'Missing' British tourist found on Thai holiday island after telling parents a 'man would not let him leave'
Exclusive: Jordan Jacobs, from Lyneham, Wiltshire, says that he was just ‘chilling out’ and 'having fun' while fearful family pleaded for help after he sent disturbing ‘final’ message
Published 17/12/2015 | 16:36
A BRITISH backpacker who sparked an international manhunt after contacting his family from a Thai holiday island to say that he would never see them again has turned up safe, well and unapologetic.
Jordan Jacobs, disclosed to The Telegraph that he had been just “chilling out” and “perhaps having a bit too much fun” on Ko Phi Phi Don and was not in the clutches of an unidentified Thai man, as he had told his fearful family.
The 21-year-old from Lyneham, Wiltshire, had sent a series of disturbing and mystifying messages to his mother and sister shortly before they expected him to fly home for Christmas after spending a year travelling in Asia.
His sister Emily raised the alarm via a widely-shared Facebook posting and his mother said she planned to postpone radiotherapy treatment for cancer to fly to Thailand to search for her son.
But Mr Jacobs has now acknowledged that he had been on the island the whole time, partying and looking into taking a dive master course, oblivious to his family’s frantic appeals for help.
Asked about the dark references in his messages to a local Thai man who “would not let him leave”, he said: “I can’t really recall all the details of what I said."
He spoke to The Telegraph from the small police station on the island where he was filling out paperwork after officers searching for him had spotted him walking on the beach.
Mr Jacobs said that he had sent messages by Facebook to his family earlier in the day to let them know he was well, but that they would have been asleep at the time.
“I didn’t have a phone charger for a couple of days so I had no idea this was all going on as I hadn’t checked the Internet,” he said.
“It was only when I woke up this morning that I saw it all over the Internet. I thought ‘on bloody hell, it’s all gone crazy’.
“I’m very grateful that they were so concerned of course and I feel guilty at the trouble and distress I’ve put everyone through.
“I was just wandering around here and had no idea. It’s very embarrassing. I will forever be known as the guy who went missing on his holidays.”
Lt Col Jetsada Junphum, the island police chief, told The Telegraph: “It seems he had been having a good time and didn’t want to go back to his home country."
Even after he learned of the distress he had caused, his family said he had not contacted them. "He didn't call us from the police station. Unless he's embarrassed by all this, as he was the one who told us he was in danger and wouldn't see us again. When I spoke to the station he had left," his sister Emily told the MailOnline.
Another holidaymaker on the island told The Telegraph that the young man had instead headed straight to the Banana Bar, a beachfront drinking haunt above a Mexican restaurant.
The saga began for his family when his mother received a Facebook message on Saturday.
"Saturday morning my mum received a message via Facebook from my brother which basically said he can never see us again, that he is sorry he can't see us one last time, that he loved us etc,” Emily told Mailonline.
Alarmed for his safe-being after receiving the message, Mr Jacobs' family urged him to make contact.
But their fears only deepened when he did so a few hours later, telling his mother that he was with a Thai man who would not allow him to leave.
Mr Jacobs' mother Debbie asked her son to ring her and in response he sent a mobile phone number.
"He was upset and said that the man wouldn't let him leave. That he was scared of him," Emily Jacobs said.
The number belonged to a Cypriot tourist who said Mr Jacobs had asked him for help and wanted to borrow his phone at a restaurant on Ko Phi Phi Don.
It was claimed Mr Jacobs walked up to the tourist with no shoes and no bag.
His sister reached him via the Facebook Messenger app on Monday, but he would not say where he was “I’ve said too much, I can’t talk, I love you,” he told her. The family have not heard from him since then.
Fellow backpackers who had been with him in Krabi in southern Thailand said they last saw him on Friday in the company of Thai man in his 20s.
They said that the believed he may have accepted an offer of free transport to Phi Phi Don from the man, but a hotel receptionist in Krabi told The Telegraph that he had bought a ticket for a day-trip.
He had been travelling in Asia since November 2014 and was due to return home to his family for Christmas on Thursday.
Miss Jacobs issued a public plea for anyone with information about her brother to come forward. The Facebook posting been shared more than 6,000 times.
'My brother has been travelling for over a year with no problems. I'm concerned for my mum as she has been treated for cancer over the last six months, and is due to undergo radiotherapy in the new year. She has said she will go to Thailand and look for Jordan, which will mean she'll miss her treatment'
Miss Jacobs said that her brother has been travelling for more than a year “with no problems.”
She continued: "I'm concerned for my mum as she has been treated for cancer over the last six months, and is due to undergo radiotherapy in the new year. She has said she will go to Thailand and look for Jordan, which will mean she'll miss her treatment.
"This is not like my brother. Only last week he was talking about coming home for Christmas."
Mr Jacobs told The Telegraph that despite the distress he had put his family through, he was not sure that he would return home before Christmas as he had put a deposit down to do a divemaster course.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our embassy staff have spoken with Jordan Jacobs to check on his welfare and we will remain in contact with his family to provide any further assistance required"
Koh Phi Phi Don is renowned for its dramatic limestone karst rock formations, white sand beaches and emerald waters. About 1,000 people were killed on the island by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.