Life imprisonment for police who tortured suspect to death

Life imprisonment for police who tortured suspect to death

Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, 39, third from left in kevlar vest, answers questions from police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, right, at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok on Aug 26, 2021. (Police photo)
Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, 39, third from left in kevlar vest, answers questions from police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, right, at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok on Aug 26, 2021. (Police photo)

Six policemen, including the former chief of Muang Nakhon Sawan police station, were sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday for torturing a drug suspect to death with plastic bags placed over his head.

The Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct initially gave them the death penalty.

The sentences were commuted to life beause they confessed to some acts, attempted to resuscitate the suspect and gave financial assistance to the victim's family.

The sentence was handed down to former Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, 39, who was chief of Nakhon Sawan police station at the time, and five of his subordinates. Thitisan was also known by the nickname "Jo Ferrari" because of his collection of luxury cars. 

The other five are: Pol Maj Raweerote Ditthong, formerly investigative inspector; Pol Capt Songyot Klainak, formerly deputy inspector for crime suppression; Pol Lt Thoranin Matwanna, also formerly deputy inspector for crime suppression; Pol Sen Sgt Maj Wisut Boonkhiao and Pol L/C Paweekorn Khammarew.

From Aug 4-6, 2021, they detained drug suspect Jeerapong Thanapat, 24, for questioning at Nakhon Sawan station.

The suspect's head was covered with plastic bags during questioning and he died as a consequence. A video clip of the questioning was leaked, even though surveillance cameras at the scene were removed afterwards. 

The defendants were arraigned on charges of malfeasance, coercion and lethal torture.

Thitisan had denied allegations he and his team were trying to extort money from the suspect, saying they were trying to get information from him because they found pictures of drugs in the suspect's mobile phone.

The court's ruling was delivered via a video conference to the defendants at Klong Prem Central Prison, as a Covid-19 control measure. The victim's parents were in the courtroom.

The court found the defendants guilty as charged.

Thitisan had denied the fatal torture charge and the five other defendants denied all charges.

A seventh defendant, Pol Sen Sgt Maj Supakorn Nimchuen, was sentenced to five years and four months in prison for malfeasance and coercion. The defendant had earlier denied the charges. The term was commuted from eight years because he did confess to some actions in the case, attempted to resuscitate the suspect and gave financial aid to the victim's family.

Thitisan also made headlines when reporters found 13 luxury cars worth more than 100 million baht at his 60-million-baht 5-rai mansion in Bangkok.

The Customs Department said that as part of his job Thitisan had confiscated 368 illegal vehicles, including high-end cars, from 2011 to 2017.  The department confirmed that Thitisan was eligible for rewards for seizing the vehicles.

Of the cars, 363 were sold at auctions, fetching about one billion baht. A total of 30% of the proceeds were allocated to people who provided information to the authorities, and 25% went to the arresting officers, including police and customs officials. 

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