PERTH – Leslie Graham Lewis from Perth Australia may have drowned in Thailand’s Mekong River while he was drunk, an inquest in Western Australia has heard.
The Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday that Leslie Graham Lewis was aged 57 on February 24, 2011, when he was last seen wandering in a dishevelled state towards a temple near the river.
The Duncraig man had a day earlier checked into the Mut Mee Guest House in Nong Khai with his girlfriend, a Thai local, after being hospitalised briefly when he hit his head and fractured an arm in a fall while drunk.
Hospital staff were concerned that he showed signs of alcohol withdrawal, and his girlfriend argued with him when he wanted to drink again that night.
She told Australian Federal Police when they travelled to Thailand to try to find the missing man that he tore up his passport during the dispute, then left and was never seen by her again.
The next day, still drunk, he was seen outside the Pantawee Hotel, attempting to drive off in a tourist bus while shouting that he wanted to go home.
The driver wrestled Mr Lewis from the vehicle and he wandered off towards the Mekong River.
Local police reported that it was not unusual for tourists to drown in the area, where the river ran fast, acting state coroner Evelyn Vicker was told.
The river had claimed the lives of eight foreign visitors during the 15-month period from January 1, 2011, but Mr Lewis had not been identified as one of them.
The court also heard it was a Buddhist custom to burn bodies found on the riverbank as soon as possible, without notifying police.
Ms Vicker said she was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Lewis had died, probably as the result of an accident.
She is expected to hand down her formal findings early next year.
Anyone with information about Mr Lewis, or any missing person can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Lismore police on 02 6626 0599