Kiwi forgives his wife's killers

By Edward Rooney

Geoff Smith says his wife wouldn't have wanted him to hold any malice.

Michelle Smith's funeral in Perth. Photo / 7 News
Michelle Smith's funeral in Perth. Photo / 7 News

Geoff Smith buried his wife Michelle yesterday after a funeral in Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park in Perth. Hours before the funeral, the Te Awamutu-born engineer told the Herald on Sunday he believed his wife would want him to forgive the Thai men who stabbed her to death.

Michelle was in Phuket on a familiarisation tour with 10 other travel agents. Geoff said his wife loved the job, the tours and helping clients.

While returning to her hotel after an evening meal on June 20, Michelle was attacked by a pair of young men on a motorcycle. She struggled as the passenger on the bike tried to steal her bag and he plunged a 10cm knife into her chest. Her companion, Tammee Lynn, 42, was also hurt and required stitches.

Police CCTV footage shows the men attacking the women. Soon after Smith collapsed and died despite efforts by Lynn to halt the bleeding.

Surasak Suwannachote, 26, has been arrested and charged with murder along with the motorcyle driver, Surin Tabthong, 37.

According to local media, they had tried to snatch Smith's handbag in an attempt to raise 300 baht ($12) which Surin owed a local restaurant.

"It's been a tough 10 days," Geoff said. "Michelle loved the Thai people and wouldn't have wanted any malice held towards the people or country."

Geoff said he had no desire to meet the men charged with killing his wife.

"I really don't think so. We're not seeking revenge, I know justice will be done.

"The Thai people will deal with it in their own way. It's not going to bring Michelle back."

Their son Cameron turned 27 yesterday, and was at the funeral with sister Chanelle, 29, and Scott, 39.

Scott was adopted and raised in New Zealand but was reunited with his mother after she searched for him and now lives in the Gold Coast.

Geoff said he'd been privileged to share "an amazing life journey" with his wife and he knew she would have forgiven the attackers if she had survived.

"Michelle was like a saint in that respect, a very forgiving person. She never measured anybody."

He also noted the attack could have happened anywhere and he hoped it would not put people off going to Thailand.

"You can get rolled in downtown Auckland. She was 100m from the hotel in a quiet part of Phuket. They felt as safe as a church."

Geoff said he met Michelle in Christchurch in 1974 when he was an engineering apprentice.

"Michelle was working for Ansett as a sales agent for the Australian airlines basically long before they started flying into New Zealand."

They were married in January 1977 and lived in Christchurch until moving to Australia in 1988.

Geoff said he and his wife planned a trip to northern Australia next month and he hoped to go ahead with his brother. "We are going to carry on and fulfil her dreams, they're our dreams now and we can't just stop.

"We had her 60th birthday on the 5th of May ... Six weeks later, she's gone."

- Herald on Sunday

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