Remorseless suspect gives game away

Painstaking interrogation methods lead to rapid case wrap-up

Just three days after three members of the Homchong family were found shot to death at their home in Bangkok’s Bang Khae district, police had five suspects in custody and a confession.

The victims were shot separately in their bedrooms. The father, Col Vichai, a retired army officer, was found dead in his bedroom on the second floor, while his wife, Vanida, a school teacher, and their 24-year-old son, Pol Lt Thanatpong or Thammanat, a police investigator at Taling Chan police station, were found dead in their bedrooms on the first floor.

Local police were alerted by Vanida’s friend who stopped by the house on April 3 after she missed an appointment and could not be reached by phone.

Deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Thitirat Nongharnpitak arrived at the crime scene shortly after local police. He was assigned to supervise the investigation by the city police chief.

After inspecting the scene and finding no traces of ransacking, Pol Maj Gen Thitirat ruled out robbery as a motive. The most probable motive was a conflict he had yet to learn about.

The victims’ relatives and neighbours revealed that Col Vichai and Vanida led simple lives and had no conflict with anyone. Pol Lt Thanatpong had some conflicts at work, but nothing serious enough to make someone want him and his parents dead.

The attention shifted to Kittinan Homchong, 22, the youngest son, absent at the time of the murders.

Pol Maj Gen Thitirat set up an “initial interview” with Mr Kittinan. By the time the interview ended, he knew he had a possible suspect.

“I had police bring him in for an initial interview so I could observe his reactions during questioning. It was so obvious he didn’t feel saddened by the losses. That was a big lead for us. It is not a common reaction for someone who has just lost their entire family to a gruesome murder, no matter how tough a person is,” he said.

However, Mr Kittinan was released due to detention regulations, only to be brought back the next evening for a second sit-in after police had a new lead that his close friend and partner, Sakkarin Phanthukun, 22, had been seen in the neighbourhood on the night of the murder.

Both of them were brought in for separate interrogations. Police finally got their ducks in a row and were very much convinced either one or both of them had a hand in the killings.

Mr Kittinan kept his cool, prompting police to adopt a harsh technique. One of the officers shouted in his face that he was involved in the murder. His response — “I’m confident I didn’t do it” — made his guilt even more obvious in police eyes.

The interrogation continued into the night and police turned to Mr Sakkarin, who appeared to break more easily under stress. The police tried to be his ally. “We understand you did it because of him [Mr Kittinan], but if you didn’t pull the trigger, just tell us. You’ll get a lesser charge. Just talk to us,’’ Pol Maj Gen Thitirat quoted the interrogation team as saying.

The trick worked. In a matter of minutes Mr Sakkarin asked police how long he would be locked up for. All that was needed now was to bring in police investigators to get his confession and the details of the murder plan.

With the confession from Mr Sakkarin, it became easier for police to obtain a confession from Mr Kittinan. After a few hours of intense interrogation, the suspect recounted his crime, which led to the arrest of three others; Chalat Thiangtham, 53, Suraphong Chuphan, 47, and gunman Sirichai Phoemphunsak.

On the night of April 5, police arrested Mr Chalat at Ratchadaphisek Soi 16 in Bangkok and Mr Suraphong in Suphan Buri’s U Thong district. Both confessed to complicity in the murder.

Mr Sirichai decided to turn himself in to police at Sutthisan station on April 6 after learning from news reports that his victims were the parents and elder brother of the man who hired him.

According to Pol Maj Thitirat, Mr Kittinan was infuriated by his father for frequently criticising and scolding him about his behaviour and comparing him with his elder brother. Mr Kittinan left the house to live with Mr Sakkarin, who had been his partner for about the last two years, said the deputy police commissioner.

The pair carried out the murders so that Mr Kittinan would inherit a four-rai plot of land worth about 100 million baht.

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About the author

Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham
Position: Reporter