PATTAYA – American Tyler Gerard, 21, who was arrested on Wednesday at the Cambodian border has “confessed” to participating in the kidnapping of a former Australian Hell’s Angels leader in Pattaya, but denies killing him, police said Thursday.
Tyler Gerard, provided “useful information” during an “intense” interrogation session that followed his arrival at Pattaya City Police Station Wednesday night from Sa Kaeo province, where he was apprehended trying to enter Cambodia, a police source told the Bangkok Post.
Tyler Gerard, along with 26-year-old Australian Antonio Bagnato and three other men, believed to be foreigners, are accused of kidnapping 37-year-old motorcycle gang member Wayne Rodney Schneider from his rented Jomtien Park Villas home in Bang Lamung district of Pattaya early Monday, then killing him before burying the body in a wooded area of neighboring Sattahip district.
Wayne Schneider’s naked body was found with massive head injuries and a broken neck in a 1.8-metre deep grave on Khao Cheechan ( Big Buddha Hill) in Patttaya Wednesday.
Investigators now are looking for photo references for the three other suspects in order to obtain arrest warrants from the Pattaya Provincial Court, Pol Col Trairong Phiewpan, deputy chief of Chon Buri police, was quoted as telling Thai media Thursday afternoon.
They also have asked the Sawang Rojanathamsathan Sattahip Foundation to send a team of divers to search for possible evidence in a lake near the burial site.
Police said they expect the investigation to conclude soon.
A warrant was issued Tuesday for Bagnato, the prime suspect in the case, He is another Sydney bike gang member and Schneider’s 26-year-old partner in a Sydney fitness business. Immigration police yesterday said Mr Bagnato had managed to leave Thailand unmolested.
While Pattaya local media quoted a police source saying that may not be true, Pol Col Sukthat Pumpunmuang, superintendent of Pattaya police, was quoted by both ABC News yesterday and Thai media Thursday afternoon saying he had escaped into Cambodia.
“I helped in the Kidnap, Not the Murder”
21 year old Tyler Gerard was nabbed around 11am Wednesday at the Aranyaprathet immigration checkpoint where authorities found his passport matched a list of suspects in the case.
During questioning by the team of investigators, the young American reportedly confessed to involvement in the early-morning kidnapping, but said he took no part in killing Schneider.
Also reportedly cleared Thursday was Mr Bagnato’s Thai wife, Siraphat Saimart, 25. She was detained Wednesday for renting the Toyota pickup truck used to abduct and transport Schneider’s body. But she denied knowledge of the murder plot, even though she told police her husband had instructed her to delete all text messages related to the rental from her mobile phone.
“Police Speculate on the Motive”
Police continue to speculate that an illegal drug business was the impetus for the killing.
Schneider, like his housemate, Amad Malkoun, had a long criminal history, having been charged previously with drug trafficking, armed assault, robbery and obstruction of justice. Malkoun, former Comanchero bike gang president in Victoria, was convicted in 2009 of trafficking heroin and has since been the subject of two drug probes.
Crystal methamphetamine paraphernalia was found in the Pattaya house.
Pol Col Sukthat told Thai media Thursday that none of the suspects had work permits in Thailand and were not believed to be in any legitimate business. Schneider’s assailants could have come to Thailand to settle a score, police speculated. Schneider had been in Pattaya only a month.
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