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Mystery surrounds Thai beach death of ex-Brentwood schoolboy

By Brentwood Gazette  |  Posted: June 05, 2013

By Piers Meyler

  • Jeremy O'Neill is much missed by his friends

  • EAST END STORIES: Gilda ONeill comes to Witham this week

  • SHOCK: The language school where Mr O'Neill learnt Thai

  • TRAGIC: Mr O'Neill's body was found on Patong beach. INSET: His mother, author Gilda O'Neill

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THE body of a former Brentwood schoolboy whose mother found success with novels about life in the East End has been found on a paradise beach in Thailand.

Jeremy O'Neill, 37, who went to Shenfield High School, was found, according to reports, clad only in a red T-shirt, washed up on Patong beach in Phuket on May 21.

The bearded 37-year-old was brought up in Nine Ashes Road, Stondon Massey, and attended Springfield PNEU school, in Stondon Road, Ongar, until the age of 11.

He was reported to have been seen by Patong residents washing himself in the sea at 4am – about two-and-a-half hours before lifeguards and police were notified of his death.

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According to the Thai media, doctors at Patong Hospital have concluded that he drowned.

Mr O'Neill, known as Jem to his family, had been studying Thai at Patong Language School, just a few hundred yards from where he died.

A tribute Just Giving page set up in his memory by his younger sister, Jodi Glass, is raising funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.

A comment from a user called Marieto wrote: "Jel (sic) was the most big hearted, smiler, larger than life, craziest person I knew and when remembering him I will always smile :) sleep tight fella xxx".

J Bucknole wrote: "Donating to a great charity in memory of an amazing man."

One heartfelt message read: "My heart is broken :-( the world is a much sadder place without you. Jeremy O'Neil I will NEVER EVER forget you x x x. Love you x x x.

His former head teacher, Dr Peter Osborne, who taught at Shenfield High School until his retirement in 1995, said: "Obviously I am very saddened.

"It always amazes me how young people these days travel so extensively over the globe."

A message posted on Facebook, from Russell Griffiths read "r i p jel cuz x".

Patong Language School attracts students from all over the work to learn Thai, but also provides courses in German, Japanese and English.

Phuket is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, attracting more than three million visitors annually.

A message from the school, which describes itself as Thailand's leading language school said: "All of us here at Patong Language School are very saddened to hear of the death of one of our students, Jeremy O'Neill. He was a great guy, always with a laugh and a smile and will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends."

Several messages on the school's Facebook site have been left in memory of Mr O'Neill.

Linda Sofia wrote: "I am so sad to hear that, we really had a great time in PLS."

Bikkie Kawinkij wrote: "So sad, Linda. He was a really nice guy and too young to go."

Drownings are most common on Phuket's west coast beaches in the monsoon season, which can start as early as May.

A spokesman for the FCO, who confirmed the death of Mr O'Neill, said: "We were notified of the death of a British national on May 21 and we are providing consular assistance at this sad time."

Mr O'Neill, who moved to London in 2002, was the only son of Gilda O'Neill, the author of 13 novels based around life in the East End.

Mrs O'Neill died aged 59 in 2010 from side-effects triggered by medication prescribed for a minor injury.

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