‘Spate of death threats’ led to massacre

Eyewitnesses including employees of the accused massacre masterminds, seen here (purple hat) with police at the spot where they dumped vehicles and weapons, are the key to sorting out the eight-year family feuds that ended last week in bloodshed. (Photo courtesy Royal Thai Police)

The mastermind behind the massacre of eight family members, including three children, in Krabi accused late family head, Worayut Sanglang, of trying to shoot him once, triggering a series of events that led to the grisly murders on July 10.

The assault resulted from a land mortgage conflict between Worayut and suspected mastermind Surikfat Bannopwongsakul, aka Bang Fath, in which Worayut allegedly threatened to shoot Mr Surikfat, city police chief investigator Pol Maj Gen Itthipol Atchariyapradit said yesterday.

The 41-year-old suspect, who is being detained at the 15th Infantry Battalion in Krabi’s Khlong Thom district, claimed Worayut tried to attack him, but he did not report it to police. “This accusation must be verified,” Pol Maj Gen Itthipol said.

According to the investigation, their conflict began in 2009-2011 when Worayut “mortgaged” his father-in-law’s land and his properties with Mr Surikfat to seek loans worth 1.3 million baht under a consignment land sale contract. Last year Worayut returned the money to Mr Surikfat to reclaim his land rights but was rejected by the lender who claimed the mortgage period was up.

Worayut later took the issue to the Krabi Provincial Court, suing Mr Surikfat for cheating, after finding Mr Surikfat allegedly used his land title deeds to seek another mortgage. The episode angered Worayut, allegedly causing them to exchange death threats. Mr Surikfat has run a loan business in Krabi since he resigned as a revenue official from tambon Ban Klang in the province.

His conflict with Worayut was behind his decision to kill the village headman, police say. The suspect had told police he wanted to make it appear as if Worayut had suffered a mental breakdown and shot his family out of his failure to settle his debts. He had watched suspense murder movies with similar themes designed to keep police off the track.

So far Mr Surikfat has insisted that he alone pulled the trigger at the house in Ao Luk district, which was raided by eight suspects, including him. However, according to a police officer close to the investigation, his wife is believed to be another mastermind. Officers who questioned her said she may have set up the murder plot.

She is also believed to have told her younger brother, Phaisan Chamnong, to take the white Toyota Yaris from her husband and his gang after they used the car to escape the massacre scene, the officer said. The car was driven by some of the suspects as they fled to Nakhon Si Thammarat.

This contradicts Mr Phaisan’s account because he told the media that Mr Surikfat drove the car to his house in Nakhon Si Thammarat, asking him to exchange his pickup truck for the Toyota Yaris as he wanted the truck to transport goods. The Yaris was later seized by police.

Investigators have detained a total of nine suspects — eight who raided Worayut’s compound and one other man who owns a Toyota Fortuner also allegedly used by the suspects as they escaped, according to a police source. Among the eight suspects, who wore camouflage outfits, was a woman who was not in Worayut’s house during the murders but allegedly helped the gang by buying food and water for the attackers and the victims.

One raider, identified only as Chak, 37, is a close aide of Mr Surikfat. He told police he had been hired by Mr Surikfat to collect debts at Worayut’s house and was asked to join him again last Monday. He admitted he called the other victims into the house so neighbours wouldn’t notice anything amiss.

“But I never thought anything bad would happen until I heard the first gun shot,” he said. – Bangkok Post

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