BANGKOK – Thailand’s Appeals Court has approved the extradition of a 67-year-old British charity organizer sought by Cambodian authorities after being convicted in absentia on a rape charge.
David John Fletcher, who ran a charity for children called the Rubbish Dump Project in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, was convicted in absentia for the rape of a 17-year-old Cambodian girl. He was sentenced in May 2011 to 10 years in prison.
Fletcher was arrested in Bangkok in 2010 after fleeing from Cambodia. The Criminal Court approved an extradition request in 2011, but Fletcher appealed.
On Wednesday, the Appeals Court judge denied the appeal, saying Fletcher’s prosecution did not violate human rights principles.
He is to be extradited to Cambodia within 90 days of Wednesday’s ruling.
The David Fletcher Story
They say life always catches up with you in the end. The exact moment it caught up with David Fletcher was on 22nd April 2010 at 15:15 in the afternoon when a SG8 reader looked at a small advertisement on the web site of a bar in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The bar, the web site and the advertisement belonged to David Fletcher, whom she knew well.
David Fletcher, born in Littleport in 1946, successfully ran a series of hairdressing salons in Cambridge and Saffron Walden was convicted at Norwich Crown Court in July 1997 of the statutory rape of a 15-yr-old girl, whom he first plied with champagne and to whom he offered £250 cash for sex. He also admitted possessing offensive weapons, two pepper sprays and two canisters of CS gas. He was jailed for eighteen months.
On completion of his sentence Fletcher briefly returned to hairdressing but soon discovered that the “blue rinse” ladies of Saffron Walden had deserted him and the business promptly went bust.
Down on his luck, David Fletcher eventually secured employment with a well-known Royston company and took up residence at 12 Portway, Melbourn SG8. All went well for several years until he was informed his services were no longer required. The reason was making improper suggestions to female customers. By this time, any attempt to gain similar employment required a criminal record check which he knew he could not pass so he upped sticks and moved to South East Asia, eventually surfacing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he opened a bar named Bogie & Bacal’s.
Bogie & Bacall’s never flourished partly due to Fletcher’s uncanny knack of alienating and repulsing practically anyone he came into contact with and partly because the business was not financially viable. It soon ran into debt.
‘Fletch the Letch’, as he had come to be known soon came up with the ideal solution. He, his British partner and two Australians started a children’s charity, thus providing himself with funds and access to young girls at the same time. They called it the Volunteer Project with the stated aim of feeding starving children living on Phnom Penh’s notorious Stung Mean Chey rubbish dump. Things quickly went sour again when the two Aussies began to suspect Fletcher’s intentions.
Said one of them, retiree Ross Wright: “We decided to go our own way. He never once showed us the bank account into which donations were going. There were tens of thousands of dollars unaccounted for. Cash was coming in from Rotary Clubs and big private donors, but we never saw any of it. We also had complaints of him being too familiar with young girls.”
Fletcher carried on regardless and placed an advert on his bar’s web site appealing for cash to be sent to his own bank account. By this stage his activities had started to attract the attention of other expats who began posting on the internet discussion board Khmer440 expressing their concerns. What was clear, however, was that none of them had the slightest idea that Fletcher was a convicted child rapist.
There was no proof to be found online as his crimes were committed prior to the internet’s invention but SG8 researchers spent days searching through microfilm in the local library and eventually found the damning evidence. A decision was made to involve a widely respected investigative journalist who had connections with the British press in order to gain maximum exposure. To that end Andrew Drummond was contacted to see if he wanted to take up the story. He and his photographer arrived in Phnom Penh less that a week later and spent a day with Fletcher posing as interested, if somewhat gullible, tourists. Their report appeared as a two page spread under the headline ‘British Paedo Running Kid’s Charity in Cambodia” in the Sunday Mirror the following weekend. Fletcher’s career as a perverted fraudster in South-East Asia was all but over.
Sensing the danger he was now in, Fletcher assured his creditors that they would be paid in full but within three days had fled the country surfacing once more in Bangkok, Thailand. He was arrested by the Thai authorities on June 23rd 2010, one day after his arrival in the country, for immigration offenses (specifically – failing to declare his previous convictions on his immigration arrival card). Such was the speed of his arrest in Bangkok that there can be no doubt that the Thai Police were tipped off about him or any doubt that he was being watched from the moment he crossed the Thai border. He was taken to Bangkok’s notorious Immigration Detention Centre to await deportation to The United Kingdom.
Meanwhile in Phnom Penh, the police, somewhat embarrassed by their failure to notice Fletch’s perverted scheme going on under their noses, launched a full investigation. A team of British police officers from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre flew out to assist. On the day Fletcher was due to fly back to Britain the Cambodian authorities lodged a request with the Thais to have him extradited back to Cambodia to answer, among other things, child rape charges.
Fletcher wasted no time in filing an appeal against his extradition using the ludicrous excuse that he was being set up by money launderers who he had fallen out with. The judge dismissed his claim, ruling that he should be returned to Cambodia, subject to one further appeal. Fletcher remains in prison in Bangkok awaiting his final hearing.
Back in Cambodia nobody wanted to wait for Fletcher to reappear and in May 2011 he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to ten years in prison with a $5000 fine. – By Glen Dairyman