Thailand Killing: Brit Shot Dancing On Beach

A British tourist has been shot dead while dancing on a beach in Thailand after being caught up in a fight between two local gangs.

Stephen Ashton, 22, was at a New Year's Eve party at a bar on the island of Koh Phangan when he was hit by a stray bullet.

"He was shot in the side while he was dancing on the beach," said policeman Lieutenant Colonel Somsak Noorod.

Mr Ashton was reportedly killed when a man opened fire at a bar on Haad Rin Beach in the early hours of the morning.

Confirming the identity of the victim, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the death of a British national in Thailand on New Year's Eve.

"We are providing consular assistance to the family."

Mr Ashton was apparently with a group of friends and 300 other tourists at the 2013 countdown party at a pub and restaurant called the Zoom Bar when he was shot by a home-made gun shortly after 4am.

Reports suggest the suspected gunman has been arrested by police and is expected to appear in court on Wednesday after a police news conference.

The man has apparently denied being the killer, while admitting being involved in the fight.

Tributes have been paid to Mr Ashton on social networking sites as friends expressed their shock at his death.

Robbie-Cameron Gray wrote on Facebook: "Don't want to believe it. Still got photos of us on my (Facebook) wall from football and school. Will miss you mate."

Aaron Kelly wrote: "Horrible news. Be good up there mate."

Jaydon Gibbs said on Twitter: "My heart is with his family. The nicest guy RIP Stephen Ashton xx"

Another Twitter user, Dean DeRosa, said: "Worst news for the start of 2013 ! R.I.P Stephen Ashton ! Was a good lad !!"

Sophie Harwin, a graphics editor from Surrey, spent New Year's Eve nearby but had left the area by the time the shooting occurred.

She said: "I just met someone who said loads of people were trying to save him. Very sad."

She added: "I didn't go near Zoom Bar. Not sure where it is on the beach. The place was packed."

Mr Ashton's mother, Diane, is flying back to the UK from a skiing trip following news of her son's death, neighbour Dawn Mason said.

The victim's family said they were too distraught to speak at their home in Purley, south London.

Ms Mason described Mr Ashton as a "very normal, likeable young man" and said his family were in "complete shock".

The tropical island of Koh Phangan, situated north of tourist haven Ko Samui, is a popular destination for backpackers and students on gap years.

One of the attractions of the island is its monthly full moon party at Haad Rin Beach.