Police have job on their hands

Professional slaying of family in Krabi suggests some influential people might have been behind attack, which could pose a challenge for investigators

Victims of the home invasion massacre last Monday included three children among eight members of the family of an influential phuyaiban. (Photo courtesy Ao Luk district Rescue Centre)

Following the dreadful massacre of a family in Krabi's Ao Luk district last Monday, national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda has responded with some quick and sound decisions. He has assigned "first-class" investigators to handle the probe into the killing, which left eight people dead and three seriously injured. He even flew to the province himself a day after the incident to lead the investigation.

While his decisive action might serve to boost morale among police officers, it also indicates how seriously the massacre is being taken. It is one of the most dreadful murder cases that has happened in Thailand in recent years.

Up to seven suspects are believed to be involved in the grisly murder case.

Anucha Charoenpo is news editor, Bangkok Post.

I would say Pol Gen Chakthip has made a good start in his efforts to launch the investigation. But there remain many challenges to seeing it through effectively.

Those first-class investigators are from the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), a police agency under the Central Investigation Bureau. The CSD is where the country's best trained and highly skilled police investigators are. Pol Gen Chakthip's trip is also being accompanied by heads of many police units.

These highly experienced investigators are gathering evidence at the crime scene and trying to identify the masterminds behind the massacre and who the gunmen were. The murders appear to have been well planned and handled by professionals. It could well be the case that influential figures who are wealthy enough to hire such assailants were involved in the crime.

One key suspect believed to be behind the murders has been reportedly detained by police and identified as a partner in a stone mill. A conflict over a stone mill project between the suspect and Worayut Sanglang, 46, a village head, is thought was serious enough for the mastermind to order the cold-blooded act.

Investigators have not yet ruled out any other motives: these include a case of public land encroachment, an alleged extramarital affair and a possible feud with an illicit drugs gang.

But investigators seem to be lending more weight to the stone mill story and are following the money trail that links to Worayut and some businessmen.

The police suspected that Worayut might have been paid by a firm to lobby local residents to support a plan to build a rock milling plant in the area. However, he failed to deliver and the police suspected this may have sparked the conflict between him and the financiers.

In cold blood: The family killed by gunmen are pictured here on vacation.

According to the police, the eight victims -- Worayut, two men and five females -- were shot dead by a group of eight gunmen wearing army camouflage outfits. The victims include Worayut's three daughters aged four, 11 and 13.

Even though many have questioned whether Pol Gen Chakthip's travelling to Krabi to gather first-hand information in the case would really help accelerate and conclude the investigation, it is his duty and responsibility to boost morale among investigators. He is showing strong leadership by encouraging them to do their best until everyone involved in the crime is brought to justice.

I am quite sure that an investigation into a massacre like this will not be an easy task. Investigators will face a range of challenges. This group of gunmen reached Worayut's house last Monday evening and waited for him to return home. While they were waiting with Worayut's family, no one knows exactly what the gunmen said or did to the victims during that time.

According to investigators, the gunmen spent several hours at the house before carrying out the gruesome murders. They left the victims' house without leaving much evidence but a few clues. The gunmen collected spent bullet casings and took out the memory hard disk from a house security CCTV camera before leaving.

However, not all the family's members were killed. A 30-year-old woman survived and was able to tell police what really happened that day. Now placed under witness protection, the woman said she could remember the faces of four of the attackers.

Apart from witness accounts, a probe by forensic experts will be crucial. For sure, investigators and forensic scientists have to work more closely to collect DNA at the crime scene. For example, the gunmen could have opened a refrigerator in the house to get some drinks and left DNA traces there. So, DNA data must be used as one of the forensic tools to either exonerate or convict the suspects of this case.

Listening carefully: National police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda has taken swift action so far in the wake of the brutal killing of eight people.

In 1998, there was a grisly murder case which was extensively reported and dominated the headlines of local newspapers. Pornthip Rojanasunan, then an expert of forensic medicine at Ramathibodi Hospital, used forensic methods to unearth the murder of Jenjira Ploy-a-ngoonsri, a fifth-year medical student at Mahidol University. Dr Pornthip and her team used DNA traces extracted from obtained evidence to finally match them with the DNA of Jenjira's boyfriend, Serm Sakornrat. The DNA data prompted him to admit that he shot and killed his girlfriend out of anger and jealousy.

A medical student at Vachira Medical College, Serm, who has been released from prison after serving his time, cut up the victim's body into pieces. Then he flushed the sliced corpse piece by piece down the toilet of an apartment on Phetchaburi Road.

According to Dr Pornthip, Serm destroyed almost all the evidence. He cut Jenjira's hair short, cut up the scalp and carved out all the fingerprints so that no one could identify her. But the DNA evidence in the end helped to solve the case.

For the Krabi massacre, where the gunmen left a few clues at the scene, I am sure police will opt for state-of-the-art technology to collect DNA evidence to solve the case. But Pol Gen Chakthip and his team will face an uphill task. Failure to bring the culprits to justice will further undermine public trust in the police.

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