Dad becomes tenth Westerner to die mysteriously on Thai ‘death island’

A dad-of-one has become the tenth Westerner to die in mysterious circumstances on Thailand’s infamous ‘death island’.

Bernd Grotsch, 47, was found dead at his home in the heart of the jungle on the notorious island of Koh Tao on June 17.

The German had recently returned to the island ‘to tie up some loose ends’ with his 20-year-old motorbike rental business.

His family, who described him as ‘fit’ and ‘healthy’, claim authorities told them he died of “heart failure” or had been “bitten by a snake”.

But they say they haven’t received an autopsy report and believe there is something more sinister behind his death.

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The family, from Ingolstadt, Germany, have also complained about his body being sent to the same Bangkok hospital that carried out botched reports on the bodies of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.

The pair were murdered on the same island in 2014.

Experts across the world slammed the DNA testing done by the hospital at the time – amid claims it was tampered with in order to scapegoat two Burmese workers currently on death row over the killings.

Mr Grotsch’s cousin Christina told The Sun the were "no explanation" for the death of the dad at his home in Mae Haad.

She said: "He was fit, healthy and happy. We do not trust the authorities in Thailand, especially since there are some oddities.

"To date, no autopsy results have been obtained, only vague explanations and conjectures about an alleged deadly bite by a poisonous snake.

"Or heart and circulatory failure, without further evidence."

Christina claimed the family were initially told Mr Grotsch’s body had been returned to the mainland in Surat Thani.

But when they checked again it was still in a temple on Koh Tao.

They allegedly put pressure on the German Embassy in Bangkok, and eventually the body was moved three days later.

They family had wanted forensic scientist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand to perform the autopsy as she is seen worldwide as a respected independent forensic physician, according to the newspaper.

However, his body was instead taken to the Institute of Forensic Medicine, which is where the bodies of Miss Witheridge and Mr Miller were taken.

Wealthy entrepreneur Mr Grotsch had moved to the island two decades ago, but left in 2016.

He started another business on the island of Koh Phayam, before returning earlier this year to "tie up loose ends".

He had recently split from wife and Koh Tao native, Oey, with whom he has a seven-year-old daughter, Bene.

Mr Grotsch is the tenth known foreigner to die in suspicious circumstances on the ‘death island’ in just six years.

Below, we look at the previous cases.


Brit Ben Harrington , 32, died on the island after his motorbike apparently crashed into an electricity pylon.

His mother Pat Harrington did not accept the explanation by Thai police and has spent years fighting for information from the Thai authorities about her son’s death, including submitting Freedom of Information requests to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Mrs Harrington said she is suspicious of the explanation and had to fight to prevent his body being quickly cremated: "[Thai authorities] wanted to cremate Ben the next day, but I screamed and shouted and it was stopped.

"I had awful problems getting anyone on the phone at first."


Brits Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were murdered as they walked back to their hotel rooms in September 2014.

Hannah, 23, from Hemsby, Norfolk, and David Miller, 24, from Jersey, were found dead on Koh Tao on September 15.

Post-mortem examinations showed that the young backpackers, who had met on the island while staying at the same hotel, both suffered head wounds and that Hannah had been raped.

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo were sentenced to death for the killings. But although David’s family called the verdict ‘justice’, the trial of the two Burmese migrant workers was plagued by accusations of human rights abuses.

Nick Pearson , 25, from Derby, was found floating in the sea on New Year’s Day 2014.

His parents believe he was murdered – despite police claims he fell 50ft and drowned.

The 25-year-old’s mum Tracey told a documentary about the island she would warn parents not to allow their children to travel to the island.


Christina Annesley , 23, died on the island in January 2015 after apparently mixing antibiotics she was taking for a chest infection with alcohol.

But the British holidaymaker’s parents slammed Thai authorities for failing to investigate the death.

Christina, from Orpington, South East London, died shortly after arriving on Koh Tao.

Her dad Boyne said a toxicology report was not carried out.

Frenchman Dimitri Povse , 29, was found hanged in a bungalow on the island on New Year’s Day 2015 and his death was ruled as suicide despite his hands being tied behind his back.

Associate Professor Charnkanit Krittiya Suriyamanee, a criminologist and lecturer at the faculty of social science and humanities of Mahidol University, said he doubted the suicide theory citing some irrelevant evidences, according to Chiangrai Times .

He said that the victim had been drunk to the extent that he was unable to control himself, he would not have been able to tie himself up so tightly that he died of suffocation.

He also noted several other odd finds.


Luke Miller, a bricklayer from the Isle of Wight, was found dead in a swimming pool at the Sunset Bar at Sairee Beach on January 8 2016, with an inquest earlier this month finding "no evidence" he was murdered.

He was discovered floating in the water by a member of hotel staff, with his death coming just days after a tragic final Facebook post on New Year’s Eve, in which he said: "Can honestly say this new year I am living the dream".

Thai police said a post-mortem examination showed he drowned.

But, his sister Maria and the family told the BBC they would not rely on what Thai police said as there was still speculation over the circumstances surrounding the death – and that they had received ‘different versions’ of what might have happened.


Belgian Elise Dallemagne was found dead and half-eaten by lizards having apparently hanged herself on the island – an explanation rejected by her family.

The young backpacker had been living at a yoga and tantra retreat, which neighboured the party island of Koh Phangan, in between travelling round Asia, for two years.

She was part of the sect of the Sathya Sai Baba cult movement, and lived with a self-proclaimed "guru", and left Koh Phangan on April 17 to return home.

Elise then used a fake name of "Elise Dubuis" to check into the Triple B Bungalows next to Mae Head Pier on Koh Tao as she travelled via the island on a ferry bound for Chumphon province on her route back to capital Bangkok.

But an unexplained fire that evening burned down three bamboo huts – including the one Elise had been staying in.

Elise fled 2.5km to through the jungle to Tanote Bay and took a room at the Poseidon Resort where she booked another ticket for Bangkok leaving on April 24.

Eight days later when locals living near the island’s idyllic Tanote Bay became suspicious of a monitor lizard going back and fourth into the jungle they discovered Elise’s half-eaten body on May 27 among rocks behind the Tanote Family Bay Resort.

Police told Elise’s mother Michele that her daughter had committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree around three days before she was found.

Russian tourist Valentina Novozhyonova , 23, vanished from her hostel on Koh Tao in March and has still not been found.

She had checked into the hostel on February 11 and was due to check out on February 16 – but failed to do so.

A few days later, staff checked her room to discover her mobile phone, passport and camera had all been left behind.

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