Crime & Justice

Prosecutors cast doubt over police probe into Sancho murder case in Thailand

Koh Samui, Thailand, Oct 27 (EFE).- The prosecutor’s office in charge of the investigation into the alleged murder of Colombian surgeon Edwin Arrieta has said that the exact cause of death is unknown.

Thai police have accused Spanish national Daniel Sancho, 29, of murdering and dismembering the surgeon, but the prosecution have now cast doubt on one of the key aspects of the murder case.

The prosecutors, who delivered their report on Wednesday to the court on the southern island of Samui – which neighbors Koh Phangan, where the murder allegedly took place on Aug. 2 –, describes how the Spaniard, 29, “in a premeditated manner, had planned the murder,” adding that he used “violence” to kill him, according to a document released the day before by the court.

However, the same document adds that it is unclear exactly how Sancho killed Arrieta, whose body was “cut into several parts, wrapped in shrink-wrap and put in bags he had prepared,” it adds.

The Samui Prosecutor’s Office in Samui, explained to EFE that “the report was based on forensic documents, police investigation, injuries and evidence.”

“All this led to believe that Daniel repeatedly used violence against Edwin, but it is impossible to confirm exactly how he killed him,” the Prosecutor’s Office added.

They also point out that there were no direct witnesses to the alleged crime.

The lack of certainty about the cause of death of Arrieta, who met Sancho on Aug. 2 in Phangan, contradicts the police investigation, which did specify the cause of death, after several hypotheses had been disclosed.

In particular, the number two of the Thai Police, Surachate Hakparn, now under investigation for corruption and who was the public face of the investigation, said at a press conference on Aug. 15 from Phangan that the cause of death was stab wounds to Arrieta’s chest.

A week later, in an interview with EFE, the high-ranking Thai police officer, known as “Big Joke”, said that “the definitive results” of the autopsy found that Arrieta had died after having his throat slit by Sancho following a fight in which Arrieta fell and hit his head on a sink.

That was the version of events presented in the report delivered by the police to the Prosecutor’s Office on Oct. 3, after two months of investigation.

The report, prepared by police officers at the Phangan police station, where Sancho confessed to the murder on Aug. 5, maintained that it was a cut in the neck that caused Arrieta’s death, the officers themselves revealed to EFE, although the final result of the autopsy was not disclosed.

Those sources added that eight of the 17 body parts of the Colombian plastic surgeon that were dismembered had been found.

While the Prosecutor’s Office does not seem to consider the results of the autopsy to be definitive, admitting the impossibility of determining the cause of death according to “forensic documents” among other elements, as they told EFE Friday, the police has taken a more certain position.

Experts consulted by EFE said that it is “difficult” for the result of an autopsy in such a case to be conclusive, without having found key body parts, such as the thorax, and due to the possible state of other remains found days later and in places such as the sea.

The wait was extended Thursday, after the hearing in which the prosecution was due to read the charges against Sancho and he was to offer his testimony was postponed until Nov. 13, after the Spaniard requested an interpreter.

It will not be until after then that the timetable for the trial, in which Sancho will face three charges, will be known.

Although the cause of death seems to make the prosecution differ from the police, both sides have agreed on two of the crimes Sancho is accused of – premeditated murder and concealment of the body.

The prosecution added a third in its report – destruction of other people’s documents – in reference to the fact that Sancho, in custody in Samui since Aug. 7, made Arrieta’s passport disappear after his alleged murder.

Thailand’s Penal Code provides for the death penalty for crimes such as premeditated murder, but, if handed down, it is usually later commuted to life imprisonment, while the defendant’s confession and cooperation could help significantly reduce the sentence. EFE

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