BANGKOK (AP) — A suspect in the death of a 57-year-old Swiss woman on Thailand’s tourist island of Phuket was charged with murder and robbery, police said Sunday.
The suspect, Teerawat Thothip, a 27-year-old Thai man living in Phuket, confessed to the killing and even spoke by telephone at a police press conference to admit his guilt and describe the crime.
Investigators were able to trace the suspect using security camera footage, and during the interrogation he was found to have scratches and bruises on his body, said Police Maj. Gen. Nuntadech Yoi-nuan, deputy commissioner of Provincial Police Region 8.
The body of the Swiss woman, Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, was discovered Thursday at a secluded spot on the island. Swiss media reported she was a member of the country’s diplomatic service.
The suspect told reporters he went into a forest on Tuesday to try to find rare plants to sell, but was unsuccessful.
On his way back, he said he passed a waterfall and saw Sauvain-Weisskopf. He said he strangled her from behind, and that she resisted for a while before losing consciousness.
He then covered her with a black sheet, which was found nearby, took 300 baht ($9) from her backpack and threw her sneakers away. He said his motivation was because he had no money and no work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cause of death has not been confirmed, and an autopsy report has yet to be released by the authorities, said Kissana Phathanacharoen, a national police deputy spokesperson.
The incident has cast a pall over Thailand’s so-called Phuket Sandbox program to try and bring fully vaccinated foreign tourists to the popular destination, which has been struggling massively during the coronavirus pandemic.