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Dad alleges cover-up in daughters' Phi Phi deaths

PHUKET: The father of two Canadian sisters found dead on Phi Phi island two weeks ago has accused Thai authorities of covering up the true circumstances of their deaths.

Wednesday 27 June 2012, 10:25AM


Carl Belanger, who will bury Noemi, 26, and Audrey, 20, tomorrow (June 30), made the accusation during an emotional interview with Canada’s QMI news agency on Tuesday.

The bodies of Audrey and Noemi were found on June 15 in their room at Phi Phi Palms Residence Hotel by the maid, showing signs of having died from an extreme toxic reaction. Autopsy results are expected within two weeks.

The sisters were students at Laval University in Quebec City, in east central Canada. They worked at their father’s grocery store in their hometown of Pohenegamook, about 200 km northeast of Quebec City.

Thai officials speculated the women likely died of food poisoning or exposure to pesticides, but Mr Belanger says the Thai autopsy and the actions of hotel staff were suspicious.

He told QMI that it took too long to discover the bodies and to examine them, and he said police didn’t keep him informed about their progress.

“The authorities say they found the bodies 12 hours after their death. According to our calculations it was 48 hours,” he said in French.

Subsequent reports indicated hotel surveillance video shows a man leading the women to a room.

A source says police in Thailand are looking for two Portuguese men who were guests at the hotel, but that both have since left the country.

Despite his grief and frustration, Mr Belanger praised the work of Canadian Embassy officials who he said repatriated his daughters’ bodies quickly.

Mr Belanger admits he had concerns about his daughters’ trip to Thailand and Vietnam despite the fact Noemi was an experienced traveller. He said he expressed his worries to his daughters the last time he contacted them.

“I was dreading Thailand,” he told QMI. “(I told them) they should end that trip.”

He said Noemi had studied in China for three months. She also took a psychology course in Paris and had also travelled to Mexico, England and all across Canada.

The young women spoke with their parents every second day during their trip to Thailand.

“The week of the tragedy, the last contact we had with them was Monday night,” he said. “After that, no more news. My wife kept saying, ‘Carl, this is bothering me.’ Then we received word of their deaths Saturday morning.”

His voice cracking, he read Audrey’s final letter in which she praised her parents.

“First off, we take a moment to thank you for having brought us into this world in Canada, for giving us good values, for giving us the passion to travel, and especially to just for having been our parents.”

Audrey ended her letter with words of love that have comforted the grieving family.

“I love you very, very much, say hi to the family for us.”

In 2009, two other young women, Jill St Onge, 27, an American, and Julie Bergheim, 22, a Norwegian, died on Phi Phi in similarly mysterious circumstances, but the exact cause has never been established. The women were staying in separate rooms at the Laleena Guesthouse on Phi Phi, and died the same weekend.

Uncertainly also remains over six deaths – including four in a single hotel – in northern Chiang Mai last year. Authorities concluded that poisoning by pesticides or other chemicals was the “likely cause” of most of those fatalities.

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