Last updated at 1:36 AM on 16th August 2008
There was a time when Ian Beeston saw his new life in Thailand as nothing short of idyllic.
He revelled in the acres of lush green paddy fields he'd bought with his retirement savings and proudly showed off the beautiful, eager-to-please young Thai girlfriend who clung to his arm and professed her undying love for him at every opportunity.
He delighted, too, in the fact that Suwannaphum, the name of the village where he built his home, means 'golden land'. As far as Beeston was concerned, the future looked golden indeed.
And perhaps it is not difficult to understand why an ageing, balding retired design engineer should be seduced by the chance to reinvent himself with a sultry young lover on the other side of the world.
Ill-fated: Ian Beeston with his wife Wacheerawan. He appears to have known she was plotting to kill him
After all, when he moved to what he saw as the promised land 15 years ago, he had recently divorced and taken early retirement from his nine-to-five job at the Ford motor plant in Dagenham, Essex.
And so he joined the hundreds of British men - whom many would regard as misguided, not to say foolish and self- deceiving - who have chosen to live out their years with a young wife in Thailand.
But the utopia he dreamed of, and for several years thought he had found, was to descend into rancour and ultimately death.
The pensioner's battered body was found in a pool of blood last Saturday in the home he had lovingly built in the north-eastern Thai province of Roi Et.
His 42-year-old wife, Wacheerawan, has already been charged with beating and stabbing him to death with the help of her 48-year-old Thai lover, Somchit Janong.
To add a twist to this macabre story, 69-year-old Beeston appears to have known for months that his wife was plotting to kill him. So certain was he that his life was at risk that he even warned his lawyer of what he felt could be his impending fate.
'It is a matter of time,' he wrote in a letter left with his lawyers a few weeks ago. 'I am in real fear for my life.'
In the days before his brutal death, he was so sure his wife was trying to poison him that he even sent samples of beer he had in the house to a local hospital to be analysed.
Now, his darkest fears have come true. This week, as is customary in Thailand, Wacheerawan and Janong were taken back to Beeston's blood-soaked home to re-enact his murder. It made for a chilling scene as Janong was photographed bringing a baseball bat down on to the head of a policeman lying prone on the floor of the house.
Apparently contrite, he then broke down and told Thai officers he killed Beeston for his beloved 'Wanna'. Meanwhile, Beeston's smiling, unrepentant widow was jeered by hundreds of villagers who gathered on the lawn outside the couple's pretty blue-and-white home.
The facts of this remarkable tragedy are only just beginning to emerge. But, perhaps the most extraordinary thing of all is that despite foretelling his own death, Beeston stubbornly refused to leave.
Wacheerawan Beeston and her lover Somchit Janong
As they mourn him this week, Beeston's expat circle in Thailand remain bewildered by his actions.
'We tried to persuade Ian to leave his home, but he wouldn't, he saw that as giving in,' says Andrew Herrington, a 51-year-old retired HGV driver from Birmingham, who lives in a neighbouring village and had the grim task of identifying Beeston's battered body.
He said: 'Ian said he'd rather stand his ground and lose his life. He had been worried for at least a year that his Thai wife and her family were making plans to kill him in order to claim the two houses and restaurant on their acre or so of land.
'It was an open secret in the area that there was a plot to murder Ian. Before I went home to Birmingham recently, a policeman told me: "Perhaps your friend will not be alive when you come back."' His friend even bought him a stun gun to protect himself.
But in the end, Beeston's refusal to leave Thailand and save his own life, all came down to one thing - money. Investigating police officers believe it is no coincidence that Beeston was due in court this Monday to begin divorce proceedings against his faithless wife.
The drama of Beeston's final weeks in Thailand provide a stark contrast to his previous, very ordinary life in Britain - and serve as a lesson to other foolish, lovestruck old men.
He was born in Great Bowden in Leicestershire, grew up in Market Harborough and attended the town's grammar school. He was an intelligent pupil and as a teenager joined the local air cadet squadron - a 1955 photograph from his local paper shows him in uniform.
Marriage to Margaret Gardner, a local woman from Oundle, came in 1962, and the couple moved to Essex when Beeston started work at the Ford plant in Dagenham.
Although he experienced tragedy when his mother and step-father were killed in a car crash in 1966, life continued with the birth of two sons. One, according to friends, is severely disabled. The other, Julian, 40, is a --musician living in Los Angeles.
Beeston's marriage fell apart 20 years ago, but his ex-wife, who lives in Lincolnshire, was not prepared to discuss the details this week. Nor was she prepared to comment on her ex-husband's demise.
Friends say Beeston was similarly reluctant to discuss his past.
One friend who spoke to his son Julian this week claimed that Beeston and his son were estranged, and that Julian had tried unsuccessfully to make contact with his father several times in recent years.
What we do know is that Ian Beeston arrived in Thailand 15 years ago with £350,000 in life savings, and spent nearly all of it on land.
'He had some business interests here,' says one former associate.' I first met him about 24 years ago. But he loved it here and felt at home. I think when his life fell apart in England he didn't think twice about coming out here permanently.'
Having purchased his acres, Beeston invested more money in building his pretty marital home, a guesthouse and a restaurant.
Like hundreds of foreigners who come to Roi Et, around 300 miles from Bangkok, he found a willing bride to share it all with.
He met Wancheerawan when he visited the bar where she worked in Pattaya, a seaside resort on Thailand's eastern coast popular with sex tourists. Whether Beeston was there for such purposes, he fell for Wancheerawan's obvious charms.
He appears to have convinced himself that a young foreign woman was genuinely enamoured of his looks and charm - and not the fortune (in Thai terms at least) that he could offer her.
The odd-looking pair married in 1999, but not one member of his family attended the ceremony in the country he now called home. It seems that when he left the UK he left his family behind, too.
Herrington adds: 'He was charming. He designed my stairs, though he would not take a penny for it.'
According to another local expat, 'A lot of Western men come over here, see a nice rice paddy, come over all romantic and decide to buy up the land. But they quickly learn that it's a very isolated existence.
'There's nothing to do except surf the internet and watch TV. You can be with the most amazing, beautiful woman, but if you're stuck with her 24 hours a day the novelty wears off for both of you, and none of these men speak Thai so they never know what she is saying to her family.'
Another adds: 'There are a lot of Westerners that marry younger women, and some of the local men find it a little insulting. Some of these women may already be involved with Thai men. They marry Westerners for money or prestige, but keep up their old relationships hoping that their husband will never find out.
'A Thai man will usually accept this, as they guess it won't last and the woman will end the marriage.'
In the case of Wancheerawan, it seems that despite being married, she never gave up her own Thai lover, Janong. Love had little to do with Beeston's marriage, and over the past couple of years she left him for her lover several times, though always returned.
'The last time he told her the marriage was over,' says an Australian neighbour, Bill Lamb. 'She built another small house on their land in addition to the existing two and, extraordinarily, moved her boyfriend in.
'Whenever we visited Ian, his wife would come out from behind the house and shout at us. She complained to the village chief to keep us away. The grass around his house had grown because his wife had chased the gardeners away.
'She had bad-mouthed him and turned everyone against him in the village. She would come out and scream and order us away saying: "This is my house. This is my land."'
Tensions which had been mounting for the past year came to a head four months ago, when Beeston discovered that Wacheerawan had cashed in all his property and funds at a local bank. She was able to do this as all the assets were in either her own or joint names.
It was then that he decided to seek justice through the courts. In a recent letter to his lawyer, obtained by the Mail, he revealed much about his state of mind in the run-up to what promised to be a bitter divorce battle.
'Here are my requirements for satisfactory settlement between my wife and myself - considering her secretive behaviour and deception in regard to the quite large sums of money she has taken without my knowledge or agreement.
'I feel that my requirements are extremely reasonable particularly in view of the fact that all the money and assets in question were supplied by me in the first place.
'I would also like you to consider making a claim on my behalf for the mental stress this whole episode has caused me. I realise that she probably now does not have the money, but we should consider alternative ways of obtaining compensation.'
The house in Thailand where the pensioner was murdered
Over the past few weeks, Beeston admitted to one of his friends that he had run out of funds and was selling all his possessions to survive until he could win his money back.
'For the past three months he had been a prisoner in his own house,' says Lamb. 'We've been bringing him food, but he has been living on mashed potatoes.'
One former business associate and friend, who does not wish to be named, last saw Beeston ten days before he was murdered.
'He looked weak and tired,' she recalls, 'and he spoke candidly of knowing what his fate might be. He told me he had put unopened bottles of beer and whisky in his fridge at home, but that he'd noticed they'd been opened, and that's when he suspected poison had been put into them.
'I told him: "Ian, I have 18 apartments in Pattaya full of English expats. Why don't you move into one to be safe? You wouldn't be lonely or frightened there." But he wouldn't listen. He said he loved his house too much and he wasn't just going to let it go.'
In the past few weeks, things became so bad that friends would meet Beeston on the main road near his village for fear of encountering his vicious wife.
Herrington was due to meet Beeston last Sunday.
'He never turned up,' he explains. 'I was very suspicious. 'So when I went to his house on Sunday and saw his car was there and the house locked up, I knew that something might have happened. His wife came out shouting at me and my wife to go away, so we decided to call the police. When they came they found his badly beaten body.'
Beeston's son Julian is due to arrive in Bangkok this weekend to help make arrangements for his father's funeral. While Thailand did not turn out to be the 'golden land' after all, Beeston still made it clear to his friends and his lawyer that he wished to be cremated there.
Lamb says: 'Returning to England wasn't an option. He said the cold was no good for him.'
Just as Beeston's own pride made walking away from his wife an unthinkable humiliation, in the end, it seems there was nothing to go home to in Britain. Having given everything up - even his family - to start again with his Thai bride, there was no turning back.
And in the end, it cost Ian Beeston his life. As he wrote to his lawyer a few weeks ago: 'Before we met she was living in a one-room apartment with four other girls and her parents were living in a wooden shed. I made it possible for all of them to have a comfortable home with all amenities - and this is the thanks I get for it.'