Manhunt intensifies for police gunman

Manhunt intensifies for police gunman

Officers search Surat Thani reservoir area for policeman wanted after attacks that left six dead

Police wearing protective gear board a boat to search for a police gunman at the Ratchaprapa dam in Surat Thani on Saturday. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)
Police wearing protective gear board a boat to search for a police gunman at the Ratchaprapa dam in Surat Thani on Saturday. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)

SURAT THANI: Police searched a reservoir and nearby forest in Ban Ta Khun district on Saturday after obtaining a clue that an officer wanted for a lethal attack in this southern province was hiding in the area.

Two more warrants have also been approved for the arrest on murder charges of Pol Snr Sgt Maj Atthaporn Wichian, 46, who was attached to the Khirirat Nikhom police station.

More than 100 police investigators and Surat Thani special task force officers were deployed to the Ratchaprapa dam, also known as the Cheow Lan dam, in tambon Khao Phang on Saturday morning. Checkpoints were set up along all roads and forest paths leading to the dam, a popular tourist attraction.

Officers had obtained clues indicating that the wanted man was hiding in the area, said Pol Maj Gen Naphanwut Liamsa-nguan, investigation commander of Provincial Police Region 8.

Pol Snr Sgt Maj Atthaporn led a group of heavily armed men to storm the house of his father-in-law in Khirirat Nikhom on the evening of April 8.

Four people were slain: house owner Thammarong Nilniyom, 60; his wife Nilthip Palakachen, 49; Pornsak Phetchu, 56; and Thammarat Wichian, 48. The latter, one of the gunmen and the elder brother of the prime suspoect, was believed to have been shot dead by one of the victims.

Two more people — Atthapol Wichian, 25, Atthaporn’s son by a former wife; and his new wife Panida Nilniyom, 34, the only daughter of the slain Thammarong — were later found shot dead.

Atthapol, who was involved in the first attack, was found dead inside a car parked at a temple in Ban Ta Khun where funeral rites for his uncle Thammarat — the slain brother of the prime suspect — were being held on April 9. His hands were tied and he had been shot in the right temple.

Panida was found dead at a resort in tambon Tha Khanon of Khirirat Nikhom district on the following day. She had been shot in the mouth.

Photos of Pol Snr Sgt Maj Atthaporn Wichain are shown on an announcement, with a 100,000-baht cash reward for information leading to his capture. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)

Police later arrested another suspect, Manop Wang-ngan, 57, in Thap Put district of Phangnga province. He reportedly confessed to having been involved in the attack and was detained.

On Saturday officers searched accommodation at the Ratchaprapa dam and nearby areas for the prime suspect, said Pol Maj Gen Saranyu Chamnarnrat, the Surat Thani police chief.

He and Surat Thani governor Witchawut Jinto met with local leaders in Khirirat Nikhom, Ban Ta Khun and Phanom districts to seek cooperation to provide clues about the suspect.

Also on Saturday, the Surat Thani provincial court approved two more arrest warrants for Pol Snr Sgt Maj Atthaporn for the killing of his son and his wife, Panida.

An earlier warrant sought his arrest on charges of murder, illegal possession of weapons and carrying firearms and ammunition in public areas without a sound reason.

A feud between Pol Snr Sgt Maj Atthaporn and his father-in-law was believed to have been the motive for the attack.

Police check vehicles heading to the Ratchaprapa dam in Ban Ta Khun district of Surat Thani as they continue tracking a wanted gunman. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)

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