Missing man returns home to Kingussie
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
A FORMER snowplough driver who was declared missing in Thailand just over a year ago has returned home to Kingussie after facing floods and destitution and being held up at gunpoint.
Mr Michael Sinclair’s disappearance was reported to Northern Constabulary by worried relatives after he vanished in the South-east Asian country without a word to his wife, employers or lifelong friends.
The 52-year-old had flown to Thailand in July last year, but kept extending his trip over the one month allowed on his visa because he was too ashamed to come home, following a series of mishaps.
Police appealed in the media for information regarding Mr Sinclair’s whereabouts, including the ‘Strathy’.
Officers said they believed he was in Thailand, where he had been a frequent visitor in the past, and they did not believe him to be in any danger, but they wanted him to contact them to let them know he was well.
“I have two homes in Thailand, and I went for a holiday 11 months ago, but didn’t tell anybody,” said Mr Sinclair, who arrived back in the Badenoch capital two weeks ago.
“I only meant to stay for a month, but I got into trouble with immigration.
“I eventually overstayed my visa by 194 days, and I had to travel to Laos to pay a fine and get a new visa.
“I could have gone to Cambodia, but it is too dangerous there at the moment.”
Mr Sinclair had been staying mainly in Thailand’s second biggest city, Korat, in the North-east of the country. After his trip to neighbouring Laos to get his new visa, he began to run desperately short of money.
As his visa ran out again, he was advised that he could end up in jail if he was caught.
“I was told not to show my passport to police if I was stopped in Korat by friends I have in the force, as I would end up in ‘the Bangkok Hilton’, or Klong Prem jail.
“Instead I showed them my licence and my wallet, but I started to run out of money.”
Mr Sinclair had other dramatic run-ins during his year away, and was held up at gunpoint during a three-day trip to Pattaya, 165km south of the capital, Bangkok.
“I was in a taxi going back to my hotel when two masked gunmen pulled up next to the cab on a motorbike. Two of the guys held us up, while the other kept the bike running. They stole my gold necklace.”
Mr Sinclair said his financial situation became even worse after the theft, and he was forced to sell a motor bike.
Earlier this year, the former HGV driver was forced to pay another immigration fine, and had to return to Laos for another stamp in his passport.
He also had to contend with severe flooding which hit the region where he was staying in October last year.
At least four people died in the heavy flooding in Nakhon Ratchasima province, where heavy rain caused widespread damage to the region.
In the end, he was rescued from destitution by his wife. “Kaew flew out to Thailand,” he? Continued on Page 2
said. “She came out for a holiday, but I also needed money to come back to Kingussie.
“She and her nephew paid for my safe return. Her nephew owns some of the big shops in a mall in Pattaya, and was able to help financially.
“We drove out to Laos again, and paid immigration costs. Then she gave me money to fly home.”
Mr Sinclair said he had also failed to contact his employers, Scotland Transerv, out of embarrassment.
“I was trying to get a colleague to send word to my bosses, but I knew my company would not believe me.
“It was hard to come back to Kingussie, because I knew I was up against a brick wall I had created.”
Mr Sinclair said he had no plans to return to Thailand, but he would not reveal his reasons why he had gone there in the first place without telling anyone.
He has publicly apologised to his family in a letter in today’s ‘Strathy’.