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Confession and evidence, not a scapegoat, in Phuket murder

Neill Fronde



FILE PHOTO: Police say the Phuket murder suspect has confessed and is not a scapegoat.

More details are emerging as confirmed about the suspect arrested in the horrifying murder of Swiss traveller Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, found dead at Ao Yon Waterfall on Friday. Police have taken Teerawat Thothip into custody and say that he has confessed to the crime amid suspicions that Phuket police would find a scapegoat to quickly “solve” the crime. The 27 year old local man lives in Thalang was tracked on a CCTV security camera riding a motorcycle near the scene of the crime.

Police faced heavy pressure from locals all Phuket Sandbox leaders all the way up to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and top national officials calling for swift justice to maintain confidence for international travellers to safely travel in the Phuket Sandbox scheme so vital to the tourism economy future of Thailand. Under that spotlight, rumours and assumptions began circulating online that Phuket police would rush to find a scapegoat they could blame for the crime to claim a quick and decisive victory and save face for Thailand.

But police say that the apprehended man, known locally as Bang Lee, was found when they questioned several possible witnesses. They had uncovered the CCTV footage and when they spotted the man on the motorbike and attempted to stop him for questioning and to examine the bike, the man did not stop and police chased him to his house. They said he acted suspiciously and had bruises on his body, possibly from a struggle. They took him into custody he is said to have confessed and described the crime, defending the suggestion of a scapegoat to protect Phuket.

Solid evidence is already said to be in the hands of investigators now, and DNA samples were taken from the deceased woman and the man in custody to try to get a solid match back from labs in Bangkok. Determined not to bungle this investigation as many claim happened in the infamous Koh Tao murders of 2 British tourists in 2014 that is widely believed to be covered up with migrant Burmese workers as an innocent scapegoat with evidence compromised and errors in the investigation, Thailand’s National Police Chief flew into Phuket Friday with an investigation team to supervise the case.

Bang Lee, a former professional kickboxer who was charged last year with narcotics possession, is said to have admitted that he was gathering orchids when he spotted the woman and got aroused. He intended to rape her, but she fought back and he strangled her and held her head under the water until she died. He then fled the scene, but the woman was found with a black sheet over her body, the timing of the placement of it has not been confirmed so far.

The victim was the deputy protocol chief of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland, making this first major crime incident since the Phuket Sandbox began a rather high profile case, hence the cynicism about any quick suspect being a scapegoat. She had been in Phuket since July 13 and had visited 2 years prior as well and had told hotel staff how much she loves it there.

Security is set to tighten around Phuket as a result of the gruesome violent crime, with tourist attractions being inspected for safety and security, and the closure of any attractions deemed a potential risk. Screenings at the main entrances and exits of the island will also be enhanced to safeguard visitors and reassure international travellers in the Phuket Sandbox programme.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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