PATTAYA: The Pattaya Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of fugitive murder suspect Sam Van Treeck, who fled to his native Belgium in October, 2004, after his release on bail the previous month.
Van Treeck was 24 years old when he was arrested for the brutal stabbing murder of Phuket-based dive instructor Chompoonut “Jeab” Kobram in October, 2004.
Despite widespread media reports that Van Treeck was back in his native Belgium – a fact confirmed more than a year ago by the Belgian Consul in Bangkok – the Pattaya Provincial Court ruled that it would not follow up on the issue or seek his extradition unless he failed to turn up at a scheduled court appearance on December 6 this year.
A source in the Pattaya Provincial State Attorney’s Office told the Gazette yesterday that when Van Treeck failed to appear on that day, the court suspended his case pending his extradition to Thailand by the Belgian Government.
The move to suspend the case followed from the rule that defendants in such cases may not be tried in absentia, the source said.
The “rented” land title deed posted by Van Treeck’s guarantor as bail was declared state property by the court. The case file will now be forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office Foreign Affairs Department, which will be responsible for seeking Van Treek’s extradition, the source said.
The source also told the Gazette that the autopsy report in the case file revealed that there were an astonishing 140 knife wounds on K. Jeab’s body, not 48 as originally reported.
Van Treeck, who told the Belgian press after his escape that his release on bail was made possible by having “his lawyers pay off the right people”, has maintained his innocence all along.
Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reported after his return to that country that a benefit concert was held for Van Treeck “to help the Van Treeck family pay off the 75,000 Euros [3.7 million baht] it cost him to escape Thailand.”
Ironically, the brutality of the murder may be Van Treeck’s best insurance against ever having to stand trail for it. Were he to be convicted, the charges against him carry a mandatory death sentence.
A Belgian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman was quoted in the Belgian press as saying emphatically that Belgium never extradites its nationals to countries where they face the death penalty.
Thailand and Belgium last month signed two criminal law cooperation treaties, one covering the extradition of offenders and the other concerning the investigation of crimes.
It was not reported whether the Van Treeck case was discussed during talks between Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his visiting Belgian counterpart, Guy Verhofstadt, who was on a five-nation Asian tour last month when the treaties were signed.
K. Jeab’s fiancé at the time of her murder, Canadian Noah Meyer, set up a webpage dedicated to seeking justice for her murder. It can be seen here.
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