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Gibbon Research Lab., Hannover
14 May 2002, updated 21 Sept. 2002
William Deters (69), three employees and a 3-year-old
girl were fatally shot by assailants late Friday (10 May 2002) on Deters' Highland
Farm and Wildlife Refuge in northern Thailand. I would like to express my sincere
condolences to the families of the victims.
Police speculated that a personal dispute may have been the motive. Mr Deters had quarreled with neighbors some time ago.
Mr Deters was a longtime resident in Thailand. In 1991, he founded a private animal sanctuary which became a refuge for abandoned, mistreated or injured gibbons (see http://members.tripod.com/highlandfarm/). The 35-acre farm is 27 miles south of Mae Sot, a major trading post town on Thailand's border with Myanmar.
The other victims were two men and a woman who worked at the farm and the child of one of the victims. Mrs. Deters was not at the refuge at the time of the killings. The appalling killing leaves the future of the gibbons unclear.
On Sunday (12 May), Thai police held three men as suspects in connection with the shooting. Police said one of three suspects confessed to having shot dead Mr Deters, his employees and the child. The suspect is an ex-worker at the sanctuary of Burmese nationality. He broke into Deters' house in order to get his guns and rifles which he intended to sell in the black market. Mr Deters was a former American soldier who kept firearms for many years after he retired from the U.S. military service. The two other suspects were being detained as accomplices as they were believed to have helped sell the firearms.
For press reports, see
William Deters) in front of the Highland
Farm (left) and with gibbon George (right).