Even though police have arrested Supat Laohawattana and his wife Wilasa Chantarabanchorn _ prime suspects in the disappearance of a couple in Phetchaburi three years ago _ the case is far from over.
Hanpol: Pursuing all available leads
On June 17, 2009, the mothers of the missing couple _ identified as Mr Samart Noomjui and Orasa Kerdsap, both 27 _ told police at Tha Mai Ruak station in Phetchaburi that the pair had been missing with their Toyota pickup truck for five days.
The couple were employed as labourers at Dr Supat's pineapple orchard in Phetchaburi's Tha Yang district _ where police have recently unearthed the remains of several bodies.
At first, the investigation by local police made little progress.
They put out an announcement with information about the missing persons. However, Mr Samart's parents told police they believed the disappearance was related to a conflict between their son and the doctor.
Dr Supat told the parents he knew nothing about their children's disappearance.
Afterwards, Dr Supat recruited Wimol Noomjui, Mr Samart's elder sister, as an assistant at the Police General Hospital in Bangkok as a favour to the distressed family.
During two years of working as Dr Supat's assistant, Ms Wimol became increasingly suspicious about the doctor's involvement in the disappearance of her brother.
She reached out for help from the doctor's elder brother Suthep Laohawattana, who is embroiled in an inheritance conflict with Dr Supat.
On Sept 15, Mr Suthep took her to one of the doctor's houses, in Sirichote community in Muang district of Nonthaburi, where they found Mr Samart's truck.
The discovery prompted Mr Samart's family to ask Tha Mai Ruak police to take action against Dr Supat and his third wife Wilasa on charges of being implicated in the disappearance of the couple. After questioning several witnesses, including Kala, a Myanmar worker at Dr Supat's orchard, police pinpointed the doctor's orchard as the suspected location where the couple's bodies were buried.
On Sept 20, a thorough search was conducted at Dr Supat's house and orchard, where police say they found 42 guns and 5,442 rounds of ammunition in the house.
Three human skeletons were found buried in the orchard's compound, two with bullet holes in the skulls.
DNA tests on the three skeletons, however, did not identify the remains as belonging to the missing couple.
The lack of a DNA match has kept police from charging Dr Supat with murder, and the case seems to be at a dead end.
At present, police can only press minor charges against Dr Supat and Mrs Wilasa for illegal confinement, theft, illegal possession of guns and human trafficking in connection to the Myanmar workers at his orchard.
Region 7 Provincial Police Commissioner Hanpol Nitwibul, the lead investigator in the case and one of the country's most capable police officers, refused to give up.
His team continued to search the orchard compound, questioned more witnesses and eventually found that one of the skeletons belongs to a Myanmar worker named Ita, who was allegedly shot dead by Dr Supat.
To verify this, police have brought Ita's mother and son from Myanmar for DNA testing.
If their DNA matches the skeletal remains, police will press murder charges against the doctor, Pol Lt Gen Hanpol said.
Police suspect the doctor shot Ita out of jealousy because the Myanmar worker, who was handsome according to witness testimony, was close to his wife.
"We are also looking for another Myanmar worker identified as Yong who reportedly saw the doctor killing Ita," Pol Lt Gen Hanpol said.
"Yong fled the orchard after the alleged murder for fear that he would be killed too."
"Witnesses in the house said the doctor was cruel and more Myanmar workers might have been killed," he said. "The killings seem to have been for [his] satisfaction and workers in the plantation are frightened of the doctor."
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About the author
- Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham