PHUKET TOWN: Traffic in Samkong was brought to a standstill this afternoon as local residents chased a thief down Yaowarat Rd, accompanied by police firing shots in the air. The thief, Witaya Meejai, 26, from Nakhon Sri Thammarat, was caught by police, with the help of local residents, outside the Steak Samkong restaurant at about 4 pm. Pol Maj Vichakom Kamchampa, an inspector at Phuket Town Police Station, told the Gazette that Piyawan Pracharak called the station to report that a thief had broken into her home in a terrace of four-story buildings in Soi Hongyok, just behind the Gazette’s offices. She told police that she walked into the bedroom where her husband was sleeping to find Witaya standing in the room. “When he saw me, he ran up to a higher story of the house,” she said. Susan Rowley, a 49-year-old teacher who lives in the accommodation above the offices of the Via Lingua school next door, said, “I don’t know when or how he got into our place, but he used a long knife to threaten us for money and then escaped to another house.” Ms Rowley explained that she shouted for help after Witaya had left, which brought neighbors and colleagues running to help. Police were on the scene quickly and began searching the house for Witaya. About 30 minutes later, witnesses saw him escaping by jumping from the second story of the building, and running off toward Yaowarat Rd. Residents and police chased after him, following him across the road and behind shops on the far side. Officers in pursuit fired four warning shots into the air in an unsuccessful attempt to get Witaya to stop. He was finally caught about 150 meters down the road and taken to Phuket Town Police Station where officers say he confessed to robbery. Witaya explained to the police that he entered the building by using a stick to reach between bars on an open window at Via Lingua, and to lift a key off a table inside. He was caught in possession of 4,100 baht, US$217, and travelers’ checks worth US$550. He apparently ditched his knife during the chase. Witaya is being held at Phuket Town Police Station while police continue their investigation.
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