Reversing earlier supposition that a Spanish man accused of kidnapping, killing and dismembering a compatriot was part of a gang, police said Tuesday they now believe Artur Segarra acted alone.
Briefing the media after a first round of interrogation of the 37-year-old Spaniard at the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Pol Gen Panya Mamen, the senior police adviser supervising the investigation, alleged that Mr Segarra carefully planned the murder of 40-year-old consultant David Bernat with the primary goal of stealing his fortune.
Collected evidence indicated that Mr Segarra was the sole murderer and fled to Surin and Cambodia after the crime. He was held at Borworn Mongkhol police station in Bang Phlat district in Bangkok on Monday night. Police said he acted relaxed and asked for food, a jacket and cigarettes. He spoke Thai with local officers and told them that he had been a Muay Thai boxer on Koh Samui, found love in Thailand and liked the country very much.
He declined to speak Thai with interrogators, however, simply denying the charges, refusing to answer questions, rejecting a police offer to appoint a lawyer for him, and demanding the Spanish embassy provide counsel and a witness, according to acting Bangkok police chief Sanit Mahathaworn.
Questioning finally began Tuesday with the help of a Spanish-language interpreter and a representative from the Spanish embassy.
Questioning of Mr Segarra's girlfriend, Pritsana Saen-ubon, 22, also was continuing. She and friend Atthachai Tuasa-ard would be treated as witnesses, Pol Gen Panya said.
Pol Gen Panya said detectives now were checking the suspect's alibi, surveillance-camera footage and forensic evidence to locate where he allegedly dumped Mr Bernat's body parts into the Chao Phraya River, where they began washing up Jan 30, and discarded weapons.
Both Spanish men were seen riding a motorcycle together near their Bangkok residences on Jan 20, the last time Bernat was seen alive. Police believe Bernat was kidnapped, tortured and forced to transfer huge sums of money to Mr Segarra's bank account before he was killed, likely on Jan 25.
A frequent visitor to Thailand, Mr Segarra was brought from the Cambodian town of Sihanoukville to Thailand on Monday after his arrest on Sunday.
Although the suspect denied charges of premeditated murder and body concealment, the senior officer said police had substantial evidence to prosecute him and results from an examination of the evidence would be available Thursday.
Pol Gen Panya said the murder had been well-planned and likely was motivated by money, as Mr Segarra had no set occupation. Police now were trying to determine if the suspect spent Bernat's cash alone or transferred it to another person.
The police adviser quoted Miss Pritsana as saying that she had never met Bernat, but speculated someone else might be involved in handling Bernat's assets. Investigators, however, have not yet found any other foreigner connected to the case, Pol Gen Panya said.
The money trail indicated about 37 million baht in all was wired from Bernat's account in Singapore to Mr Segarra's bank. The suspect later withdrew several million baht of from his account.