‘Killer’s’ bizarre speech after murder
The idyllic island of Phuket has been crying out for tourists ever since coronavirus saw international travel grind to a halt – but one crime could throw that into jeopardy – and even the alleged killer knows it.
Theerawut Tortip, 27, was arrested and charged with murder and robbery causing death earlier this week.
It’s alleged Mr Tortip attempted to rob Swiss tourist Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, however when she fought to keep hold of her bag, a struggle ensued.
Mr Tortip, who lost his job because of the pandemic, is accused of strangling the 57-year-old woman and dumping her body near a waterfall on Phuket.
He then allegedly stole the 300 baht ($A12) from her bag and fled.
Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf was found by police with a black sheet covering her body.
Due to the horrific death, Thais are now fearful it will put off tourists returning.
Even Mr Tortip expressed remorse to his family and the Thai people when he phoned in to a press conference with his lawyer.
“I would like to apologise to the family of the tourist and plead for all Thais to forgive me,” he told reporters earlier this week.
He was detained after nearby CCTV footage showed him travelling to the waterfall around the same time Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf went there, police said.
The waterfall at Ao Yon is not far from the coast and a popular tourist spot in Phuket’s Wichit area.
Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf’s death casts a shadow over Phuket’s so-called “Sandbox” scheme, a pilot project to reopen Thailand’s devastated tourism sector after more than a year of global travel restrictions.
The 57-year-old victim had travelled to Phuket under the scheme, which allows vaccinated travellers to visit the island without going through Thailand’s otherwise mandatory two-week hotel quarantine.
‘Justice to Ms Nicole’
Before Mr Tortip was arrested, Phuket governor Narong Woonciew pledged to “do everything to investigate what happened and bring justice to Ms Nicole”.
Andrea Kotas Tammathin, honorary Swiss consul in Phuket, lamented what she called “a sad, sad day for the Phuket community”.
More than 17,000 people have arrived in Phuket since the July 1 launch of the Sandbox scheme.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha also expressed his condolences to the victim’s family.
Police Major General Nantadej Yoinual, who oversees the southern region, said Mr Tortip confessed following an interrogation.
“The victim, the family of the victim, and all the people of Thailand deserve a swift investigation of this crime,” a Swiss embassy official said.
Thailand grapples with devastating coronavirus outbreak
The murder in Phuket comes as Thailand grapples with its worst virus outbreak so far.
Thai police fired water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in Bangkok earlier this week as demonstrators rallied against the government and its handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Protesters defied a ban on public gatherings as Thailand tries to curb its devastating outbreak, with more than 21,000 new infections announced on Wednesday.
The slow rollout of the vaccination program as well as financial hardship from restrictions are fuelling public anger towards the government.
“Police are not our enemies. Our true enemy is the government,” one protester told a rally.
Eight police officers were injured, mainly by protesters throwing fireworks, police said, adding that they had made 13 arrests.
“The protesters repeatedly attacked police by throwing firecrackers, ping pong bombs, and [using] slingshots,” Royal Thai Police deputy spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen told reporters.
Demonstrators also clashed with police in Bangkok on Tuesday, with 48 arrested and nine officers injured including one shot in the leg.
Officers used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets while protesters retaliated with firecrackers and rocks.
Bangkok police, facing accusations of heavy-handedness, have insisted their approach is in line with the law and urged people not to jeopardise public health and safety.
A youth-led pro-democracy movement began in Thailand last year and at its peak drew tens of thousands of people to rallies demanding the resignation of Prayut, the former army chief who came to power in a 2014 coup.
The movement broke long-held taboos by demanding reforms to Thailand’s monarchy, and scores of protesters have been hit with multiple royal defamation charges, which carry maximum penalties of 15-year jail terms.
– with AFP