Michelle Smith case reward brings in witnesses
PHUKET: The B300,000 award announced for information leading to the capture of the killers of Australian travel agent Michelle Smith, has resulted in several people contacting police.
Marque A. Rome
Monday 25 June 2012, 10:43AM
In a meeting yesterday (June 24), which Phuket Police Chief Maj Gen Chonasit Watanawarangkun described as a “progress report” on the Michelle Smith case – adding that similar meetings would be held daily until the case is solved – Police issued a sketch of the man wanted for stabbing Mrs Smith.
They also have a court-issued arrest warrant for the man, though the warrant has no name, address, ethnicity or other details, citing only “the man shown in the sketch”.
The warrant accuses him of “attempted robbery at night, with a weapon and with transport to facilitate commission of a crime, or the conveyance of property, or to escape arrest; and who thereby placed another in either physical or mental jeopardy, and whose actions led to the death of another.”
He is also charged with “bringing weapons openly into a town, village or public place, either openly or without good reason” and, just in case, with “premeditated murder.”
Police have one witness who saw the attack and whose description was used as the basis for the sketch, and others who saw the two wanted men – the knifeman and his driver – eating at a local food shop.
No warrant has yet been issued for the motorcycle driver, Gen Chonasit said, because there has as yet been no clear description of him.
He also revealed that Australian police are in Phuket to keep an eye on the investigations. He said that the Australians would not be involved directly in the case, but would be briefed on progress.
“I expect they’re going ask what we plan to do to take better care of their nationals,” he explained.
Australia’s government has criticised local officials’ record in Phuket with regard to crime and tourist rip-offs. Gen Chonasit said police presence is being beefed up at “critical points” around the island.
Police all over Phuket have been told to give the case top priority. “We must all work on it. I believe every piece of information is important,” the general said.
“Every person who comes forward must have his statement taken and analysed. Every policeman in Phuket is assigned to this case.”
Police volunteers, too, are being employed to collect information, in addition to regular police, and local people are urged to supply any information they can.
“We are infiltrating groups of young people, trying to find out if anyone has heard of someone involved in the incident, whether the suspects told any of their friends.”
“This is not a task for police alone,” he said, “we must rely on citizens to bring in clues.”
The general added that police and local people must work to restore Thailand’s image for safety “as quickly as possible.”