THE family of Stephen Ashton, the British tourist shot dead in Thailand on New Year's Eve, spoke today of their "complete devastation" and questioned how a life could be taken so recklessly.
Stephen Ashton, 22, was killed as he danced with friends at a beach bar in Koh Phangan. He was caught by a stray bullet when a fight escalated between two groups of Thai youths.
His heartbroken mother, Diane, 48, and sister Emily, 20, were being comforted at the family's £1 million mock Tudor home in Purley, south London.
They said in a statement: "As a family we are completely devastated by the loss of Stephen from our lives.
"He has been taken away from us in such cruel and tragic circumstances in which he was an innocent bystander simply enjoying New Year celebrations
“We are comforted in the thought that he was having a fantastic time with friends after such a difficult period following the loss of his much loved dad who passed away from a brain tumour in 2011 and the loss of his granddad a few months earlier."
They said they were "so proud" of Mr Ashton, a junior trader who had quit his job in the City to go travelling and that he would be sorely missed by his family and his many friends.
The statement added: "We cannot comprehend how someone can carry out such a reckless act, giving such little value to human life."
Mrs Ashton, a solicitor, is expected to fly out to Thailand this week to meet the British ambassador and identify her son's body.
She was on a skiing holiday when she was informed of the tragedy and flew home last night.
Emily Ashton, 20, told the local newspaper: "It is just such a shock. We are still trying to get our heads round it. It hasn't sunk in.
"He was just on a holiday and we are just trying to come to terms with it."
The alleged gunman, Ekkapan Kaewkla, 26, was arrested on Tuesday night.
Surat Thani province police commander Kietpong Khaosa-ard said: "He was charged with murder, even though he said he did not aim to kill a tourist.
"Firing the gun, no matter at whom, was aiming to kill."
Kaewkla was also charged with illegal possession of a weapon.
The family home of Stephen Ashton in Purley, South London (National Pictures/Jack Taylor)
Mr Ashton's closest friends paid emotional tributes to him as they spoke of their shock.
Tayler Mitchell, 22, one of his best friends from school, revealed that his nickname was "Big Hands", adding: "He was one of the nicest blokes you will ever meet. Everyone loved him.
"He was popular and no one had a bad word to say about him.
"He just went out there to enjoy himself and this is a terrible accident that shouldn't have happened. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't think anyone can believe it's happened.
"He was never in any trouble, he just loved going out with his mates."
Lewis Collins, another old school friend, said: "He was going for about two months then onto Australia to stay there a year or two years.
"He just wanted to go out there and enjoy himself. There was a leaving party for him before he went where we went out for some drinks and that was the last time we saw him.
"None of us have known anyone who has died in our lives and it is just a huge shock."
Michael Jarman, chief equity strategist at CSS Partners, told the Daily Telegraph: "He had been working in the City but had joined another firm that promised him the world and it didn't work out so he went away for a sabbatical.
"I haven't got a bad word to say about him. He was full of life, young, ambitious and an example to a lot of young 22-year-olds who blame the rest of the world for their problems.
"He didn't go to university but was working his way up through sheer grit and determination.
"The only consolation is that he died doing something he loved and was having a great time."
Victoria Ward, Telegraph.co.uk