THE PARENTS of a Helston man found hanged in a Thai police cell have paid tribute to their "loving" son who had "everything to live for".
Liam Whitaker, 24, was one day into a three-week holiday with friends in Thailand when he was found hanging in a police cell in Bangkok at 4.30am on October 15 last year, after being arrested for the possession of a class one drug.
No note was found and his family strongly deny that Liam was the type of person who would ever commit suicide or knowingly buy a class one drug.
At an inquest on Friday Coroner for Cornwall Emma Carlyon recorded an open verdict, saying she was not satisfied there was a legal level of proof that Liam had killed himself.
Liam's grief-stricken parents, Angie and Sam Whitaker, are now bravely warning other parents and travellers about the risks of spending time abroad.
Sam said: "He had everything to live for – a good job, a girlfriend, lots of friends, and a loving family.
"He was thinking of buying a house or a house share – he had made plans for the future, so to us it doesn't make sense."
His father said their son had never struggled with depression and, on the contrary, enjoyed life and had been excited about the holiday and making plans for the future.
Born on Flora Day, which fell on May 6 in 1989, Liam worked as a project engineer for Fugro Seacore in Falmouth.
Sam added: "He was a local Helston boy born and raised. He went first to Parc Eglos primary school and then on to Helston Community College.
"He loved Flora Day; it was one of his favourite days of the year, and he used to dance in the children's dance when he was younger.
"He enjoyed spending time on the Helford River and Stithians Lake, Rinsey and Praa Sands, just enjoying the Cornish life – his surfboard was always in the car.
"He loved geography, which is reflected in his degree in physical geography from Glamorgan University in Wales, and his job, which he really enjoyed.
"He was a very normal lad really – full of life, with a great sense of humour."
Liam had a zest for life that was infectious, and was a keen surfer and enjoyed fishing, skateboarding, camping, going to the beach and riding his motorbike.
Nearly a year on and his family are still waiting for him to call or walk through the door.
Angie said: "I can't believe it has been ten months without him. I have never gone ten months without speaking or seeing him. We are going to miss him forever. I will never get over it, it is never going to go away. He is the last thing I think of at night and the first thing in the morning."
When they turn on the television and a programme featuring geography, they think "Liam would like this".
Angie added: "And silly things like crossword clues to geographical words I think, 'I'll just ring Liam', and then you can't. We miss him on every level on a daily basis. He should be here.
"Our lives have been turned upside-down. The future which we thought was there has gone.
"We thought we were going to see Liam grow up, get married and have a family. And we will have that with Aidan [Sam and Angie's younger son], but we thought we would see both of them.
"Everything you expected to happen won't. Something is missing; there should be four of us, but there aren't. A huge chunk has been ripped out of our lives. It's not fair, it's not fair at all for anyone, least of all him."
Angie said she was concerned when Liam first told them he was going to Bangkok but her son had tried to allay her fears.
Less than 48 hours after Liam arrived in Thailand, two policemen called at Angie and Sam's house and told them he had died.
Angie said: "I shivered for days; I mean shock doesn't describe it, but we were in shock for days.
"We were physically shaking. It's surreal, it's like it is happening to someone else. You go through the motions but you feel like you are looking down on yourself.
"You go on autopilot but all the time you have this little voice in your head saying, 'Liam is gone, Liam is gone' – and you just don't believe it."
Sam added: "It was just the complete extreme of it all. The circumstances were so bizarre. How could we wave him off so happy for his holiday and then a day into it, this? It just made no sense."
The couple have resigned themselves to never finding out what happened in the hour leading up to Liam's death.
They also feel Liam's story should warn other young travellers and parents about the dangers of travelling to Thailand.
Sam said: "Thailand is a very popular country for young people to visit, but it is also a very corrupt country, and scams like the one Liam fell in to do happen; being asked for bribe money seems commonplace."
Angie said: "More than anything we just want people to be aware of what can happen out there."
They urge every traveller that, as a Western visitor, they are vulnerable and the legal system or the protection are not the same as in the UK
"It can be dangerous and we just want parents and travellers to know this before they go – I wish we had," she added.