There was very sad news out of Phuket recently as a female tourist from Switzerland was sexually assaulted and murdered, only a few weeks after her arrival under the new “Sandbox” plan designed to bring much-needed tourism back to the island.
Thai Police have arrested a 27-year-old Thai national who confessed to the murder of the Swiss tourist, two days after her body was found at a local waterfall which is a popular Phuket tourist spot.
According to the police timeline and the last known movements of the victim, this tragedy occurred last Tuesday. The story has received an extensive series of articles in the Bangkok Post (access here).
Police have arrested a 27-year-old Thai man who has reportedly confessed to the murder of a Swiss tourist, two days after her body was found at a local waterfall.
The confession followed an intensive interrogation of the man, who had gone to the site to collect wild orchids, Thai media reported.
The body of the 57-year-old Swiss woman was found on Thursday near Ton Ao Yon waterfall in tambon Wichit of Muang district. She was lying face-down in the water among the rocks. Her body was covered with a black sheet.
Police identified the victim as Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, the deputy protocol chief of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland. She was visiting the island under the “Phuket Sandbox” programme, which is allowing in vaccinated foreign tourists in an effort to help revive a sector decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk flew to Phuket on Friday with a team of top investigators to oversee the case, the first serious incident to be reported since the Sandbox programme began on July 1.
On Saturday he told reporters that officers had some “good news” and that the case was “all wrapped up”. He is scheduled to hold a news conference at 10am Sunday to give more details.
Given the intense pressure on police to solve the case, online sleuths have been weighing in with speculation that officers would look to grab a scapegoat quickly. Pol Maj Gen Nanthadet Yoinuan, deputy chief of Provincial Police Region 8, said this was not the case, as investigators had obtained firm evidence and the suspect had confessed.
A police source, asking not to be named, said on Saturday that investigators had examined security camera video in areas near the waterfall — there were none at the actual site — and taken some people in for questioning. One of them acted suspiciously and a check found some bruises on his body. After an intensive interrogation, the man confessed, according to the source. …
Police on Friday relased the timeline of the victim’s activities since her arrival in Phuket, ending with her 18-minute walk, alone from her hotel near Ao Yon beach to the waterfall, about 1.4 kilometres away, on Tuesday. …
Pol Gen Suwat said earlier that surveillance camera footage showed the victim had gone alone to the crime scene, which was a tourist attraction, and there were “traces” in the body. He did not elaborate, pending the release of the official autopsy report.
DNA evidence will likely prove to be the key to solving this case. The fact that it took place in Phuket near the opening of the Sandbox program gives hope that this horrific crime will actually be solved properly and not in the usual Thai way of conducting police work.
Unfortunately Thailand has sort of an issue with foreigners (especially females) being victims of violent crimes, many of which take places on the islands, most prominently the Koh Tao murders which involved the death of two British tourists in Thailand in 2014. The police later presented two Myanmar nationals as suspects, both of whom were later convicted and sentenced to death though the King has commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment.
It’s widely believed, according to some local forensic experts, that a local Mafia Kingpin was involved in that murder and the two Burmese were tortured by the police into giving false confessions. Ko Tao has since been dubbed with the unflattering name of Death Island.
In this case in Phuket the investigation appears so far to be conclusive and the government has tasked the national police chief to take charge, most likely to avoid a repeated embarrassment especially with the Phuket Sandbox being vital to the country’s economic revival. While the investigation is still ongoing, police have narrowed their scope to a 27 year-old local man who sustained injuries during the crime and also has confessed to the murder.
This tragic and very unfortunate event serves as yet another reminder for tourists that despite Thailand being a rather safe destination there are still dangers. Travellers, especially female, should not go alone to remote places or place themselves into potentially dangerous situations such as meeting strangers alone without safety precautions.