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Wednesday March 31, 2010

Researcher: DNA may help unravel the mysterious disappearance of ‘Thai Silk King’

newsdesk@thestar.com.my

A RESEARCHER believes that the clue to the mysterious disappearance of ‘Thai Silk King’ Jim Thompson may be found in bones from a grave in Cameron Highlands.

Captain Philip J. Rivers, a long-time resident in the highlands, said the bone fragments, without the skull, were discovered at the edge of a vegetable plot off the main road in Brinchang by orang asli settlers in 1985.

He found out about the discovery of the bones from a district health officer while doing research on Thompson’s death in 2007.

Intriguing case: Captain Rivers with retired ASP Tan Ai Bee, who was involved in the investigations on the case of the missing Jim Thompson, in Ipoh recenty.

Police collected the fragments but no connection was made to Thompson’s disappearance in Tanah Rata, as they were found in Brinchang and almost 30 years after his ‘death’, Rivers said at a talk on ‘He Never Left The Hills — The Real Search For Jim Thompson’ orga-nised by the Perak Academy in Ipoh on Friday.

Among the audience were retired Asst Supt Tan Ai Bee, who was involved in the investigations on Thompson’s case, and Edward Roy De Souza, author of the book Solved!.

Thompson was reported missing on March 26, 1967. He was believed to be taking a walk in the jungles of Cameron Highlands then. The American was on a holiday with friends and they were staying at the Moonlight Cottage in Tanah Rata.

Several theories have emerged about his disappearance including political conspiracies and even supernatural causes.

“Recently, I heard a story of an elderly Chinese, wanting to ease his conscience, confessing that he had knocked down and killed a European.

“His family urged him to disclose where the body was buried so that the deceased could have a proper burial. However, the man died before he could reveal the spot,” said Rivers.

Rivers, who scrutinised books, articles and police reports from Deputy Supt (Retired) Ismail Hashim who was the OCPD then, said he concluded that Thompson never left the highlands and had suffered an accidental death.

“The probability is that his body lay undiscovered in the thick underbush, hidden in an unmarked grave after a hit-and-run accident. A DNA on the bones might possibly provide a fuller answer,” he said.

Asked to comment later, De Souza agreed that there was a probability that Thompson’s death was accidental.

“But there is still a need to determine whether the bones found were that of Thompson’s,” he said.

De Souza’s theory was that Thompson had planned his own disappearance as “an honourable manner” to get out of Thailand.

He said Thompson had felt uneasy staying in Thailand because of his poor relationship with the Fine Arts Department (FAD).

Apparently, the FAD’s director-general then was not happy with Thompson’s collection of artefacts.

De Souza said the press had, on occasions, quoted the director-general as saying that Thompson was one of the leaders involved in the looting of Thai temples.

According to De Souza, an American businessman named Edward Pollitz had claimed to have seen Thompson in Tahiti two months after he was reported missing.

He concluded that Thompson must have planned his own disappearance long before he came to Cameron Highlands if it was true that he had found his way to Tahiti.

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