With a new year nearly upon us, these are five crime stories that both captivated and shocked the nation during the past 12 months.
It is unbelievable that the mysterious death of a three-year-old girl in a small remote village in the Northeast would trigger such a huge media frenzy.
News coverage about the investigation into Orawan “Nong Chompoo” Wongsricha’s death was aired on certain TV channels almost every day and the story quickly became the talk of the town across all media platforms and the nation.
One reason was possibly the mystery surrounding the death of Nong Chompoo, whose body was found in a forest area connected to Phu Lek Fai Mountain in Mukdahan on May 14, 2020.
She disappeared from her home in Ban Kok Kork, Dong Luang district, on May 11. She was alone with her 14-year-old sister, Nong Sa-ing, while her parents went to work that morning.
As the police began probing the death of the girl, most people who were treated by investigators as persons of interest could tell the police where they were by the time the girl went missing, except for Chaiphol Wipha, the husband of the girl’s aunt.
Some witnesses said they had seen Mr Chaiphol travelling on a route leading to the where the girl’s body was found.ad
Forensic scientists in Mukdahan also found Nong Chompoo’s hair inside Mr Chaiphol’s pickup truck and hair belonging to his wife, Somporn Labpho, was also discovered at the crime scene.
So, while Mr Chaiphol was enjoying fame insisting he was innocent, police unexpectedly sought an arrest warrant on June 1 for him on charges of illegal detention of a young child, abandoning her, and causing her death.
He turned himself in to the police in Bangkok after the arrest warrant was out before he was released on bail with the help of Sitra Biabangkerd, a famed lawyer who recently announced he is to end his role as Mr Chaiphol’s lawyer, for unspecified reasons
Police arrest Chou Yi Shen and seized drugs from his condo in the Sukhumvit area. Royal Thai Police
New drug cocktail
A Taiwanese trafficker of a ketamine drug cocktail known as the “k-powdered milk” cocktail was arrested in January at a luxury condo on Asok-Montri road in Bangkok.
Chou Yi Shen, aged 38, was arrested by Metropolitan Police after he was found trafficking the “k-nom pong” drug cocktail, as it is also known, which has fatal effects and has killed many victims.
Mr Shen was arrested and drugs seized, such as 4kg ketamine, 376 ecstasy pills, 4kg of crystal meth, 8kg of heroin, 11.6g of cocaine, 48 pieces of LSD, and so on.
The investigation began on Jan 10 when Wat Phraya Krai police found seven people had died and five hospitalised due to the use of the ketamine drug cocktail. The drug cocktail was first discovered in postal boxes in October 2020 and destined for the United Arab Emirates.
The cocktail contained ketamine and crystal meth and was delivered by Mr Shen with a false name before the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, inspecting CCTV footage, was able to track him down.
Mr Shen was found to have many luxury condo units in the Lumpini, Rama IX, Town in Town, Ramkhamhaeng and Sukhumvit areas.
The suspect added that in 2012, he trafficked 280g of cocaine and 80g of cannabis from the United States to Taiwan and was wanted by Taiwanese authorities before fleeing to Thailand in 2013, using a counterfeit passport to enter the country.
He told police that he created the compound of the ketamine drug cocktail himself. According to the formula recorded in his mobile phone, he blended ketamine, ecstasy and sleeping pills as a fine powder cocktail for easy use.
Mr Shen said the drug cocktail had also been exported overseas through “dark” websites and payment made using bitcoins. His customers, both foreigners and Thais, also bought the drug through online platforms.
Police take Teerawat Thothip to Ton Ao Yon waterfall where he killed a Swiss tourist. Achadtaya Chuenniran
Swiss tourist murder
A Swiss woman was found dead in Phuket while travelling under its Sandbox scheme in July, prompting urgent action by police.
Police spent just 48 hours wrapping up the murder case of Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, deputy protocol chief of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland.
The murder was considered serious as it sullied the image of tourism in Phuket and its tourist scheme.
The attack took place at Ao Yon waterfall in Muang district where the woman was spotted lying face down in the water among rocks about one kilometre from the entrance of the Ao Yon waterfall in tambon Vichit.
An investigation showed the victim on Aug 3 left her hotel in tambon Vichit at 11.30am, heading to Ao Yon waterfall. However, she did not come back.
After reviewing CCTV footage, a man was spotted driving a motorcycle to the crime scene before the victim arrived. The man returned about three hours later.
On Aug 7, clues led to the arrest of Teerawat Thothip, 27, native to Thalang district, whose body was found with bruises and scratches.
The suspect, known locally as “Bang Lee”, admitted his guilt and told investigators that he found the woman sitting on the rocks while he was foraging in the area.
Teerawat, who was in financial stress and assuemd she must have money, grabbed her in a chokehold from the rear. But Sauvain-Weisskopf struggled, so he forced her head into the water until she drowned.
The suspect camouflaged her body with a black sheet and rocks, before hiding her backpack behind a tree and making off with 300 baht in cash.
Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, or ‘Joe Ferrari’. Muang Nakhon Sawan Provincial Police Station
‘Gambling kingpin’ nabbed
The arrest of Somchai Jutikitdecha, an alleged gambling kingpin in the eastern region, at his luxury home in Rayong’s Muang district in late March was part of a large police operation spanning four provinces.
The Crime Suppression Division (CSD) police led by its elite “Hanuman” unit raided 21 locations in Rayong, Chon Buri, Chanthaburi and Bangkok on March 25 looking for people implicated in money laundering and illegal gambling activities.
Eight people including Mr Somchai, 56, better known as Longjoo Somchai, and his 26-year-old son Thana were arrested. Assets worth about 880 million baht including 377 housing units were confiscated in the operation.
Police used a ladder to climb over the wall and enter Mr Somchai’s two-rai property on Rat Bamrung Road in tambon Noen Phra when no one answered the door.
Mr Somchai was also wanted in connection with the alleged contract killing of a taxi motorcyclist Prathum Sa-adnak, 47, who was shot dead behind Muang Pattaya 8 School in Pattaya on July 28, 2020.
Manas Imnam, 39, and Niphon Panthong, 47, were arrested for Pathum’s murder and told police they had a personal conflict with the victim.
However, the victim’s family believed it was a contract killing as Mr Prathum was known to have taken pictures of an illegal gambling den in Chon Buri’s Pattaya, which was subsequently raided by police.
Two more people were arrested in connection with Prathum’s death in December last year, and police linked Mr Somchai to the alleged murder plot. The probe was expanded to include the gambling empire allegedly owned by Mr Somchai.
He was charged with contract killing, money laundering and arranging illegal gambling activities and was denied bail since his arrest.
The investigation into his network of gambling dens showed a cash flow of more than 15 billion baht while the money trail suggested several police in the region were involved. One gambling house he allegedly operated in Rayong’s Muang district was blamed for the spread of Covid-19 in the province in December last year.
Police search the house of Somchai Jutikitdech in Rayong. Crime Suppression Division
Joe Ferrari’s misdeeds
Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, former superintendent of Muang Nakhon Sawan station, made headlines in August after a clip posted on social media showed him in an interrogation room with a drug suspect being suffocated.
Pol Col Thitisan and six other officers are accused of killing Chiraphong Thanapat, a 24-year-old drug suspect, while trying to extort 2 million baht from him at the station on Aug 5.
The clip showed Chiraphong being suffocated during questioning, with his head covered with a black plastic bag, sparking outrage against the police, and prompting Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to order police to investigate.
Pol Col Thitisan, also known as “Joe Ferrari” due to his collection of expensive cars, was suspended from the force pending an investigation, and a court warrant issued for his arrest. He surrendered to police at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok on Aug 26.
Pol Col Thitisan and six others were indicted by public prosecutors on four charges of malfeasance, abuse of authority, colluding to murder by torture, and coercion in connection with the death of Chiraphong.
The other six are Pol Maj Rawirot Ditthong, Pol Capt Songyot Khlainak, Pol Lt Thoranin Maswanna, Pol Snr Sgt Maj Suphakon Nimchuen, Pol Snr Sgt Maj Wisut Bunkhiew and Pol Lance/Corp Pawikon Khammarew.
Police said they are also investigating Pol Col Thitisan’s involvement in the seizure of about 400 smuggled vehicles. They said they had found suspicious vehicle records and irregularities in the payment of rewards for the seizures.
The case involves many people including police, customs officials and people related to Pol Col Thitisan’s business interests, according to police.
The Anti-money Laundering office has frozen about 130 million baht’s worth of assets belonging to Pol Col Thitisan, pending a probe into money-laundering allegations.
The assets included a mansion worth 57 million baht in Bangkok’s Klong Sam Wa district, 24 vehicles worth 70 million baht, a 1.5-million-baht condominium and 18 guns worth 720,000 baht.
Pol Col Thitisan is being detained in Klong Prem prison pending trial.