A combination of CCTV footage, forensic science and old-fashioned detective work helped police track down three men suspected of raping and robbing two Russian tourists in the early hours of Boxing Day.
National police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew attends a press conference at the Royal Thai Police Office to announce the arrest of three suspects who allegedly raped two Russian women in Pattaya on Dec 25. The suspects, seated, are, from left; Anuwat Wat-on, 32; Wichian Jaija, 35; and Thongchai Jandee, 20. SOMCHAI POOMLARD
Wichian Jaija, 35, Thongchai Jandee, 20, and Anuwat Wat-on, 32, were arrested one week after they allegedly abducted, raped and robbed the Russians.
The victims turned up at Pattaya police station to report rape and robbery in the early hours of Dec 26.
According to their statement, the women, identified by police only as Maria and Anastasia, were walking to their hotel in south Pattaya when they were forced into a pickup truck by a man armed with a gun and a knife.
Two other men were waiting inside the vehicle.
The men drove off and stopped at a deserted security guard booth near a reservoir in Bang Lamung district.
The men allegedly forced them to undress at gunpoint and then raped them.
The assailants abandoned them and left with their belongings, including two smartphones and several thousand baht in cash, police said.
Pol Lt Gen Winai Thongsong, commissioner of Police Region 2 Bureau, ordered Pattaya police to set up road checkpoints after receiving the report.
He also alerted authorities in nearby Sattahip, Si Racha, Bang Lamung districts of Chon Buri and neighbouring Rayong province.
The highway police were told to keep an eye out for a Toyota pickup truck.
However, there had been no sign of the vehicle as dawn broke.
By then, the police had suspected that the offenders must have been locals and had probably gone into hiding not far from the crime scene.
A forensic team was busy sifting through the site when a report came in about the suspected vehicle being captured on footage of a CCTV camera.
Police resources were mobilised to track down the pickup truck using CCTV footage from the network installed in areas the vehicle had passed through.
Footage from public CCTV cameras and recordings from a privately owned device proved sufficient to track the suspects' movements.
After the offenders left the crime scene, they headed in the direction of Jomtien Beach and went into Soi Chaiyapruek.
The vehicle appeared on CCTV again about 3am on Dec 26 when it turned on to Sukhumvit Road. It was last captured at 4.55am as it headed for south Pattaya.
"We had a solid assumption that the pickup truck was in the neighbourhood, but [the CCTV footage] ended right there," he said.
Old-fashioned detective work then came into play. Detectives were deployed to scout the area, especially in south Pattaya where the pickup truck was last seen on camera.
It took the police three days to locate the suspected vehicle, which was parked outside a house owned by Mr Wichian's wife in south Pattaya.
Mr Wichian became the prime suspect, as he was nowhere to be seen, leading police to believe he was in hiding.
His wife was taken into police custody for questioning and the pickup truck was seized as evidence.
Forensic investigators said they found blonde and brown hair strands and vomit stains inside the vehicle.
The victims confirmed it was the pickup truck that they were forced into.
They also told police that the attackers stopped at a convenience store during the abduction. Mr Wichian was filmed there by the store's CCTV camera.
He was arrested on Jan 1 at a hotel in Chachoengsao's Bang Pakong district where he was staying with a female friend.
Mr Wichian implicated Mr Thongchai and Mr Anuwat during police questioning and they too were promptly arrested.
Police said all three admitted they kidnapped the women, and two of them _ with the exception of Mr Anuwa _ confessed to raping them.
So far the police only had a cigarette butt found at the crime spot to link him with the case.
"The police have done a great job in regard to evidence collection," Pol Lt Gen Winai said.
"I've told them not to miss a single piece. We have forensic evidence and material evidence including the weapons used in the kidnapping.
"They bring closure."
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- Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham