Christopher G. Moore
American Film and TV Star David Carradine found dead in Bangkok hotel
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.