Police say US man's death not a murder

Police say US man's death not a murder

Webster University professor James Hughes in the classroom. He was missing for a month before he was found dead in a Hua Hin hotel room. (Photo via Webster.ac.th)
Webster University professor James Hughes in the classroom. He was missing for a month before he was found dead in a Hua Hin hotel room. (Photo via Webster.ac.th)

Hua Hin police have concluded that the death of an American professor who had gone missing for a month in the beach town resort was not the result of a homicide.

James Hughes, a lecturer at Webster University Thailand, was found dead in a hotel room on Sept 6 after having disappeared on Aug 5.

An autopsy report released in October by the Police General Hospital's Institute of Forensic Medicine indicated the 58-year-old had died of "failed respiration and blood circulation".

But close friends and relatives remain convinced that Hughes was physically assaulted after seeing the results, which showed several contusions, tear and avulsion wounds as well as an internal bruise in the occipital region of his head.

"We have taken into account witness testimony and forensic evidence and are confident that [James Hughes] died of circulatory failure," Hua Hin police superintendent Pol Col Sittichai Srisopacharoenrat told the Bangkok Post.

Three hotel staff questioned by police confirmed that the bruises occurred around one week before Hughes' death, said Pol Col Sittichai.

Forensic doctor Supichai Limsiwawong, who conducted the autopsy, said Hughes suffered from a very severe case of fatty liver disease, which he suspected was the cause of death.

"There were no internal wounds, and the external wounds had nothing to do with his death," said Pol Col Supichai.

David Hughes, James Hughes' brother, has accused police of mishandling the case and withholding information. The bruises, for instance, were not mentioned in the police report on the day of Hughes' death, and were only disclosed after the autopsy came out in October.

Police also claim all six CCTV cameras at Puang Pen Villa Hotel, where Hughes stayed for a month until his death, were broken. Hughes was found dead at the foot of the bed, according to the police report.

The hotel is located in a bar district near Hua Hin police station and only a block and a half from where a British family were savagely attacked during the Songkran holidays in April.

"Fatty liver is not even something you die of," David Hughes said by phone from New York. "The story is so misconstrued to the point that nobody would investigate it properly. They're now dealing with a case that is muddled up and they're trying to make him into some drunk."

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