In Hong Kong, November 2003, Nancy Kissel spiked her husband’s milkshake with sedatives. When he became unconscious she bludgeoned him to death, a heavy statue her weapon. Rolled up in strong industrial type carpet, she had workers take him down to the apartment block’s storeroom well into the foundation of the building. Only when the stench of the decaying body became overwhelming were the police called to investigate. The case gained international media coverage and was often referred to as the Hong Kong milkshake murders. Nancy Kissel was sentenced to life in prison.
Then 40-year-old Robert Kissel had been a successful and wealthy investment banker. In the close-knit community of professional bankers it is not impossible that Kissel knew or at least was fleetingly acquainted with Roger although Roger was a good 10 or 15 years older than Kissel and left Hong Kong close to the end of the last millennium.
Roger decided he’d had enough of the high paying but extremely demanding and strenuous job. He retired and relocated to Phuket. At the time a newly installed direct flight to the holiday island became popular for Hong Kong jet setters. Many years in the Hong Kong investment banking scene left him too, a wealthy man.
At first Roger stayed in a hotel in Patong. Early evenings he liked relaxing on one of the beach bars having a beer or two. But all in all the place was too crowded, animated and too loud for his taste. So after a while he moved to Le Méridien, a luxury hotel situated on the way to Karon that offered 5* comfort and even more important to him, direct access to the sea.
He spent his days sunbathing, swimming and reading. Organized as he was by nature and by his former professional career, he left at 4:30 PM sharp for his daily exercise at the fitness center. A wealthy but not a wasteful man he rented a simple Honda Dream motorbike to drive to Patong for his modest evening entertainment. He loved Thai food and often elaborated in conversation on the dishes he enjoyed, even learning to give the food orders in Thai to the delight of service staff.
It lasted for many weeks, even months. But it did not turn out as sweet as Roger had imagined. As all men active all their, lives the days of leisure started to be unfulfilling. One day he got up and said to himself, I’m bored!
Roger never told me much about his private life. I believe there was a relationship or perhaps a marriage back in Hong Kong. The wife or partner returned to the UK and in the end he mostly lived alone. There were no children. Roger was not really interested in the nightlife scene, but he had an eye for art, paintings, sculptures, ornaments. As a connoisseur he didn’t go for what he called the cheap copies he found in Phuket Town shops. So he travelled up to Bangkok a few times visiting galleries, museums, Chatuchak weekend market, and various antique shops in the old part of town. But I don’t remember him ever coming back telling of beautiful paintings or unexpected discoveries of value made in picture galleries, antique shops or anywhere else.
Soon Roger had his accredited bar in Patong to enjoy his daily evening beer. One of the girls, not the youngest but parading a shapely body and speaking fairly good English, caught his eye. She didn’t pay him any more attention than any other clients. The name of the game of course was lady drinks. And Roger was generous. My name is Alice, she said. Not a common name for Thai girls. It gave Roger an idea!
He had a collection of old LPs and more modern DVDs. Back at the hotel on his computer he downloaded or copied a song on a disk or USB to take it to Alice. It was the old Alice song (24 years living next door to Alice). But not the original version from the 70’s but a more recent remastered version that included the insolent and naughty middle chorus singing or shouting rather who the fuck is Alice.
It became Alice’s favorite tune. She would put it on several times an evening and in no time the whole bar would join her shouting out the naughty middle refrain. In time it became almost a ritual. Whenever the song played Alice would mount the low separating wall to the beach road and go wild when the song came on. Jump up and down joining in so as even patrons of the bar on the opposite side of the road would join in. It was here I first met Roger in the merry surroundings and no doubt after a few beers.
Roger tried to explain to Alice that the song really was telling of the pain this guy experienced lusting for 24 years after a girl only to see her depart with another. But that didn’t interest Alice. The song was about the obscene middle refrain, full stop. Perhaps it should have been a first indication to Roger that Alice was not exactly ideal girlfriend material. However it was not.
Alice eventually warmed up to Roger when she realized he liked her. Now when he arrived early evening she immediately went to join him. As for Roger, not a ladies man per se, he loved her overpowering dynamism and the non-stop energy she displayed. It was so different to the seriousness of the banking world he’d been used to for most of his life.
He paid the barfine one day and the week after again. After a while Alice became Rogers’s girl. Not only for the several lady drinks he offered every evening. That was important but there was more to it her bargirl antenna signaled to her. Roger was obviously smitten and there was potential to be exploited.
I don’t clearly remember what came first, the house or the bar. On the top of the hill that Roger passed every day on his way to Le Méridien, a housing estate had just been built. I believe it was called Patong Hill Residence or similar. Nice, Thai-style houses. Roger either bought or leased one of the houses.
Around the same time a lease came up for a large bar halfway up Bangla Road. An ideal location he was told. Becoming a bar boss of course had never been in Roger’s intentions. Not in his wildest dreams. But Alice worked him incessantly how she would turn the bar into a flourishing business on a place like this.
Roger refused, it was far too expensive and would mean working hard for Alice as for him probably too. Not the reason he came to Phuket, he said. Patience, they say, is a virtue. And a virtue that Thais and Thai bargirls in particular possess in abundance. Alice just went on and on, became obsessive, adamant, she just needed that place and would turn it into a goldmine if she only was given the chance running it. Just like hundreds of farang before and after him, in the end Roger gave in and bought her the lease.
Thus Alice Bar was created. To be honest it was well-designed, no doubt with Roger’s input and a discreet helping hand during construction for transformation. It did well for quite a number of years. There was a large outside front right next to the road with tables giving an excellent view of the goings on along Bangla Road. A low wall separated the also fairly large open-front inside part where Alice had a group of northeastern girls doing the ram Thai, traditional Thai dancing in costumes that always attracted lots of people early evenings. Later they’d change into bikinis for another kind of dancing.
As an extra to me Alice Bar was exactly opposite my very first visited Patong bar 10 years earlier, my first 55 Baht Mekong / Coke and the very first Patong lady bar-fine. It was called Bamboo Benz. Long since disappeared but still trading to this day under a dozen other appellations over the years. What a memory, even then! In July or August when my sister was on holiday and after her day on Nai-Harn Beach, a dish of fried rice or pad Thai at Salaloy’s she’d often look me in the eyes and before she even said it I knew what was coming next: allons boire un verre chez Alice!
So we did. Early evenings before the massive arrival of sex tourists. We sat on Alice’s front terrace watching the world go by. Roger was always there. It was his time to look after the bar. He walked around with his cup or mug of coffee having a few words with the early clients. As I mentioned before, a man of principles he would never touch alcohol while “working”. I want to keep a clear head and be alert, he said. Later Alice would come to look after the late night crowd and she adopted the same principle as per Roger’s instructions.
Then one day on our way for an early evening drink Alice’s was shut. Roller blinds down. A few days later again. Discreet inquiries revealed that Roger was dead. Slain by intruders at his home on Patong Hill. The circumstances of his demise remained unclear, enigmatic. Why did Roger’s large dogs not intervene? Did neighbors hear or see anything untoward? Where was Alice at the time of the crime that took place in the afternoon? Unlike the milkshake murder in Hong Kong, little information became known to the public. And the few things we did learn came mostly through the grapevine.
I don’t remember reading about it in the Gazette, at the time Phuket’s leading newspaper. Negative news and especially when foreigners are involved are never welcome in Thailand. After all, it could seriously hurt the tourist industry, n’est pas! Another Phuket-based online news outlet many years later made that painful experience the hard way and eventually shut down. Rumored behind closed doors had Alice and close and / or expanded family members from up northeast involved. None of them were seen again in Patong. Was anybody arrested, held accountable, tried, convicted? Have other possible suspects been questioned beyond the family context? Did the rule of law apply? Or perhaps what is sometimes termed the rule of convenience that prevails when foreigners come to harm and later justified by the fact that the sole presence of the farang in the country had after all initiated the tragedy. For locals; If he had not come to Thailand it would not have happened etc..
Weeks after the incident the bar was open again. Taken over by a new owner, changed name, a new style. Soon it became or rather remained part of the Bangla entertainment strip as it had been for years.
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