Man arrested by police in Phuket. Officials recruit locals to make the island safe for foreign tourists
Police commissioner took control of the investigation as elite police teams moved into Phuket to join an expanded police operation. The Swiss tourist, who arrived on the island on July 13th last, was known to have loved Thailand and its people. She was last seen on CCTV footage on Tuesday at 11.33 am on Ao Yon Beach after setting off for a walk from her hotel in the Wichit area of Phuket City. Her body was discovered by a local man on Thursday afternoon covered by a black sheet with a rock on it.
There are reports from Phuket that police have made an arrest in connection with the brutal murder of a Swiss woman on the island this week. The man is reported to be a labourer with a drug addiction problem. Police are not commenting on the situation as of yet as the investigation continues including the questioning of the suspect.
Reports suggested that the man assaulted the woman and drowned her in an unprovoked sexual attack.
It is understood that police have video evidence of the attack and the woman attempting to fight off the man.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, on Friday, ordered the National Police Commissioner to take personal charge of the investigation into the murder of a Swiss woman, Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, a senior government official in Switzerland who was in Thailand as part of the Phuket Sandbox programme.
General Prayut has, however, signalled that the Phuket pilot programme for foreign tourism must remain open but was acutely aware that the eyes of the world were on the holiday island and how authorities react to the tragic incident.
Not enough police on the island says industry boss
There has also been a suggestion by a key tourism industry leader on Phuket that the island lacks enough policemen for such a high profile destination.
Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, on Friday, chaired a security meeting which decided on further CCTV surveillance on the island and the recruitment of local people including village headmen to assist the police in solving the crime but also in making the island safe for tourists.
On arrival in Phuket on Friday, the National Police Commissioner General Suwat Jangyodsuk said every square inch of the island must be made safe as he took charge of the hunt for the killer.
Formal condolences expressed to Swiss government
On Saturday, it was reported that the Thai government had extended its formal apologies and expression of condolences to the family of 57-year-old Ms Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf whose partially naked body was found near a waterfall in Phuket on Thursday afternoon and is believed to have been raped and murdered.
Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri issued a statement on behalf of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha: ‘The prime minister instructed agencies involved to investigate and arrest the culprit as quickly as possible.’
Foreign Minister telephoned the Swiss ambassador to offer condolences on the death of the Swiss tourist under such tragic circumstances in Phuket
Over at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a similar statement was issued by Deputy Prime Minister Don Pramudwinai who expressed sincere condolences to the Swiss woman’s family.
Spokesman Tanee Sangrat said Mr Don had telephoned the Swiss ambassador to Thailand.
The prime minister ordered the National Police Commissioner General Suwat Jangyodsuk to travel to Phuket on Friday with a high powered team in order to strengthen and expedite the investigation into the death of the Swiss tourist.
He also has ordered the police chief to take every possible step to make the island secure for foreign tourists.
Phuket Sandbox will continue says the Thai PM
General Prayut is understood to be determined that the reopening of the island to foreign tourism must continue and but understands also that, right now, Phuket is the face of Thailand. An effective response from Thai authorities is therefore critical.
Phuket and Ko Samui pilot tourism reopenings feel the strain as infection numbers rise on holiday islands
The Governor of Phuket, Narong Woonsiew, has been tasked with coordinating with the Swiss Honorary Consul on the island Andrea Kotas Tammathin who, in the last 48 hours, had expressed her shock at what appears, at this point, to be the brutal murder and rape of 57-year-old Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, a senior Swiss civil servant who was enjoying the third week of her extended holiday to Thailand.
Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf was a visitor under the pilot tourism scheme, having arrived on the island on July 13th last with a tourist visa that expires on August 26th.
Urgent security summit on the island chaired by the Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn comes with tourist safety plan
The murder of the European woman led to an urgent meeting, on Friday, between Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the provincial governor and top police officials as well as Police Major General Jiraphop Phuridech, a Deputy Chief of the Royal Thai Police.
Police Major General Jiraphob is reported to have deployed an elite Hanuman unit of the Crime Suppression Division to Phuket tasked with assisting police operations there which are now being led by the police commissioner.
Minister Phiphat told the media the meeting had also decided on plans to make foreign tourists on the island more secure, relying on the cooperation and support of the public at this time.
Local population on Phuket to be recruited to assist the police and be their ‘eyes and ears’ in efforts to secure the safety of holidaying foreign tourists
After the meeting, the minister told the press that every step would be taken to encourage the population of Phuket to act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the police in order to keep foreign tourists safe on the island and to help track down the culprit of the heinous crime.
He said the incident had damaged the image of not only Phuket but Thailand’s wider tourism industry.
The meeting also agreed that increased CCTV surveillance was needed throughout the island and additional security measures for which a budget has been urgently requested from the central government in Bangkok.
The plans envisage recruiting village headmen and local volunteers to work with the police on the island.
Elite police officers arrive with National Police Commissioner as local industry leader questions the police numbers stationed on the island
The National Police Commissioner, General Suwat, who arrived on the island this Friday, brought with him a senior team of investigators and experts to assist in the investigation.
He said it was essential to ensure that every square inch of Phuket is made secure for tourists.
It followed comments from Mr Poomkit Rakta-Ngam who is the President of the Phuket Provincial Tourism Business Association who appear to take issue with the number of police deployed on Phuket.
He said the number of police officers in relation to the number of tourists on such a world-renowned tourist destination was quite low.
An initial autopsy on the Swiss woman on Thursday
The initial autopsy at the hospital in Phuket took place on Thursday after the body was found by 31-year-old Nattapong Sridum a local man from the Wichit area when he spotted the woman’s legs protruding from under a black sheet near the Ao Yon waterfall approximately 1.4 km from The Moorings Resort, where the Swiss tourist had been staying and from where she had set off alone on Tuesday morning for a walk.
Police have indicated that due to the position of the body and other circumstances at the scene where the remains of Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf were found, they are confident that this is a murder case.
The body of the Swiss woman was taken to Vachira Phuket Hospital where an initial autopsy was carried out according to Dr Chalermphong Sukontapol who said a second and more in-depth autopsy was being performed at the Police Hospital in Bangkok which is standard procedure in such situations.
Findings are being withheld for now with DNA results also expected following police autopsy in Bangkok
He said the results of the autopsy were being withheld, for now, by police and, later, results of DNA testing would be revealed.
‘The Institute of Forensic Medicine of the Royal Thai Police Office will do another autopsy. Many things have yet to be done. In a murder case, DNA, blood and bodily fluids must be sent to Bangkok to find the cause of death as soon as possible,’ Dr Chalermphong explained.
Last sighting of Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf on Tuesday
The last sighting of the Swiss woman, who was the Deputy Chief of Protocol for the Federal Assembly of Switzerland, was at 11.33 am when a security camera caught her walking with a knapsack and wearing short pants and coloured trainers along Ao Yon Beach, a secluded and quiet beach in the Wichit subdistrict of Phuket town.
The middle-aged woman’s body was found later in a stream near the waterfall and is reported to have been naked from the waist down with her denim pants discarded nearby.
Lover of Thailand who arrived in Phuket aboard a Singapore Airline flight on July 13th last and stayed initially for two weeks in Thalang
The Swiss woman, like many regular tourists to Thailand, was known to have a love for the country.
The Moorings Resort was her third hotel or accommodation in Thailand during her holiday which began on July 13th when she arrived off Singapore Airlines flight SQ726 which touched down at Phuket International Airport at 10.34 am.
She initially spent her first 14 days at the Dusit Laguna Hotel in the Thalang District of the island where staff recalled her as a friendly and polite guest who often expressed her enthusiasm for Thailand and its people. During her stay at the luxury hotel, the Swiss woman was noted for regularly conducting her Yoga exercises.
She next left Phuket for a stay in Krabi at the Vacation Village Phra Nang Inn in Ao Nang.
She arrived in Krabi on the 27th of July and left again on July 31st returning to the Wichit subdistrict of Phuket City where she booked into The Moorings Resort Hotel.
Staff there remember her spending her time relaxing on the beach.
Governor of Phuket expressed deep condolences to the family and promised to apprehend the culprit
The Governor of Phuket Narong Woonsiew has expressed his condolences to the family of Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf and has vowed that the person responsible for the crime will be apprehended.
‘I, Narong Woonciew, the Governor of Phuket Province, am really saddened by the passing of Ms Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, a Swiss national who came to Thailand as a tourist under the Phuket Sandbox programme on July 13, 2021,’ he declared. ‘On behalf of the province of Phuket and the people of Phuket, I wish to extend my profound sympathies and deepest condolences to Ms Nicole’s family and friends, and to the Swiss Federation.’
Swiss Consul on Phuket expresses sadness and sympathy for what happened to Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf, a tourist and ‘innocent woman’
The honorary Swiss consul on Phuket, Ms Andrea Kotas Tammathin, expressed sadness at the incident and its potential to marr the perception of the good character of people in Phuket.
As well as expressing her condolences to her compatriot’s family in Switzerland, she also expressed a desire for the police to track down the ‘bad person’ behind the crime.
‘I am deeply, deeply sorry for what has happened to this innocent woman. I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family. It saddens me to see how evil people can do something like that in a country which is usually known for its friendliness and kindness, and especially for the Phuket community.’
‘It is a sad, sad day for Phuket,’ she said. ‘I feel very bad and have great sympathy for the woman who arrived as a tourist and died because of the actions of a bad person. I want the police to arrest the culprit as soon as possible.’
Locals on the island have been expressing their outrage at what happened to the European tourist and have taken the opportunity to pay their respects at temporary shrines to the victim since Thursday when the news first emerged.