A masseuse found murdered in Trang is believed to be the fifth victim of a serial killer who previously murdered four sex workers in Mukdahan, Lampang, Udon Thani and Buri Ram, police said yesterday.
Patcharee Amatanirand, 39, a traditional Thai masseuse, was found strangled to death in a room of the Caesar Hotel on June 11. She had arrived with a man who checked in under the name of Narong Nilnet.
Police believe she was killed by Somkid Phumpuang, 41, who is now the subject of a countrywide manhunt. He reportedly uses the aliases of Daeng Phumpuang, Suwat Chanarong, Suchart Kingkaew and Narong Nilnet.
Crime Suppression Division commander Maj-General Winai Thongsong has ordered Crime Suppression police to cooperate with local police in combing the Northeast, where they believe Somkid to be hiding.
They searched a house in Khon Kaen yesterday but found no trace of the fugitive.
Police investigating Somkid’s background have learned that the Nakhon Si Thammarat native has only a Prathom-2 education. They say he spent four years in jail on charges of robbery and was released in 1988. He has also been involved in drug and arms trading in the Northeast.
Kling Kingkaew, Somkid’s uncle, told police that Somkid’s parents died when he was young. The uncle raised him from the age of eight but called him a delinquent child, saying he had been dismissed from school for stealing. Kling said he sent Somkid to work in a wood factory, but he stole Bt50,000 from there and had not been home for 30 years.
In any case, Kling said, Somkid dared not return, because he had framed a businessman with false testimony in court. The businessman was jailed for six years as a result and announced he would shoot Somkid when he was freed.
Crime Suppression deputy commander Colonel Pisit Pisutsak said police were closing in on the suspect. Cooperation between his division and local police meant they were within a few days of catching him.
Major Suriyan Indawan, a Mukdahan investigator, said Somkid liked to stay in big hotels. He was difficult to trace, because he always travelled by mingling with big crowds on public transport.
Provincial hotels had been warned to watch for him, and the suspect’s picture had been sent to police stations throughout the Kingdom.
Lt-Colonel Chokchai Chusaeng, an inspector in Lampang’s Muang district, said police were working closely together for fear Somkid would kill again.
The manhunt began after the nude body of strangled sex worker Sompong Pimpornpirom, 36, was found in a Buri Ram hotel room on June 21. Certain aspects of the crime suggested that a serial killer was on the loose.
Somkid was singled out by investigators after they checked on a series of murders, beginning with the death of a cabaret singer in Mukdahan on January 30. Warunee Pimpabutr, 25, had been drowned in a hotel room bathtub.
The hotel’s check-in register showed that Somkid had rented the room, and witnesses positively identified him from a police photograph.
On June 4, in circumstances similar to Warunee’s murder, Pongpan Sabchai, a 34-year-old masseuse, was found strangled to death in a Lampang hotel room.
Two weeks later, on June 19, another masseuse, 37-year-old Porntawan Pangkabutr was found drowned in a hotel room bathtub in Udon Thani. This time, Somkid was identified in footage from the hotel’s security video system, and eyewitnesses also said they had seen him.
Latent fingerprints taken from the side of a beer glass found in the Buri Ram apartment where Sompong’s body was found last week were matched with Somkid’s from police records.