Dying under mysterious
circumstances in Thailand if you are a famous American actor is bound to attract
international coverage. I first saw the first coverage on Thursday night on the
BBC news around 10.00 p.m. News of Carradine’s death has been picked up in
virtually every major newspaper around the world. David Carradine’s death in a
Bangkok hotel on 4th June 2009 will shine a spotlight on Thailand,
the tourism industry and police investigations and methods used when a foreigner
is found dead.
The first order of business in an
unnatural death investigation is to find out what happened, when it happened,
who was at the scene, and what material evidence at the scene may support the
cause of death. But this is no ordinary death and that fact will no doubt have
significant implications in what happens next. This is true for any police
force. High profile deaths are one of the few circumstances where the general
public takes interest in the professionalism of police investigators.
The established facts are few. Mr.
Carradine was found dead in his room at the Nai Lert Park Hotel. He’d been in
Bangkok since 2nd June working on a film. His body has apparently
been removed to Chulalongkorn hospital and there will be an autopsy.
Some local press have called
Carradine’s death a suicide.
Others have been more cautious and
have left open the possibility of murder or misadventure in sexual game playing.
Reports have been contradictory, some saying the actor had hanged himself with a
rope, others saying it was a curtain cord, and others saying it was a shoe lace
with one end tied around his neck and the other around is penis suggesting a
sexual ritual gone wrong.
In a high profile case such as
this, senior officials wake up to the fact that the world is watching them. Such
attention can make people sweat. Giving out premature statements before the
facts have been established often happens but not when the international media
is watching. Then it becomes embarrassing.
The last 24-hours has only
increased speculation and rumors about the circumstances of Carradine’s death.
In other words there is confusion over what and how it happened but no end of
people who sure they know the answers nonetheless. Unless properly handled, it
has the makings of public relations disaster. The buck passing will kick into
high gear. The Press quotes the police who’ve had no time to launch an
investigation and analysis the evidence, the US embassy passes the buck to the
police, and the police can refer matters to the medical authorities.
We live in an age where everyone
wants instant answers. Like a CSI program, the answers should follow within one
hour. Right? Only in real life, the circumstances of unnatural deaths such as
Carradine’s are often murky, the evidence conflicting or inconclusive, and the
outside pressures to come to a conclusion intense.
If Colonel Pratt and Calvino were
on the case, they’d be checking the hotel CTV camera footage in the lobby and
entrance (and on the floor of the room – assuming such a camera system was
installed) for the time period prior to Carradine’s death, interviewing the
doormen, receptionists, bellboys, other guests in adjacent rooms, the last
person(s) who saw him, members of the film crew. That is a lot of work.
Also Colonel Pratt would likely
order a full toxicity test on the body to test for alcohol and drugs. He’d have
sealed off the room and photographed (among other things) and preserved the
footprint that apparently was found on the actor’s bed. He’d be looking for
fibers on the rope, cord, and shoestring, whatever it was found around the
actor’s neck. A room sealed off as a crime scene, allows the possibility for the
forensic team to find fingerprints, hair, skin, marks on the body,
fingernails, and DNA traces that might yield evidence as to whom else (if
anyone) was in the room at the time of the death.