Victim's sister, Wife, Lash out at 'Killer' taxi driver

The family of an expat fatally wounded on Sukhumvit Road last week in a suspected row over a fare say he hated being cheated, but would never have walked away without paying

The sister of an American man fatally wounded in Bangkok after a dispute with a taxi driver last weekend fears the victim's Thai family will face financial ruin as a result of his death.

CENTRE OF STORM: Taxi driver Cherdchai Utamacha at a police press briefing last week.

Troy Lee Pilkington died after being attacked with a long knife about 8.30pm on July 6. Taxi driver Cherdchai Utamacha, 32, has confessed to the attack and been charged with murder, police said.

The 51-year-old American had been living in Thailand for four years and was married to a Thai woman for three.

His sister, Tracy Pilkington-Shaffer, told the Bangkok Post Sunday she fears her brother's Thai family will now be unable to cope financially without him.

Pilkington's wife and her son, as well as her two sisters and the three children of one sister, all lived together in a Bangkok home paid for by the Thailand arm of US machinery company Caterpillar Inc, where the victim worked.

He also sent money every month to his wife's parents, and paid their medical bills, Ms Pilkington-Shaffer said.

''My brother had been supporting all of them,'' she said.

a still from CCTV footage showing Troy Lee Pilkington,

''He paid for his wife's son and the three children of his wife's sister to go to private schools.

''One of them graduated and he was paying for her to go to nursing school. Now their whole world will change.

''They can stay in the house for a little bit longer, but then what?

''This taxi driver... not only killed my brother, but he also totally destroyed a Thai family.''

Kanthima Pilkington, 38, the victim's wife, told local media last week she was still in shock by what had happened to her husband.

''My husband was a family man. He didn't drink, he was a lively and cheerful person. The only thing that he hates is people who cheat,'' she said.

She said Pilkington used to visit Bangkok regularly on vacation, but eventually asked his company for a transfer so they could live here permanently together.

The couple lived in a rented home on Sukhumvit Soi 85.

The day he was murdered, Pilkington told his wife he wanted to go to Central Bangna to get a haircut and a massage.

Soon after, Mrs Kanthima received a call informing her that her husband had been killed in the street in a brutal knife attack.

The taxi driver, Mr Cherdchai, told police that Pilkington became enraged when the cab hit traffic, and accused him of rigging the taxi's meter. The victim then began shouting at him before getting out of the cab without paying the 51-baht fare and throwing a cup of coffee at him, Mr Cherdchai told investigators.

But Mrs Kanthima refuses to believe that the attack was triggered by her husband's refusal to pay a taxi fare. She was quoted in Manager Online last week as saying she did not believe her husband would walk away without paying, since he was a generous and friendly man.

''My husband had some money with him. He might have been ripped off by the taxi driver and wanted to get out from the taxi and take the skytrain instead,'' she said.

who was fatally wounded last weekend.

Mrs Kanthima said she felt upset and angry at the taxi driver. She is now scared to take a taxi anywhere in Bangkok since she fears what happened to her husband might happen again.

Mrs Pilkington-Shaffer also said she finds it difficult to believe the story Mr Cherdchai told police.

She insists her brother _ who was known as ''Chip'' to his friends and family _ would not have behaved in that manner.

Speaking by telephone from the US, Ms Pilkington-Shaffer said she understood neither she nor anyone else could say what really happened in the taxi.

''We don't know what happened,'' she explains. ''But Chip doesn't drink coffee at night, ever. He doesn't drink cold coffee or iced coffee. He'll have a coffee early in the morning on his way to work, and that is all.''

Her brother was not the sort to try and evade paying someone who was providing him with a service, she says, but would have spoken up if he felt the driver was trying to cheat him.

''We weren't there, but I can tell you Chip would have paid what was due and he also would have known if the price was wrong,'' she said.

''If someone was trying to overcharge him, he would say something.

''But he knows what it is like in Bangkok and he knows the taxi drivers don't make a lot of money, and he would never have expected a ride for free or thrown anything at anybody.''

Ms Pilkington-Shaffer also noted police statements have referred to bloodstains found on Mr Cherdchai's shirt, but there has been no mention of coffee stains on the driver's clothing.

Police say Pilkington got into Mr Cherdchai's taxi outside the Central Bangna department store and had been making his way home to Sukhumvit Soi 85.

Somewhere along the way, a dispute between the two men ensued, and turned into a fight that spilled out onto the road near Sukhumvit Soi 68.

Ms Pilkington-Shaffer says online speculation about her brother's character, and whether or not he could have been intoxicated at the time of the incident, has added to the family's trauma.

''I want people to know that Chip was not on drugs, he was not drunk, he was not some bad farang guy,'' she said.

''He was a good person. He took care of his Thai family. He didn't have to. He could have just supported his wife, but he went to the extreme and took care of the whole family.''

A Buddhist religious ceremony for Pilkington was held at Wat That Thong on Sukhumvit Road for three days before his body was cremated on Thursday.

Mrs Kanthima is now making arrangements to return her husband's ashes to his home town in Idaho state.

The forensic laboratory at Chulalongkorn Hospital meanwhile has released its autopsy results, confirming Pilkington died from hypovolemic shock due to the huge amount of blood lost from a severe knife wound to his heart.

Ms Pilkington-Shaffer says she is now waiting for her brother's ashes to arrive home.

She described him as an avid fisherman and a keen scuba diver, who also had a private pilot's licence.

She said he loved Thailand, but will be laid to rest close to their father.

''My brother's ashes will be here in a few days,'' she said.

''We will be taking them up to Alaska, where my dad's ashes are and where Chip used to go fishing. That's where he would like to be.''

About the author

Writer: Lauren Higgs