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Trial of suspect in Thai killing begins

British national Toby James Nelhams photographed in the waiting area of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in February.
British national Toby James Nelhams photographed in the waiting area of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in February. Lok Samret

Trial of suspect in Thai killing begins

The trial for Pattaya murder suspect Toby Nelhams began in Phnom Penh yesterday, and while the British national is only facing charges related to fraud and immigration violations, the subject of his alleged orchestration of the murder fellow Briton Tony Kenway hung over the proceedings.

Nelhams was arrested in Phnom Penh in February, following the murder of Kenway in Mabprachan, Pattaya, Thailand. Police identified Abel Caldeira Bonita as the shooter, Miles Dicken Turner as the getaway driver and Nelhams as the alleged mastermind behind the murder.

Nelhams is facing charges of entering and working in Cambodia without a passport, working without a work permit, using fake documents and fraud.

According to statements read by the court clerk, Nelhams denied working illegally in the Kingdom, and refused to answer questions about Kenway’s murder when interrogated by immigration police in February.

“Regarding the murder in Thailand, I cannot answer because I am too tired, and I will wait for the embassy and my lawyer to come meet me . . . I won’t thumbprint because I don’t read Khmer,” the clerk read.

In the affidavit, Nelhams also claimed he did not work in Cambodia and was just visiting his wife. He first told authorities he lost his passport, before saying it was with his wife.

However, a man named Men Chhanan, who claimed to be an employee of Nelhams, told police that Nelhams was the owner of a company called Springtide International, based in Sihanoukville on property rented from the former governor of the city.

The court clerk also read testimony from Graham William Whiteholt, the alleged manager of Springtide, who was briefly detained and released in February, and who spoke at length about Kenway’s murder.

“The first quarrel was over business in Thailand . . . They [Nelhams and Kenway] had a severe quarrel and stopped doing business together. Second, they had a quarrel over 8.6 million Thai baht [$260,000],” Whithol said, claiming Nelhams owed Kenway the large sum. Kenway allegedly threatened Nelhams’s associate and alleged murder accomplice Turner.

“Tony pointed a gun in Turner’s mouth and forced Turner to give him company documents . . . Toby loved Turner like a son. Toby trusted Turner, he rented him a home and bought him an air ticket . . . Toby is an influential man . . . and I am afraid of him.”

Despite the frequent mentions of the murder during the trial, the topic remains shrouded in mystery on both sides of the border. Turner and Caldeira were last seen crossing into Cambodia via Koh Kong the day of the murder and are still at large. Their ongoing fugitive status was not commented on during the trial.

Representatives at the Thai Embassy refused to answer questions about a possible extradition, and officials at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to requests for comment.

In Mabprachan, a small town built around a shallow lake that locals proudly refer to as the “dark side” of Pattaya, townspeople were equally tightlipped. In interviews earlier this month, employees at the Sanit Sport Club, where Kenway was murdered, initially denied that the incident occurred there, instead insisting it took place at the Siam Country Club.

Upon a return visit, a different staffer acknowledged that Kenway was killed in the parking lot but claimed all the staff present that day were on vacation.

A receptionist at the Siam Country Club, meanwhile, said that people in town never discuss the murder anymore.

“It’s quiet now, it’s very quiet,” she said, adding that sometimes local police “complain that they still cannot close the job”.

A verdict is due on September 28.