Pants may be key to solving girl’s murder
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Pants may be key to solving girl’s murder

It's been an exhaustive process, but cops believe they have found Nong Pleng's killer

A piece of forensic evidence has shed light on the murder of an 11-year-old girl in Trang whose body was found in a drainage pipe in her home province.

‘Nong Pleng’, 11, was found stuffed in drain

Police say the investigation into the murder of Kedmat “Nong Pleng” Ramna is an uphill battle as it has taken almost one month to identity Prathompong Muenban, a neighbour of the girl’s family, as the key suspect. He has denied any involvement.

Kedmat, a Prathom 6 (Grade 6) student at Danunothai School in tambon Thap Thiang of Trang’s Muang district, disappeared from her home on May 9.

Local police searched for the girl and questioned people near her house, but turned up nothing.

Three days later, her body was found stuffed into a drainage pipe by the entrance to Wat Phra Ngam in tambon Ban Pho, about two kilometres from her house. The girl was murdered before her body was stuffed into the pipe.

The case grabbed national attention.

Trang police handling the case say they worked on several assumptions.

The investigators suspected the girl might have been raped by a mentally-deranged man. Several men in her village were called for questioning.

Three of those men were suspected murderers and one of them was her father’s friend whose house was about 50 metres away. However, police found no evidence to implicate any of them.

An initial examination showed the girl’s nose and mouth had been covered. Bruises were found on her arms, and she sustained head injuries.

Police released two of the three suspects on May 14 due to lack of evidence.

Only Prathompong remained in a police custody after a urine test found he tested positive for illicit drug use. His relatives later bailed him out.

With little progress made after two weeks, Region 9 Police commander Pisit Pisutsak sent Pol Col Itthipol Atchariyapradit, deputy investigation chief at Region 9 Police, to supervise the investigation.

Pol Lt Gen Pisit also asked the Royal Thai Police Office to send a team of DNA experts to conduct DNA tests on suspects. A comprehensive investigation began on May 24.

Pol Col Itthipol said he had looked into the file and found there was little evidence, but the case remained focused on Mr Prathompong.

According to witnesses’ accounts, Nong Pleng entered Mr Prathompong’s house about 2pm on May 9, the day she was last seen. Mr Prathompong admitted the girl had gone to his house to meet his daughter to return a CD. He claimed the girl spent only 10 minutes there.

However, the investigation also focused on a pair of pants, thought to have belonged to the girl, found near the place where the girl’s body was found. The pants were sent for DNA tests.

Pending the results, Pol Col Itthipol, head of the investigation team, asked police to question more witnesses and summon Mr Prathompong for further questioning.

This provided fresh information that Mr Prathompong was one of only a few people in the village who knew there was a drainage pipe in the area where the girl’s body was found as he used to go fishing there.

However, police received little cooperation from the girl’s neighbours as most residents were relatives of Mr Prathompong.

Police found the man has a criminal record and was caught sexually harassing a girl about 10 years ago.

A search of his house turned up traces of blood, and evidence that someone had attempted to remove them. This made it hard for the forensic experts to identify whether the blood belonged to a human or an animal.

The result of the DNA tests of the pants came back and were a match with Mr Prathompong.

This was the key piece of evidence enabling the investigation team to seek court approval for an arrest warrant.

A witness account that the victim was last seen entering his house, and a report she might have argued with Mr Prathompong’s daughter over the borrowed CD, were also factors.

The Trang provincial court approved the warrant last Wednesday on charges of murder, depriving a girl aged under 15 from parental care for sexual molestation, and hiding or destroying a body. He was promptly arrested.

Pol Lt Gen Pisit said the investigation team worked with forensic experts from Prince of Songkhla University, Trang province and Bangkok to gather evidence.

Footage from closed circuit television cameras were able to partly capture the incident.

The Region 9 Police commander believed the suspect might have suffocated the girl by using his hands to pinch her nose and cover her mouth.

They found no evidence that the girl had been raped as there were no traces of semen in her vagina.

Pol Lt Gen Pisit said he believed only Mr Prathompong was involved and the crime took place at his house.

However, Pol Col Itthipol admitted obtaining strong evidence was difficult. Though the suspect has been caught, the investigation continues.

“At this moment, we are uncertain how the suspect killed the girl. But we do believe he is the real murderer, not a scapegoat,” Pol Col Itthipol said.

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