The prime suspect in the murder of a wealthy woman whose body was found in a refrigerator in Chiang Mai has confessed to the crime and said he acted alone, according to officers from Provincial Police Region 5.
Withun Sitabut, 39, was present at a news briefing on Friday morning after being arrested on Thursday in Nakhon Sawan. He is accused of murdering and robbing Wannee Jiracharoenying, 58.
The victim was found dead last Sunday in a refrigerator in a commercial building where she was staying in Chom Thong district of Chiang Mai. Her corpse had been hidden in a refrigerator and covered in lime powder to mask the odour.
A manhunt was soon launched for Mr Withun, a local minibus driver who reportedly had been hired by Wannee as a helper.
According to police, Mr Withun has admitted that he fatally assaulted the victim on Oct 11, forcing her to give him the PIN code for her ATM card, which he used to withdraw about 1.7 million baht.
Police seized 1.2 million baht in cash and a 5-baht weight gold necklace found in his possession, and his new motorcycle, as evidence.
Pol Lt Gen Prachuap Wongsuk, chief of Provincial Police Region 5, said on Friday that money was the likely motive in the case.
“The suspect claimed he had financial problems. He wanted the victim to help with his plan to buy a minibus,” he said.
A source close to the investigation said the suspect admitted going back to the house on Oct 13 and placing deodoriser cubes in the kitchen and fridge to cover up the unpleasant smell.
He drove off in the victim’s BMW, withdrew the money and asked his girlfriend, identified only as Nam, to go to Koh Samet in Rayong with him. He left the victim’s sedan with a pawnshop in Chiang Mai and they flew to Bangkok.
After the Koh Samet trip, the pair went to Nakhon Pathom where he told her about Wannee. After Ms Nam returned to Chiang Mai on Oct 29, he bought a motorcycle and fled to Kanchanaburi, according to police.
It took the police a few days to track his whereabouts. Mr Withun had previously worked as a disaster relief volunteer and he had used this experience to escape police by camping in the forest. However, police managed to track his mobile phone signal as he remained in contact with Ms Nam.
On Wednesday night, police learned that Mr Withun had travelled to Lao Khwan district in Kanchanaburi. He later passed through Suphan Buri and then on to Nakhon Sawan, where he was caught.