The alleged murderer of a 57-year-old Swiss woman found dead on the Thai island of Phuket has confessed to the crime. He has been charged with murder and robbery resulting in death.
The 27-year-old Thai told a press conference, which he attended by telephone with his lawyer, that he strangled the woman and then stole 300 baht (CHF8.20) from her. She had not been raped, as had been initially reported in some media.
“I would like to apologise to the tourist’s family and beg all Thais to excuse me,” the man said on Sunday, the day after his arrest. The head of police for the southern region said the man had confessed during an interrogation.
The woman was found dead on Thursday near a remote waterfall in the south of the island. Shorts, a smartphone and a passport were found nearby. According to the authorities, she had been dead for not more than three days, so an autopsy could shed light on the matter. There has been no official statement on the cause of death.
The police said the man had been in the area collecting exotic plants. He saw the woman swimming, watched her for a while and then tried to steal her belongings. A fight ensued, which probably led to the woman’s death, the police said. The man then stole 300 baht from the woman’s backpack, which he hid behind a tree. He then covered the body with a black tarpaulin and fled.
The investigation soon focused on the 27-year-old suspect. Surveillance cameras had captured his vehicle in the area at the time of the incident. In addition, he had bruises and injuries during an examination after his arrest.
A legal adviser to the Swiss embassy thanked the Thai police for their efforts. “The victim, the victim’s family and all Thais deserve a speedy resolution of this crime,” he said.
Shock in Thailand
The crime has caused shock and dismay in Thailand. A vigil was held in Phuket by hotel staff and businesspeople to express their condolences, the Thai foreign ministry spokesman said on Twitter. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha has demanded a swift investigation and ordered tighter security measures.
Switzerland’s ambassador in Bangkok, Helene Budliger Artieda, called it a “very sad and disturbing time”. She thanked the local authorities for their quick action.
The Swiss woman, who was travelling alone, had arrived on the island on July 13 under the “Phuket Sandbox” scheme, which allows fully vaccinated foreign travellers to stay on the island without quarantine and then travel elsewhere in the country after 14 days. More than 16,000 people have arrived on Phuket since the scheme was launched on July 1, despite the unprecedented outbreak of Covid-19 in Thailand.
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