PHUKET – Australian Citizens John Edward Cohen and Adam Lewis Shea who faced attempted murder charges over a shooting incident on the Thai resort island of Phuket have received suspended jail sentences.
John Edward Cohen, 33, from NSW, and Adam Lewis Shea, 26, from Tasmania, were detained in January after the shooting incident in which two German tourists were wounded.
A Thai court, in a recent judgment, sentenced the Australian men to six months and 15 days in prison, but the term was suspended on condition of good behaviour for two years.
Legal sources said the men had also paid fines.
Senior Thai police had initially called for “the highest penalties under the law” after the incident which was sparked when the men pursued a Danish man they were in conflict with over an outstanding $A10,000 debt.
Cohen, a tattoo business owner in Phuket, told authorities he had feared for his life after associates of the Danish man, Dennis Knudsen, had visited his home.
Cohen had sued Knudsen over the outstanding monies, but when the Dane had failed to appear at the court, Cohen later told police they were prepared to “strike first”.
On the evening of January 22, the Australians went in pursuit of Knudsen along Phuket’s Patong Beach area. Upon seeing the Dane leaving a hotel, Cohen opened fire.
Two German tourists, Johann Baschenegger, 42, and Joseph Woerner, 71, were wounded by stray bullets, Baschenegger seriously. CCTV footage showed the two men running back into the Baan Pirin Hotel clutching their wounded arms.
Police later arrested Knudsen, who was detained in the same prison as Cohen and Shea.
News of the Australians’ sentence comes as diplomats recently raised concerns about the safety of tourists in Phuket from crime, corruption, and dangerous road and sea conditions.
Phuket is now considered “the most dangerous place” in the world for Australians, according to figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
About 100 Australians died in Thailand last year.
About 930,000 Australian tourists visited Thailand in 2012, with an average of 30,000 Australians staying in Phuket in any given month.