Ron Fanelli, Poker, Phuket And Prostitutes, How Did He Become A Murderer
Ron Fanelli was my friend. How did he go on to be a murderer?
Ron Fanelli was a poker player: loud, brash, rightwing, ex-US navy. Victoria Coren liked him. Then last week she learned that he had confessed to killing bar girl Wanphen Pienjai in Thailand and chopping up her body
Sunday 25 July 2010
Ron Fanelli and Victoria Coren at a poker event in 2004. Photograph: Victoria Coren
'Seemed like a normal guy to me." That's what the neighbours often say, isn't it? "He was pretty quiet. Kept himself to himself." Last week, I walked past the house in Brighton where police are digging for victims of the serial killer Peter Tobin. I felt sorry for the people next door. It's bad enough to be woken by drills when someone's getting cable TV.
I wondered if the neighbours had lived there when Tobin did, in the 1980s, and were now getting the opportunity to tell people he seemed like a normal guy to them.
My old poker friend Ron Fanelli never seemed "pretty quiet". He was a noisy guy, opinionated. He broke all the rules of London poker etiquette by turning up at the casino, six or seven years ago, and sounding off right from the start. But I forgave him all the noise, because he was American. He was funny. I liked him.
When I hosted a series on the Poker Channel, a niche chatshow with poker players as guests, I invited Ron to take part in several episodes because he was entertaining and outspoken. One episode had the theme of "table manners": what is and is not acceptable behaviour in a poker game. My opening question was: "Ron, what is the worst thing you've ever done?"
Ron replied: "Me? I'm an angel. I've never done anything bad. Well, I guess I've made a few people cry. I don't like getting unlucky. There was that time I told everyone at the table I hoped they'd die of cancer. Other than that, I've never done anything bad."
And he laughed. The other guests laughed.
Last Monday, Ron confessed to murdering a prostitute in Thailand, chopping up her body and disposing of it in a suitcase.
It is a staple of broadcast news, when a killer is identified, to ask personal acquaintances for clues from the past. The public is eager to help. Everyone has a story to sell about Raoul Moat. They saw it in him. They never saw it in him.
I was always sceptical of anecdotes about "strange eyes" or "a nervous manner". All meaningless hindsight. Of course you can't tell if the man next door is a potential murderer. If you could, you'd move house.
When I first heard that Ron had been arrested in Thailand for the brutal stabbing of Wanphen Pienjai, an employee of the Sweetheart Bar in Phuket, I assumed he had been fitted up. I was terrified for him. I automatically supposed that this had been a scandalous murder, there was pressure on local police to make an arrest and what better scapegoat than a noisy American immigrant who visited prostitutes? A good one to lock up, close the files and draw a line under the case.
When I heard he had confessed, I thought he must have been coerced into it. I knew he'd been offered a sick deal whereby he would be executed if found guilty, unless he confessed and accepted life imprisonment. If I were offered something like that in Thailand, I thought, I would probably confess to anything. And then I would sit in jail and wait to be rescued. There is no way this man, whom I knew and liked, had actually done it.
But then the police found the knife in Ron's house. He gave them the shorts he was wearing at the time of the murder. They took away his mattress. He pleaded that he had been drunk at the time. He said it was an accident. He explained how he had put Wanphen's dismembered remains into a suitcase, balanced it on the front of his motorbike, and ridden off to dump the poor, lost girl along the Chao Fa Thani road.
And then the thinking starts. You can't help looking back on every encounter and wondering what it was you were supposed to notice. And then you notice things.
We called him "the Mad Yank". That was his poker nickname. He was temperamental, but you don't give someone a "mad" nickname if you mean it. It was just a joke. He loved it. I think the name might actually have been his own idea to begin with.
I had an argument with him once, when he first started dating Thai girls. He told me that western women were "strident feminists. Bossy and demanding. Asian women are docile, they understand what men want."
I told him not to be so bloody silly. I told him that women are the same the world over, and not to be fooled by the clever tricks of one who might be angling for marriage. (He did end up marrying a Thai woman. They had a child, in Thailand, and a few months later she left him.)
Most poker players are lovable old sexists. Ron was a rightwing American who had served in the navy. I didn't take the argument seriously. Looking back now, it takes on a sinister tone.
I have a photo of myself with the Mad Yank, from 2004. He was having a great time then: winning at poker, popular on internet forums, appearing on chatshows. He played it up, growing an exaggerated moustache and wearing sunglasses. I thought he looked funny in the picture. Staring back at it now, he looks like a killer.
If it were revealed that Ron had, for some reason, invented the whole detailed confession and was not guilty, he would stop looking like a killer. But that is what your brain does. Last Sunday night, I assumed Ron had been fitted up. Twenty four hours later, I had rethought everything in a new light, filled in the gaps, written a murder story in my head, and it made perfect sense.
By 2006, we all knew Ron had run out of money. His hot poker streak had fizzled out; he was kipping on friends' floors and borrowing money. His pride was dented. He was no longer the big success story. He looked for occasional work as a croupier, dealing cards to people whose money he had once won. When he met a "docile" Thai girl, her deference boosted his damaged ego. The obvious move was to follow her to Thailand, living in "paradise" (as he described it on his blog) where everything was cheap and he felt important again.
But she left him. He married a different Thai girl, had a child, then she left him too. Ron was broke but still gambling. He was short-tempered. He demanded obedience. These women had no need of a difficult, impoverished husband in their own homeland. That wasn't the deal. They grew tired of deferring, with only that in return. If he couldn't be an old-fashioned provider, why be an old-fashioned housewife?
When his wife left, Ron felt fooled and betrayed. The women who were supposed to make him feel important had made him feel stupid. It had all been a con. The anger and shame ran deep. He still had little money and no job. At this point, Ron started to use prostitutes. It was a power thing. He used more and more of them. After a while, hiring them for sex was not enough to make Ron feel powerful. He made them do sicker and kinkier things.
He didn't know what had gone wrong. He was a clever, articulate, former military man. He used to win money in glamorous poker tournaments. He had been an alpha male. Now, here he was, stuck in a foreign country where he had chased a woman who left him; another had taken his child away; he was unemployed, skint and using prostitutes. Ron knew he was a man to be reckoned with, even if nobody else could see it. Even if his wife couldn't see it.
No amount of hookers, no manner of kinky activity, could fill the hole where Ron's self-esteem used to be. He knew, now, that the women's obliging, flattering manners were just a pretence. That's just what women do to get what they want. He despised them for it. What he didn't understand was that the more he degraded and punished the girls, the worse he felt about himself. And the further he had to go to feel masterful again. It was a dark, twisted cycle.
One day, he picked up a beautiful girl from the Sweethearts Bar, round the back of the Club Med resort in Kata on the island of Phuket. He took her home. And when she reached for him, with her obliging smile, telling him how lucky she felt to find such a handsome customer, he was revolted by the lie. He saw, suddenly, all the women in the world, every last bitch taking him for a fool. Ron would not be taken for a fool. He snapped.
That is the story I have written for Ron in my head. I know he ran out of money. I know his wife left him. I know he posted on internet forums about all the kinky things he was up to with Thai hookers. I know he has confessed to this murder. I don't know anything else. I have no idea how he felt, or feels, about anything. There was a line in a news report from the Phuket Gazette that made me cry. It said:
"Asked if he were the same Ronald Fanelli who was a former professional poker player who gambled in tournaments under the name 'Mad Yank', he laughed briefly with a tone of bitter irony before replying, 'Yes, but that was a long time ago.'"
But it wasn't. It wasn't a long time ago.
The fee for this article has been donated to Victim Support
No shortage of women liking brutal killers, writing to their love on death row, visiting and even marrying them, some woman have a strange attraction for psychos and violent scumbags, they can see no wrong in them and can conjure up the most incredible apologist theory's for the scumbags sick behaviour.
This guy was apparently just a meglomaniac piece of shit, when he could no longer hack it someone else had to pay the price for the "in his mind" unfair and bad hand life had dealt him.
Good riddance, but very sad that an "innocent" girl had to pay with her life :(
In my experience, and I have talked with many trying to warn them off, the blame is placed elsewhere, on society, bad upbringing, ect. yes some acknowledge the scumbags crimes, but yet still manage to disassociate the scumbags crimes from the person they want him to be, even when warned off quite vividly.
We had a very sad case back home some years back, a scumbag having served time in the US for killing his Mother was sent to Denmark, a woman of the type we are talking about shacked up with him after his release and he ended up not only murdering Her but also her two small children :( yet another woman even married him in Prison after that (she is 0.40 sec in the vid. below):confused:
Peter Lundin is his name. go 1min 13 sec, into the vid. and you will see how he looked in an TV interview he gave while still sitting in a US prison, a raving psychopath.
Who was that sailor guy on Ajarn ? Storekeeper ?
Phuket Police to share Bt50,000 reward
now I know 50k baht is f-all in the scheme of things . . . but do police usually get to split reward money?
Fanelli arrest: Phuket Police to share Bt50,000 reward
PHUKET: Police investigators will share the 50,000 baht reward money offered for clues leading to the arrest of Ronald Fanelli, Phuket City Police say.
Phuket City Police Superintendent Wanchai Ekpornpit told the Gazette this morning that several people offered tips to the police and photos of people they suspected might be responsible, but that none of those led to the arrest of Mr Fanelli.
“The investigators assigned to the case will share the reward since it was their own detective work that led to the arrest,” he said.
Fanelli arrest: Phuket Police to share Bt50,000 reward
In the same way that the traffic cops get a share of 'legitimate' traffic fines collected at the end of each month.
Our friend in phnom penh, grant was a world series of poker player back then and murdered his viet GF.
Tied her up with wire and hid her under the bed for a week.
When the coppers came he jumped off the roof and landed on the canopy.
After being sentenced to 12 years he hung himself on grand final morning two years ago.
Children of murdered bar hostess to receive scholarship funds
The late Ms Wanphen and her daughter Farm, now three years old.
Iang, Farm and Mrs Sa-ard at their home in Wichienburi District, Petchaboon.
PHUKET: -- The two young children of Wanphen Pienjai, the Phuket bar hostess murdered by American Ron Fanelli, have been accepted into the Scholarship Program of the Rotary Club of Patong Beach (RCPB) and will receive financial support on an ongoing basis.
Meanwhile, Wanphen's mother, Sa-ard Maliwan, 59, has told the Phuket Gazette that she gave 5,000 baht of the 20,000 baht in donations raised through the newspaper's website (for immediate funeral expenses) to the family's local temple in Petchaboon, where her daughter's ashes are now kept.
“I received 20,000 baht on Tuesday [July 20] and I donated 5,000 baht for building a section of temple wall. Wanphen’s ashes arrived on Thursday and they will be put in the temple. The rest of the money will be kept for the children,” said Mrs Sa-ard.
Wanphen's body was cremated in Phuket on July 14.
She was murdered on June 18 and her remains were discovered in a suitcase in a remote area off Chao Fa Thani Rd, on June 24.
Reached by telephone to her home late last week, Mrs Sa-ard said, “I haven’t seen the guy [Fanelli] yet, but people have called me and asked how such a handsome man could be so cruel. I am happy the police caught him, but I still feel very sad at losing my daughter. Nothing can ever bring her back.”
“Normally, Wanphen sent us money. I don’t know who else can support us now. She was the only one who gave us hope and now she is dead.
“She was my only daughter. Her ex-husband knows what happened, but never came to visit. He probably has a new family already,” she added.
Wanphen, who used to work in Pattaya, was last at the family home in April this year, just before her move to Phuket.
Mrs Sa-ard described her daughter as a straight-talking person, loyal and generous, always inviting neighbors to join them for dinner. “She was kind and never abandoned me,” said Mrs Sa-ard, who is blind in one eye.
“My left eye is blind because I fell into a fire when I was one year old. I didn’t get any treatment because the village was in a remote, rural area back then,” she explained.
To earn at least some money Mrs Sa-ard has a part-time job cutting grass.
She also now takes care of Wanphen’s two orphaned children: a boy nicknamed Iang who is in sixth grade at Ban Nong Bua Thong School, and his sister Farm, age three.
“The older child knows his mother is dead, but the little one doesn’t realize it yet. I haven’t told her because she hasn’t asked.
“Iang hasn’t said anything about it. Farm just thinks her mom is off working. Sometimes when women walk past our home she [Farm] yells out how happy she is that her mom has finally come home,” Mrs Sa-ard said.
Readers wishing to make donations to the Rotary Club of Patong Beach can be made to the following account:
Rotary Club of Patong Beach Charity Account
Siam Commercial Bank
46/3 Chao Fah Rd
T. Taladneung, A. Muang
Phuket Thailand 83000
For further details about the RCPB's Scholarship Program, click here
-- Phuket Gazette 2010-07-26
That ice is bad shit for sure !
Great way to encourage police to frame folks- this country is just incapable of doing anything competently ( aside from providing cheap whores.)
What a load of crap.
Ron Fanelli, Poker, Phuket And Prostitutes
THis is so sad......IF i can say sorry to the womans's family, it would be " I am sorry for all the heart felt sadness and pain that one person has caused. I hope that some thing good come out of this and a life that was taken would eventually bring joy and peace to the family".
Change of story: Phuket Sweethearts Killer Denies 'Murder'
Victoria Coren writes in The Observer:
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the shock of hearing that my old poker friend Ron Fanelli had confessed to murdering a prostitute in Thailand, stuffing her remains into a suitcase and dumping it. I have had a communication from someone who visited Ron in prison, saying there is something he would like to make clear. Ron did not, as the Thai police stated, confess to murder.
Ron's position is that this was self-defence. He says that the young woman pulled the knife on him; in the struggle, he stabbed her twice and killed her. He disposed of her body secretly in a suitcase because it was too late for an ambulance and he feared the police would not believe his explanation.
My original article was about the impossibility of knowing the truth in any cases like this, or of truly knowing other people at all. I am happy to state Ron's version of events. I hope he finds peace in the future, for all the right reasons.
Phuketwan Update What Mr Fanelli said at the media presentation by police was as follows: Phuketwan: ''Mr Fanelli, have you admitted your guilt in this case?'' Fanelli: ''I have made a full statement of what happened. I don't want to go into it. I killed her. To gain the full context, you would have to read the full story. It was wrong. It was a horrible, horrible accident, in my opinion. I never intended to do any harm to this person.''
Source: Phuket Sweethearts Killer Denies 'Murder'; Phuket's India Invasion; Julia Roberts Becomes a Hindu - Phuket Wan
Just look at abisit.
Touche, Loose Bowels!
At least he is facing justice.
What has happened to the three Thais that fled to Thailand after murdering Luke Mitchell in Melbourne I wonder?
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