A court on Friday denied bail for the former police station chief accused of torturing a drug suspect to death in a case that has shocked Thailand. The criminal court agreed on a request made by Nakhon Sawan police to keep former Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon in custody for 12 more days.
He was denied bail so that police investigators could interview 10 witnesses.
Police told the court that Pol Col Thitisan needed to be held as he could possibly face multiple charges including torture and murder. According to Thai legal experts, a suspect can be detained for up to seven 12-day periods, or 84 days, before an indictment must be handed down.
Because of the high-profile nature of the case, national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk has ordered the central Crime Suppression Division (CDS) from Bangkok take over the investigation from Nakhon Sawan police.
Former Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon , known as “Jo Ferrari” for his collection of expensive sports cars, has denied any wrongdoing, he has denied everything.
Another detention request was approved for Pol Col Thitisan’s right-hand man, Pol Lt Thoranin Maswanna, who turned himself in to police in Phetchaburi on Thursday. He was sent back to Nakhon Sawan on the same day.
Both Pol Col Thitisan and Pol Lt Thoranin were sent to the provincial prison for further interrogation.
Six other police officers detained
Pol Col Thitisan, 39, and six other officers, including Pol Lt Tharanin, have been arrested in connection of the torture of drug suspect Jeerapong Thanapat, 24. He died after his head was covered with six bags during questioning at the police station on Aug 5.
A shocked junior officer recorded the incident on his phone and the video went viral after it surfaced earlier this week. All of the suspects have now surrendered to authorities and been dismissed from service.
After he surrendered, Pol Col Thitisan was allowed to phone into a news conference held on Thursday night by Pol Gen Suwat to take reporters’ questions, offering a mixture of excuses and apologies for the crime.
Mr Jeerapong and his wife, Kanokwan Klainim, were arrested with three bags of crystal methamphetamine weighing 100 grammes each, as hey tried to make a sale to a plainclothes policeman posing as a buyer outside a convenience store in Muang district of Nakhon Sawan on Aug 4, according to the police report sent to the court to support the detention request.
Victims wife told to stay silent
Earlier reports said the team led by Pol Col Thitisan had found a picture of a large quantity of drugs on Jeerapong’s mobile phone after he and his wife were arrested. Police went to search his house in Takhli district on Aug 4 but did not find any drugs there.
The pair were then taken back to the police station for interrogation on Aug 5th. Mr Jeerapong subsequently perished from the ordeal. Mr Jeerapong’s wife was later released after the death of her husband on condition that she would remain silent.
Pol Col Thitisan surrendered in Chon Buri on Thursday and was taken to the CSD in Bangkok.
He claimed at the CSD on Thursday that he had no intention to kill the suspect or extort money from him in exchange for his release. He said he simply wanted to dig more deeply to get more information about the seized narcotics.
But the video clip showed Jeerapong was beaten and later suffocated with plastic bags. The time stamp on the clip showed the incident took place around 1pm on Aug 5.
Pol Col Thitisan said at the CSD on Thursday that the man had died of a drug overdose.
An autopsy report issued by Sawanpraharak Hospital in Nakhon Sawan dated Aug 6 said Jeerapong had presumably died of the effects of amphetamine.
The hospital on Wednesday defended the report, saying it was issued only for Jeerapong’s family so they could apply for his death certificate. The complete autopsy report due next week would state a precise conclusion about the cause of death, it added.
Pol Col Thitisan was grilled until late Thursday night at the CSD before being transferred to Nakhon Sawan, where he pointed out the locations where he and his team had allegedly committed the crime.
“I forgive that person,” Pol Col Thitisan said on Friday after arriving in Nakhon Sawan, when asked about the video that legal experts say would be a key piece of evidence against him.