Thai police believe 16-year-old Woramet Ben Taota, a dual-national, was murdered after he was found dead in a grove in the Ban Than district on Sunday morning, with blunt force trauma injuries to his face and head.
His phone and money were missing from his shoulder bag, leading to speculation he may have been robbed.
Local media reported that Woramet’s body was found by a rubbish collector who was working in the area at the time. Officers later found his belongings, including a smartphone charger and his ID card and bank card, but his phone and cash were missing.
Police believe he may have been killed elsewhere and dumped at the spot where he was found, slumped against a tree, the Daily Mail reported.
A man connected to drug dealing in the area and who knew Woramet has been arrested. Police are also seeking a girl, Suraphltchaya Khamsa, 16, who officers believe was romantically linked to the British teenager.
Police were searching for Woramet’s girlfriend, Yam, also 16, who is thought to have been the last person who saw him alive. She has now been found safe and has been ruled out as a person of interest in the case by police.
Police Major General Sampawapol said: “Suraphltchaya’s nickname was Ping Pong. She also had a close romantic relationship with the deceased. She is still missing and we are actively searching for her. She was the last person to see Ben.
“A suspect has been apprehended who had known the victim for a long time. He denies having any involvement in the death. However, we believe he is involved and it is connected to drug dealing in the area.”
The superintendent of the Mae Tha Police said Woramet was found with blood stains “all over his face”.
“The face and head were found to have been beaten with a hard object until swelling and bruising was caused and there was also a deep wound in his face. The body has been taken to hospital for an autopsy,” Police Colonel Sittisak Singtongla said.
Police said Woramet had said goodbye to his mother on Saturday evening and said he was “going to work with friends” but said nothing else of his plans.
Detectives added they are not ruling out any motives for the murder.
“We have not yet finalised the issue,” Mr Singtongla said.
“It is still unclear whether it was a robbery, because the phone and cash of the deceased were not found, but we still cannot rule out other issues.”
Pictures on Woramet’s social media show him riding motorcycles and competing in competitions. It is understood he was a keen motocross rider.
Woramet’s grandmother Lilian Graham said she believed her grandson was lured into the forest where he was murdered. She added that Woramet’s father, Steve Graham, a UK businessman, is now on his way to Thailand to speak with detectives.
“Ben was with a girl and they went to the forest to meet a man. But something must have happened. And the man killed Ben,” Ms Graham told MailOnline.
She added: “It’s been a real shock. We are all devastated. Ben's father Steve is going to Thailand tonight.”
“I wanted to go out there with him to support him. But he wouldn't let me. He said the flight was too long and it would be too upsetting.”
Ms Graham said Woramet was born following a long-distance romance between her son Steve and the boy’s mother, who is known as Ooy Taota.
She said: “Steve met Ben's mum Ooy when he was in Thailand on holiday with friends. She became pregnant and Steve went back many times.
“I went out to visit them as well. I really love it out there. But they lived too far apart and sadly their relationship didn't work out. But Steve and me really loved Ben. He was really special. A real character.