Family of Birmingham diver Ian Jacobs speak out 23 years after he died on Thailand’s infamous ‘Death Island’

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The grieving family and friends of Ian Jacobs, from Sutton Coldfield, say mystery remains over their loved one’s death as memories are stirred following the recent death of Birmingham diving instructor Neil Giblin on Koh Tao, known as ‘Death Island’

Twenty three years before diving instructor Neil Giblin from Birmingham died on Thailand’s infamous ‘Death Island’ a fellow Brummie diver lost his life.

Neil was found deceased in a villa on Koh Tao on January 18, 2023 after two female clients flagged that he had not shown up for work. Police say Mr Giblin, who was fit and healthy and aged 48, died of natural causes with no sign of struggle. But friends have raised concerns amid a series of unexplained deaths of tourists on Koh Tao.

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He is the fifth diving instructor to die on the tourist hot spot, where diver Ian Jacobs, from Sutton Coldfield, died on January 18, 2000. Thai police said Ian’s death was ‘accidental’. He was found at the bottom of a well on the island.

ButBirminghamWorld has spoken to Ian’s brother, Paul, and friend Mick Lock, who both fear that his death was not accidental. Paul said: “My brother was a traveller and he was always off around the world. We strongly suspected foul play at the time and we still do.”

Mick, who went to college with Ian and shared a house with him in Bristol, said: “There was never really any doubt that he’d been murdered amongst me and all our friends.”

Ian was 35 when he travelled to Koh Tao. He visited the island after travelling to Bangkok for a friend’s wedding. The police report states that Ian’s body was found at the bottom of a well and that he had drowned in it. But Mick claims to have found evidence that disproves the report.

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He was in India at the time of Ian’s death and flew to Thailand for his friends’ cremation in Bangkok - a week or so after his death. From Bangkok, Mick decided to go down to Koh Tao to have a look around.

He explained: “Ian died from a blow to the head. I wanted to see the well to see if it was in any way possible for him to have fallen in it accidentally. There was never really any doubt that he’d been murdered amongst me and all our friends.

“When I got there it was quite clear that the well was of such a nature that it would have basically been very hard to fall in accidentally. The aperture was so small you wouldn’t have fallen into it.”

Ian Jacobs (Photo provided by Mick Lock)Ian Jacobs (Photo provided by Mick Lock)
Ian Jacobs (Photo provided by Mick Lock) | Mick Lock

Paul and Ian’s younger cousin Steve were also in Thailand for the cremation. Mick said that when he started to ask questions about Ian’s death, the chief of police asked him to stop and told him to leave the island as soon as possible.

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Paul, Steve, and Ian were ready to search for more answers, but Ian’s parents wanted to move on. Paul said that they thought: “Whatever we do, it’s not going to bring Ian back.”

He added: “Ian had a bit of money on him and when they found the body, there was no money. And the police said they took that because that was the cost to transport his body back to the mainland - which I think, is not strictly true.”

Around 15 to 16 years after Ian’s death Mick was in contact with a British woman who lived in Thailand and said she knew an eye witness of Ian’s death. Mick said she told him that his friend was actually found in a bit of concrete piping - not a well.

He said: “There’s lots of inconsistencies in the police report which makes us believe that a lot of it is fiction.” Despite the glaring inconsistencies, Ian’s case was never reinvestigated.

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Ian Jacob died on Koh Tao, Thailand in 2000 (Photo - Mick Lock)Ian Jacob died on Koh Tao, Thailand in 2000 (Photo - Mick Lock)
Ian Jacob died on Koh Tao, Thailand in 2000 (Photo - Mick Lock) | mick lock

Why do Ian Jacobs’ family and friends believe the real cause of his death is being covered up?

Mick believes that there are powerful families on the island who are being protected by the authorities. He claimed that the police are there to protect the tourism industry.

Australian lawyer Ian Yarwood, who has been helping human rights activists and journalists in Thailand, told BirminghamWorld that corruption is active in Thailand.

Mr Yarwood referred to the case of another British traveller who died on the island - Ben Harrington from Surrey died there in 2012. The local police said that the 32-year-old broke his neck when he crashed while riding his moped at night in August 2012.

His family were able to get his body back to the UK and had an autopsy here. Ben’s mother told the Sun: “Most of his bones were broken but the one bone that wasn’t broken was his neck... Another one of my sons was there with him, he was absolutely distraught looking at the police just laughing at him.

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“There was no compassion at all - he had to go down to identify the body which he couldn’t do and while he was sitting there the police were just laughing. That is awful.”

BirminghamWorld contacted the Thai police for a response to the concerns raised by Ian Jacobs’ friends and family, but we have not received a reply.

Koh Tao, a small island in Thailand is notoriously known as ‘Death Island’ after a series of mysterious deaths involving tourists and expats. Picture by PexelsKoh Tao, a small island in Thailand is notoriously known as ‘Death Island’ after a series of mysterious deaths involving tourists and expats. Picture by Pexels
Koh Tao, a small island in Thailand is notoriously known as ‘Death Island’ after a series of mysterious deaths involving tourists and expats. Picture by Pexels | Pexels

What was Ian Jacobs like?

Mick said he still has dreams about his friend. He said he was a very happy person.

“Very much loved. I mean, he had a lot of friends in Bristol. We travelled a lot together. Covered a lot in Spain. He was a lovely person. Exuberant, outgoing, friendly and a lot of fun. Hundreds of people went to his wake when he died.”

Paul said Ian was someone who stood up for himself. “My brother wouldn’t take any nonsense from anybody. He stood up for himself and had very strong opinions. “

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