Stevie Rochelle Bamford, 21 made a claim which could have had devastating consequences for the local tuktuk industry, as well as damaging the reputation of Thailand as a safe destination.
It turned out to be an invented story, made up to deceive her boyfriend about why she was late returning to the resort where they were both staying. She told police that after arguing with her boyfriend during a night out in Soi Bangla, Phuket’s red light district, she caught a tuktuk back. The driver and two accomplices had driven her to a secluded spot and held her down while the driver raped her. Finally she had managed to escape and run away.
Police investigations, however, turned up CCTV footage of her going back to her hotel on the back of a motorbike taxi – not a tuktuk. Confronted with the evidence, Bamford confessed she had made up the whole story.
Phuket Provincial Court sentenced her to 15 days in the Bang Jo detention centre (rather than harsher Phuket Prison) for making a false statement to police. Bamford’s boyfriend was reported to be “extremely angry” upon learning that Bamford had deceived him as well as the police.
Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph reported at the weekend that Bamford is the daughter of former Australian league player Peter Tunks.
The paper said Tunks had asked the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra for help over the matter. It reported that Bamford is appealing her sentence and has been granted bail of 50,000 baht (AUD1600).
An appeal is a bold step. While it could see Bamford exonerated and released, it could also see the sentence increased, even by months or years.
Written by : Peter Needham