Thai cops deny bungling ‘murder island’ investigations as world media watches

Thai cops have been accused of contaminating crime scenes and bungling investigations

Police have rejected reports in local and foreign media that they have botched the investigations of several mysterious deaths on Koh Tao in Surat Thani.

They insisted there was nothing untoward in the deaths of six foreigners since 2014, despite some of them happening under what many regard as suspicious circumstances.

The officers were speaking at a news briefing at Surat Thani police station yesterday.

The police insisted their investigative and forensic work in the cases were conducted based on US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) standards.

The deaths of foreigners on the island have caught the attention of the foreign media and triggered criticism of safety on the island and how police handled the cases.

Police said Elise Dallemagne, a 30-year-old Belgian woman, was found hanging from a tree in Tanote Bay on April 27. It is thought she died a few days before the discovery of her body. The case has brought the number of suspicious deaths highlighted by the media to seven since Jan 1, 2014, with another woman still classified by police as missing.

Speaking at the briefing, Surat Thani police commander Apichart Bunsriroj said the post-mortem on Dallemagne’s body indicated she died from asphyxia. The probe found no trace of a struggle around the scene.

There are still no indications to suggest she was murdered, Pol Maj Gen Apichart said.

After Dallemagne’s body was found, police reported her death to the Belgian embassy and have worked closely with staff there.

Pol Maj Gen Pornchai Suthirakhun, chief of the Police General Hospital’s Institute of Forensic Science, said the Belgian woman had bruises from the pressure of a noose around her neck. There was another small bruise found near her head but “this would not have led to her death”.

Pol Maj Gen Thawatchai Mekprasertsuk, commander of the Office of Police Forensic Science, confirmed that all the death cases on Koh Tao were investigated based on the FBI’s 12-step process. Forensic officers cooperated with investigators in preventing the crime scenes and bodies from being contaminated.

Assistant police chief Thanet Pinmuangngam, who is also acting commissioner of Police Region 8, said Dallemagne died of asphyxia.

“As for reports that there is mafia activity on Koh Tao, I stress that I have worked with the governor, military and police officers to ensure order there and I confirm there is no mafia on Koh Tao,” Pol Lt Gen Thanet said.

According to the briefing, five cases involving the deaths of foreigners on Koh Tao have been solved.

As for 25-year-old Nick Pearson from the UK, whose body was found floating in the sea on Jan 1, 2014, his autopsy suggested he was intoxicated and drowned, Pol Maj Gen Apichart said.

In the second case, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, Myanmar nationals, have been sentenced to death by the Appeal Court and the lower court for murdering Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, both 24, from Britain, on the island on Sept 15, 2014.

In the third case, a 28-year-old French national, Dimitri Povse, was found hanged with his hands tied behind his back at a rented house on Jan 1, 2015. Pol Maj Gen Apichart said he could have committed suicide this way and that police found a suicide letter at the scene.

The fourth case concerns Christina Annesley, a 23-year-old woman from the UK, who was found dead at a resort on Jan 21, 2015. An autopsy suggested she died from cardiac shock.

The fifth involves Luke Miller, 26, from Britain, who was found dead in a swimming pool on Jan 9, this year. He drowned after jumping from a diving board, the officer said.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Russian woman, Valentina Novozhyonova is still missing. She was last seen on Feb 16 in CCTV camera footage, at Ao Chalok Hin Kao with her scuba diving gear. – Bangkok Post

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