UK murder mystery of Thai 'Lady of the Hills'
published : 31 Mar 2019 at 18:06
writer: The News in Portsmouth
The discovery of an unidentified woman’s body on an English hillside more than a decade ago sparked a mystery still as yet unsolved. For 15 years her remains, found as a hill walker posed for a photo in England's Yorkshire Dales in 2004, had no name -- and were later buried in an anonymous grave.
The woman, who police believe was murdered, has a headstone that reads: "The Lady of the Hills." When she was found in a stream in Pen-y-ghent, more than a mile away from the nearest road, she was wearing a gold wedding band, green jeans and socks.
‘Folks do not die unnoticed or uncared for’
At the 36-year-old’s funeral in September 2007 the Yorkshire Post reported the Vicar of Langcliffe, Stainforth and Horton-in-Ribblesdale, the Rev Roger Wood, said: ‘Although we knew so little about her, it’s an honour and a privilege to tell the world that in this corner of the Yorkshire Dales, folks do not die unnoticed or uncared for.’
Now three years after a cold case investigation was started by North Yorkshire police the world knows her name: Lamduan Seekanya. She was married to British lecturer David Armitage, her second husband, in her native Thailand before moving to Portsmouth, on England's southern coast, in 1991.
Close-knit Thai community open up about Lamduan
Members of the then close-knit Thai community have opened up to The News about their grief after learning of Lamduan’s mystery death.
Those who knew her have told of a family-oriented restaurant worker who loved her children -- and who would never have left them. It’s understood mother-of-three Lamduan, who was 36 when she died in 2004, was going through "family problems" while living in Portsmouth.
She sought advice from Sue Mayne, one of the more established Thai women in the city who was then running the Bangkok Restaurant in Albert Road, Southsea.
Recollecting the time while sitting in a cafe just yards away from her restaurant, the 74-year-old chef said Lamduan came to her to discuss the problems and get advice.
'She needed help -- but I couldn’t advise her much’
Ms Sue, who is from the same northeastern region in Thailand as Lamduan and spoke the same dialect, said: "I knew her only when she was in Portsmouth.
"She came to see me in that time but I couldn’t advise her much."
Ms Sue, who now leases out the Bangkok Restaurant, believes this was around 2002-2004.
No arrests made in investigation
It has been reported Lamduan lived in Portsmouth between 1991 and 2003.
The Sun last week tracked down Mr Armitage, who is originally from Rugby, and he told the newspaper: "I didn’t kill my wife. Absolutely not." There is no suggestion he is a suspect in the death. Police have not made any arrests in the case.
The pair had met in Chiang Mai while Mr Armitage was teaching English at Kanchanaburi Rajabhat University.
Community lost contact after Lamduan moved
Ms Sue added: "In that time only I can advise her go back home and talk to him. And last time she came to see me and said her husband find the job in Yorkshire and move away from Portsmouth.
"Since then I lost contact until I read the news about her."
North Yorkshire police are investigating the case and just last week asked the nation’s press to help publicise an appeal for anyone who knew her to come forward.
"No matter how small or seemingly insignificant you think the information is, it could prove to be very important to help us establish details about Lamduan’s life and the circumstances surrounding her death," a North Yorkshire police spokeswoman said in an appeal last week.
Trip to Thailand before death
Detectives believe she lived in Rugby, in Warwickshire, and Preston, in Lancashire, after leaving Hampshire. She travelled to Thailand between 2003 and 2004, but it is not known where she went while there.
Hill walker Malcolm Pearce and another walker found her half-naked body on Sept 20, 2004.
How she came to be there, and how she died, have remained a mystery ever since her discovery.
Several members of the Thai community in the Portsmouth area have been contacted by detectives trying to find out more about Lamduan, who had been dead for between one to three weeks when she was found.
According to those who knew her, she lived in Portsmouth without a job for a time before then commuting to Petersfield for work in the kitchen at the River Kwai in Dragon Street, Petersfield.
'She wouldn’t leave her children’
Sucheera Meredith, 61, was Lamduan’s supervisor when she worked at the Thai restaurant.
Ms Sucheera said: ‘I feel sorry for her, I remember she had three children, I’ll never forget her. She was a lovely woman to her children, she wouldn’t have hurt her children or leave her children. I know she had problems before they were moving -- family problems.
"She was a lovely girl and she was working and loved her family and children.
"She was working with me. Sometimes she would come in really sad or miserable with her problems. When she had a problem with family she would become really upset at work and talk a bit.
"I was really shocked and I feel sad because she’s so nice -- I did not expect that to happen to her.
"I don’t know where they went when they moved away. When she’d gone she didn’t contact us so I don’t know."
Plans to exhume remains and repatriate Lamduan
More than £5,700 (235,000 baht) has been raised to exhume Lamduan’s remains from St Oswald’s Church in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, where an annual memorial service is held, and for a funeral in Phen district in Udon Thani.
"We want Lamduan to come home for a Buddhist ceremony in our village according to our traditions," her 73-year-old mother Joomsri has been reported as saying.
Thai press have reported the Justice Ministry said any potential suspect could be prosecuted in the country if there is shown to be a case to answer.
Family member makes grave visit
A relative of Lamduan wept as she visited her grave, held the ground and said: "You’re going home, your mum and dad are waiting for you."
Helped by the Thai Women Network in the UK, which is fundraising to exhume and repatriate Lamduan’s remains, Buathong Trimble visited her cousin’s grave in Horton-in-Ribblesdale on Saturday. Mrs Trimble said her cousin "should rest in our local temple" in Thailand, the BBC reported.
Kanittaya Graham, the deputy chairwoman of the network, told The News: "It was very emotional seeing her relative being at the grave who couldn’t help but cry.
"She put her hands to the ground and said “you don’t belong here, you’re going home -- your mum and dad are waiting for you” -- it was quite emotional."
Ms Kanittaya said she understood the Lady of the Hills to be mother-of-three Lamduan since December -- but had to wait for police to prove this.
She added: "When we found out it was Lamduan everyone still hoped it’s not her but when it was her everybody felt sad she had been unknown for 15 years."
More than £5,000 has been crowdfunded to bring Lamduan back home -- with any extra cash raised being held to fund what could be a lengthy process.
This latest fundraising echoes how villagers raised money for a memorial stone at Lamduan’s grave in 2012.
Ms Kanittaya hopes it will take a month to return Lamduan home, but fears the complicated paperwork needed will take longer.