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Stephen Ashton: Mother speaks of relief as Thailand victim's body flown home

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THE grieving mother of Stephen Ashton has revealed her relief at being able to lay him to rest after his body was flown back home this week.
A plane carrying the 22-year-old made the flight from Thailand – where he was shot dead during a New Year's Eve party – and landed at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday following a post-mortem examination in Bangkok.
Mother Diane, 48, who last week told the Advertiser of her heartbreak less than 18 months after her husband died from a brain tumour, had feared a protracted repatriation and did not know if she would have to go to the southeast Asia country to identify her son's body.
But her brother, who had been on holiday in another area of Thailand, flew back with Stephen's body after identifying his nephew, whose funeral is expected to take place next week.
Mrs Ashton, of Verulam Avenue, Purley, said on Monday: "He is coming home this week. It is a relief he's coming back with [his uncle] and we are now sorting things for the funeral."
Following Stephen's repatriation, she said yesterday (Thursday): "My family and I wish to thank the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other agencies for their assistance in Stephen's repatriation.  
"We have been deeply moved by the many messages of sympathy and support expressed by so many people.  
"We will continue to follow any further developments in Thailand which we hope will lead to justice being served for Stephen."
Mrs Ashton, who last week paid tribute to her son's "zest for life", had last spoken to Stephen via online video chat site Skype on Boxing Day, before hearing the tragic news while on a skiing holiday in Austria with friends.
 The death will be registered with the coroner but no inquest is due to take place.
Local gangster Ekkapan Kaewkla, 26, has confessed to firing the bullet that killed Stephen, but what he will finally be charged with remains unknown despite him appearing in court.
It may take up to three months to decide on the charge for Kaewkla, who claims Mr Ashton was caught in the crossfire of a gun fight between his and a rival gang. 
Prosecutors are deciding over a count of manslaughter or murder. Under Thai law, he can be detained for 84 days.
Since the shooting, politicians declared the island will be made a "gun-free zone" within a year, a move described by Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway as the "minimum" that could be done.
He said: "They [Foreign Office] are offering their support to the family and are in regular contact with the Thai embassy to keep an eye on the investigation, which could take up to three months before the suspect is charged.
"It seems that the Thai authorities are at last waking up to the fact that gun crime is a serious problem."
LAST Friday, more than 50 of Stephen's friends, including Joe Budd and Dave Adams, who he was with in Thailand, threw a "send-off" party in The Rectory pub, Brighton Road, where the former Riddlesdown student used to be a regular.
School friend Lewis Collins, who helped organise the send-off, where a banner emblazoned with Stephen's picture was held aloft, said: "There must have been about 80 people.
"It just shows the amount of friends he had and the people that loved him. 
"We just all wanted to say a sort of goodbye."
A 90-minute remembrance service, attended by Thai officials, was also held on Wednesday morning at the scene where Stephen was shot at beach bar Zoom on the island of Koh Phangan.

Stephen Ashton: Mother speaks of relief as Thailand victim's body flown home


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