THE key witness to the disappearance and murder of Australian motorbike gang leader Wayne Schneider last year has disappeared ahead of the court verdict amid fears for his safety.
The witness, a security guard at Schneider’s exclusive housing estate in the Thai seaside resort of Pattaya, was present the night the Australian was kidnapped and taken away.
Follow BangkokJack on Facebook for all Thailand/Asia related news
The body of Schneider, 37, from Sydney, was found uncovered 30 kilometres away in a shallow sandy roadside grave in Sattahip province, 120 kilometres from Bangkok, and two days after the abduction.
Australian man Antonio Bagnato, 27, Schneider’s former body guard and business associate, was later arrested at a hotel in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh and charged with leading the abduction and killing.
Thai police also arrested a 21-year-old American, Tyler Gerard, as he attempted to cross the Thai border into Cambodia.
Reports said two security guards at the $5200-a-month villa complex had told Thai police Schneider’s abductors were wearing scarfs over their faces but they believed they were all foreigners.
But the guards told Thai police they were able to identify one of the men as Bagnato, who was frequently seen at the residence.
Thai police say three other suspects in the murder, including two Australians, had fled Thailand soon after the murder.
A key witness, Melbourne bike gang member Amad “Jay” Malkoun, left Thailand for Dubai after being questioned by Thai police.
Malkoun had told police he had been drinking with Schneider on the night but denied any knowledge of the kidnapping.
After Bagnato was deported to Thailand, Thai police uncovered a cache of illegal weapons at two of Bagnato’s properties in Chon Buri, including assault rifles, hand guns, ammunition, tasers and brass knuckles.
Thai police allege Schneider was killed in a conflict over proceeds from drug trafficking deals from Europe.
Bagnato has denied the charges.
Thai police sources told AAP there are concerns over the whereabouts of the security guard “who saw it all unfold”.
“This is concerning — he hasn’t turned up, they don’t know where he is. They can’t find him, cannot locate him,” the source said, amid fears for the guard’s personal safety.
They said the guard’s testimony could have an impact on the outcome of the case. “A concern is he has met with foul play, or he has been paid off — he has disappeared,” they said.
Earlier, Thai police said the American Tyler Gerard, under interrogation had identified the alleged kidnappers.
The next hearing date at a military court is scheduled for Thursday with legal sources saying a verdict was expected.
In Thailand those guilty of murder can face a possible death sentence, although executions are rarely carried out.
NSW police are also expected to lodge an application for Bagnato to be deported back to Australia for face drug trafficking charges.