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Thai Police Say Evidence Links Former Teacher Jomsap to Hired Scapegoat

Jomsap Saenmuangkhot thanks reporters for covering her retrial at Nakhon Phanom Provincial Court. – Nation Photo

NAKHON PHANOM – Police said on Thursday they have crucial evidence from confessed perjurer Sab Wapee linking former teacher Jomsap Saenmuangkhot to the attempt to have a scapegoat driver admit to her fatal hit-and-run accident.

Police took Sab Wapee through a re-enactment on Thursday, and said they had gained substantive evidence about Ms Jomsap’s alleged involvement.

Mr Sab outlined how he first met Ms Jomsap, and also revealed he had previously failed a lie detector test given by Justice Ministry and Department of Special Investigation officials and had then agreed to change his story and admit to the hoax.

Police take suspect Sab Wapee (second from right) through a re-enactment of the case in Nakhon Phanom on Thursday – Photo Pattanapong Sripaichai

The reenactment followed a meeting in the morning involving deputy national police chief Weerachai Songmetra and senior police in Nakhon Phanom to discuss legal action against those involved in the attempt to derail the case.

Ms Jomsap, 55, a former teacher in Sakon Nakhon province whose request for a retrial was rejected by the Supreme Court on Nov 17, is the centre of a legal controversy after Mr Sab confessed to being hired to say he was the driver in the 2005 fatal accident for which she was earlier jailed.

Mr Sab, 61, turned himself in and confessed to police in Nakhon Phanom on Wednesday, the first of the seven people issued summonses in the perjury case.

Former teacher Jomsap Saenmuangkhot (right), 55, appears at the provincial court of Nakhon Phanom province on Nov 17 when the Supreme Court decision rejecting her retrial request was handed down. (Photo by Pattanapong Sripiachai)

During interrogation, he told police that Suriya Nuancharoen, 54, a teacher and close friend of Ms Jomsap, had promised to pay him 400,000 baht for his false testimony and to also keep him out of prison.

Mr Suriya is also one of the seven suspects in the case. The others are Mr Sab’s wife, Jan Wapee, 53; his relatives Boonthueng Wapee, 63, and Lerd Wapee, 66; Ms Thatsanee Hanpayak, 61, who claimed the driver was a man; and Ms Jomsap’s husband Niran Saenmuangkhot, 55.

Mr Suriya allegedly hatched the plan from the beginning, finding a vehicle with the same licence plate as Ms Jomsap’s pickup truck.

Pol Gen Weerachai said investigators have enough evidence to bring those involved in the scapegoat scam to task. Mr Suriya is a prime suspect, the deputy national police chief, said.

Mr Suriya allegedly hatched the plan from the beginning, finding a vehicle with the same licence plate as Ms Jomsap’s pickup truck. He later approached Mr Sab to lie on Ms Jomsap’s behalf, the deputy national police chief said.

Mr Sab’s vehicle was registered in Mukdahan, Ms Jomsap’s in Sakon Nakhon,

Pol Gen Weerachai expressed confidence Mr Sab’s testimony and other pieces of evidence would implicate Ms Jomsap in the case.

According to earlier media reports, Mr Suriya had also approached a man named Prasert Roopsa-ard to take the blame as the driver of the pickup involved in the fatal crash, after Mr Sab said he had sold his vehicle to him.

Mr Suriya then took Prasert to report to police in Nakhon Phanom’s Renu Nakhon police station.

Ms Jomsap, was found guilty of reckless driving causing death after a pickup truck the court found she was driving hit a bicycle, killing 75-year-old Lua Pobamrung, in Renu Nakhon district on March 11, 2005. The Supreme Court upheld the first court’s sentence of three years and two months in prison in 2013.

Following her release by a royal amnesty in April 2015, Ms Jomsap took the rare move of commencing wrongful conviction proceedings through the Justice Ministry.

The Supreme Court last Friday dismissed the case. The court said it suspected there existed a network that hired out people to confess to crimes they did not commit, and the network had backed Ms Jomsap’s claim of wrongful conviction.

Police on Thursday took Mr Sab through a re-enactment of the case.

He was taken to Nakhon Phanom provincial court, where he told police that he paid 170,000 baht compensation to Lua’s family on June 10, 2014. He said he received the money from Mr Suriya, who accompanied him to the court on that day.

Mr Sab said three other people also accompanied him to the court – his wife, his elder brother Lerd, and Mr Suriya’s driver.

He said that was also the first time he met Ms Jomsap, who was in prison but at the court to witness the payment of the compensation.

According to police, they received crucial information from Mr Sab — that officials from the Justice Ministry and the Department of Special Investigation had questioned him during the attempt to revive the case, between Feb 8-10 this year.

He took a lie detector test, and failed it. He then told officials that he would reverse his account in court, and admit that he was hired to play the role of being the hit-and-run driver.

He told police that Ms Jomsap was upset upon learning that he would reverse his testimony.

On the issue of a fund-raising to help Ms Jomsap when she appealed for justice on the grounds she was wrongly convicted, Pol Gen Weerachai said people who donated money to help her could file complaints against her for extortion. She was never a scapegoat, from the beginning, he said.

 

By Pattanapong Sripaichai

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