Royal Thai Police in Phuket have held a press conference on Sunday to reveal new details of the recent murder in Phuket and the arrest they made on Saturday of 27-year-old Thai local Teerawat Thothip.
He was arrested for murdering Swiss tourist Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, and police have said the man has claimed that the murder was unintentional.
He says he targeted the woman because of financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and saw an opportunity to steal her belongings.
He saw the victim on Tuesday at Ton Ao Yon waterfall swimming with her bag unattended, which he thought might contain valuables.
Police say he stole THB 300 from the bag, at which point the victim left the waterfall to fight the man, who became sexually aroused.
When he tried to act on the impulse, the woman resisted. He then pressed her head into the water until she died.
The attack is said to have caused injuries and bruises to the victim’s body.
At this time, police are awaiting DNA results before knowing if a rape had been committed.
The police have said that the man confessed to the murder on Saturday evening, and they have issued an apology for the situation.
“We apologize for this situation, even if we have arrested the murderer it is still not enough for what the victim’s family has lost,” a Royal Thai Police spokesman said at the press conference.
“We strive to increase safety for anyone in Phuket and we are confident that tourists will choose Thailand for their holidays in the future,” he went on to say.
Thai media had reported that the suspect confessed to the woman’s murder after an intensive interrogation.
The man had allegedly gone to the site to collect wild orchids, reports said.
Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf was the deputy protocol chief of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland.
The 57-year-old came to Thailand under Phuket’s Sandbox scheme that allows vaccinated foreign tourists to travel to the resort island.
Her body was found lying face-down and covered with a black sheet among the rocks near the Ton Ao Yon waterfall in Tambon Wichit of Muang district on Thursday.
National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk traveled to Phuket a day later in response to the first serious incident linked to the program that began on July 1.
He told reporters that the case was “all wrapped up,” adding that he would give more details at Sunday’s press conference at 10:00 a.m.
Online sleuths have speculated that police would be looking for a scapegoat given the intense pressure they faced to solve the case.
However, Provincial Police Region 8’s Deputy Chief Pol Maj Gen Nanthadet Yoinuan denied such claims, saying that investigators had obtained firm evidence as well as the confession.
A police source who requested anonymity said investigators had examined video from security cameras in areas near the waterfall.
A man who acted suspiciously and had bruises on his body was subjected to intense questioning and confessed to the crime.
Pol Gen Suwat said they found “traces” in the woman’s body, but the official autopsy report has yet to be released.