Australian travel agent stabbed to death
PHUKET: A 59-year-old Australian travel agent, Michelle Smith, was slashed to death by snatch-and-grab robbers in Kata Noi last night (June 20).
Thursday 21 June 2012, 09:26AM
Another women, named as Tammee Lynn, in the party of 10 travel agents from Perth, Western Australia, had her arm slashed in the attack.
The attack came just after 10pm last night as the group walked back from dinner to the Katathani Resort, where they were staying on a familiarisation trip.
Just about 100 metres from the hotel, two men on a motorbike swooped, attempting to steal the 59-year-old’s handbag.
Chalong Police Lt Col Boonlert Ongklang said that when Ms Smith resisted, the passenger on the bike stabbed her twice in the left side of the chest with a seven-inch knife.
“The other woman [Ms Lynn] was slashed in the arm when she tried to help,” Col Boonlert said. “It was all over in less than a minute.”
The two women, one supporting the other, staggered towards the hotel. At the staff entrance the 59-year-old collapsed and died at the staff entrance.
Col Boonlert said the wounds to Ms Smith’s chest were “horrific”. One was 15cm deep and 15cm wide, penetrating her heart.
CCTV footage of the two attackers on their motorbike was not clear enough to show the number plate but it did show that neither was wearing a helmet, so police hope that it will be possible to identify them.
Col Boonlert said, however, that Ms Lynn could not remember what they looked like.
A fellow travel agent and former colleague of Ms Smith told thewest.com.au this morning that she was shocked to hear the news this morning.
The friend, who did not want to be named, described the 60-year-old as feisty and “full of life”.
“She was breath of fresh air, she always had everyone in hysterics,” she said.
“She was fun-loving and just one of those people who you thought—I’d love to be like her when I’m her age — just so full of life.
“I’m not surprised she fought back — she was an experienced traveller and worked hard for her money—most of us would have done the same thing.
“It's just tragic it would end up like it did though.”
It is understood Mrs Smith, who lives in Butler in Perth's northern suburbs with husband Geoff, was an experienced traveller who had spent a lot of time in south-east Asia.
This morning Kylie Daff from Motive Travel in Perth, who was travelling with Ms Smith, this morning reassured her friends and family that she was safe and well via Facebook.
Ms Daff posted on her wall “Guys, it may have hit local news…I’m ok, with a supportive group of people. Can’t update further just yet, will keep post when ok to do so.”
Ms Daff and the remainder of the group are expected to return to Perth today after special travel arrangements made for their immediate evacuation, thewest.com.au reported.
In the Melbourne Age, Mrs Smith's older brother, Alan Gordon, today described the murderers as cowardly.
"She didn't have a chance. At least if she got stabbed in the arm or the leg or the stomach, we'd probably be flying over to Phuket to see her. But stabbed in the heart ... " he said, trailing off.
"It's just a cowardly act, and it's just a horrible thing to happen," he was quoted as saying.
"Michelle was very much loved. It's just hard to come to grips with. I suppose tomorrow it will sink in, I don't know."
He said his sister got the travel bug as a youngster and, at the age of 18, set off on a world adventure before returning to Australia and settling down in her early 20s to become a travel agent, for which she won awards.
The travel industry in Australia was shocked by the news of the travel agent's death, WA Today reported.
"It's dreadful news. Devastating obviously for the agent's family, but also for the tight-knit travel agency community here in Australia.
"Our industry is very close and when a tragedy like this happens to one of our own, it really hits home for all of us," Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Jayson Westbury said, WA Today reported.
"Our thoughts are with the family at this sad time and we will be doing what we can to reach out and assist in any way possible," Mr Westbury was quoted as saying.
But Mr Westbury said bag snatching happened in every city in the world and it was not particularly common in Phuket, ABC Radio reported.
“The tragedy here is there’s been a fatality,” he was quoted as saying by ABC.
“The people of Thailand generally are beautiful, loving, caring, religious people: they would be horrified with this.
“I don’t think that people should go into panic mode and start making dramatic (travel) plan changes as a result of the random nature of this act.”
Read Executive Editor Alasdair Forbes' interviews with the Australian media: