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Australian on Thai death row for smuggling half a tonne of crystal meth released

However, defence lawyers supported by the Melbourne-based Capital Punishment Justice Project claimed in their appeal that Cook and his fellow defendants had been framed by another fly-in, fly-out Australian offshore worker named Douglas Shoebridge.

Douglas Shoebridge, who testified against Luke Cook in court in Thailand

Douglas Shoebridge, who testified against Luke Cook in court in Thailand

Shoebridge, 38, a compass adjuster also known as “Big Daddy”, testified that Cook had confessed his crime to him.

Shoebridge left Thailand in 2019 after a warrant of arrest was issued by Bangkok Criminal Court against him and Tanzanian woman Sara Musa Chitanda for trafficking in women from East Africa to the sex trade in south-east Asia.

Shoebridge testified that Cook had hired him as a diver to go on three trips to look for gold which had been dumped offshore. On the third unsuccessful trip Shoebridge said Cook confessed that he was really searching for the drugs he had dumped overboard.

However, Shoebridge’s reliability as a witness was brought under question after a NSW inquest into the death of high-ranking Hells Angels member Wayne Schneider near Pattaya in 2015 shone a spotlight on the foreign criminal underworld there.

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Sydney kickboxer Antonio Bagnato was in 2017 sentenced to death for Schneider’s murder and the inquest was told that the two cars used in the kidnapping and killing of Schneider were rented for Bagnato by Shoebridge’s partner Siriphan Saimart.

The inquest also heard that Shoebridge gave 100,000 Thai baht ($A4130) to Siriphan to rent a house in Pattaya where Schneider was tortured and killed.

Bagnato was later acquitted of the murder and re-sentenced for assault, as well as being arrested on illegal firearms charges.

In 2015 Cook pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the escape of Bagnato to the Cambodian border following Schneider’s death.

Cook told a Thai court at the time that Bagnato, who had rented a room at his bar and guesthouse Jolly’s Piss Stop Bar, had turned up on his doorstep with a gun demanding that he drive him to the border. But Cook said he knew nothing about the murder.

While Bagnato was extradited from Cambodia, Cook was given a three-month jail term, fully suspended for two years.

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