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STEPHEN ASHTON: Family speak of "devastation" after the Purley tourist was shot dead in Thailand

THE family of Stephen Ashton – a Purley tourist shot dead while celebrating New Year's Eve in Thailand – have spoken of their "devastation" after his "cruel and tragic" death.
Stephen, 22, of Verulam Avenue, who worked for a London-based venture capital firm, 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.
His family told of a "much loved" son, brother and nephew who had been enjoying a holiday after the difficult loss of his father who died from a brain tumour in 2011.
A statement issued through the Foreign Office 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 22-year-old's uncle, who did not want to give his name but described himself as Stephen's mother's brother, this morning (Wednesday) told the Advertiser the family have had no sleep since learning of Stephen's death.
Speaking at the family home he said: "We have not slept all night. We are just still in shock. We are a very close family and everyone is still coming to terms with it."
He added that Diane, Stephen's mother, arrived back in the UK from a skiing trip this morning.
Speaking from the family home last night (Tuesday) 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, formerly a trainee at venture capitalists CSS Partners LLP, had resigned from his job to travel and left the UK around the beginning of December. 
He was planning to live in Australia temporarily after stopping off in Thailand, said Tayler Mitchell, 22, one of his best friends from school.
Tayler 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."
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.
A suspect, named as Ekkapan Kaewkla, 26, is said to have confessed to the accidental shooting and was found in possession of a homemade gun after being arrested.

STEPHEN ASHTON: Family speak of

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