoughts are with your friends and family x"
Nicolle Williams wrote: "Cannot believe what I've just seen...in complete and utter shock...thoughts are with you and your family....R.I.P Stephen xxx"
A suspect in the shooting, named as Ekkapan Kaewkla, 26, was arrested and reportedly found in possession of a homemade gun.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the death of a British national in Thailand on New Year's Eve. We are providing consular assistance to the family."

Family and friends of Purley tourist shot dead in Thailand on New Year's speak of their shock


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