Senior police and prosecutors in Provincial Police Region 6 are reported to have had tense meetings this week as efforts to prosecute the case against ‘Ferrari Joe’ move forward with the local Attorney General’s office insisting that a second autopsy, overseen by police, prosecutors, physicians and local officials should take place. They propose that evidence, including the shocking video released last week and witness testimony, should be presented to the court to explain the exact circumstances of the death of 24-year-old drug-dealing suspect Jeerapong Thanapat on August 6th last as confirmed by Sawanpracharak Hospital.
There are reported to be simmering tensions at the highest level between police and prosecution agencies as public scrutiny and pressure mounts on the ongoing series of probes into the atrocity perpetrated by a 39-year-old mid-ranking officer, Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon or ‘Ferrari Joe’, in early August when he asphyxiated a detained suspect under torture on the 5th August last at Nakhon Sawan City police station. Video of the incident has shocked and revolted millions of people in Thailand who have viewed it. Senior police officers and officials are reported to be determined to assure the public that all aspects of the disturbing case are being pursued within the proper legal framework including a full investigation into the officer’s unusual wealth. On Tuesday, General Suchart Theerasawat, who has oversight of the case against ‘Ferrari Joe’ and six other officers implicated, appeared to dismiss reports that the former city police chief in Nakhon Sawan may claim to be suffering from bipolar depression as a defence for his cruelty.
The Governor of Phitsanulok Provincial Prison, on Tuesday, appeared to deny reports that a transfer of the seven former police officers from Nakhon Sawan City at the centre of the murder under torture investigation related to a drug suspect who died in custody in early August, was imminent.
Narong Juisei told reporters outside the prison that his high profile inmates, including former Director of Nakhon Sawan Police Station, Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon, were currently being held in quarantine due to COVID-19 restrictions and could only be contacted through video teleconferencing facilities within the jail.
He said this restrictive regime also extended to the men’s lawyers
Delegation led by the Deputy Inspector General pursuing a disciplinary investigation told to wait
The officers were visited by a police delegation on Monday in two vans led by Police Lieutenant General Sarawut Kanpanich, the Deputy Inspector General who is separately investigating the death of drug suspect Jeerapong Thanapat under torture on the 5th August 2021 as part of a disciplinary enquiry which could see the officers concerned dismissed from the force and civil service.
Lieutenant General Sarawut is the Commander of the Anti-Corruption and Misconduct Division.
He flew to Nakhon Sawan by helicopter to pursue the case which is a top priority at Royal Thai Police headquarters where the National Police Commissioner, General Suwat Jangyodsuk, is reportedly determined to have the case concluded as quickly as possible to address public anxiety and unease which has rocked confidence in the police force.
Follow up investigation into Police Colonel Thitisan’s links to the seizure of imported luxury cars
General Sarawut also confirmed that another investigation is pursuing irregularities in relation to Police Colonel Thitisan’s involvement in the seizure of up to 368 luxury cars with reports that some of these vehicles were imported illegally from Malaysia by sympathetic actors allowing unnamed individuals, including the colonel, to claim a bounty of up to 30% on cars auctioned while also forming a cartel to profit after the disposal of the vehicles to public bidders.
Last week, both the Director of the Thai Customs Department and the Director of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) made separate statements on ongoing enquiries which are being pursued by a range of state agencies into the matter.
The DSI statement explained the circumstances surrounding the possession of a ฿20 million Lamborghini car in 2017 by Police Colonel Thitisan.
The car was granted to the top cop after an investigation of eight people linked with the case led to seven people facing legal proceedings with one ordered not to be charged by public prosecutors.
Economic Crime Suppression Division also probing the officer’s huge wealth and funds held by nominees
In the meantime, it has been confirmed that the Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD) is investigating the 39-year-old Nakhon Sawan station chief.
Investigators are trying to establish the source and the nature of his obvious and unusual wealth for a police officer on a salary of approximately ฿40,000 per month who lived in a ฿60 million mansion and appeared to have ฿100 million of luxury cars on the premises in addition to reports of access to hundreds of millions of baht in financial funds held by nominees.
Colonel Thitisan or ‘Ferrari Jo’ was a police officer for seven years only graduating in 2014 but basked in the limelight from the beginning of his career
This is part of a separate investigation being undertaken by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) on the basis of criminal charges before Nakhon Sawan Provincial Court and which is being directed by the Deputy National Police Chief, Police General Suchart Theerasawat.
Tensions at a meeting between police officers and prosecutors in Provincial Police Region 6 this week
It is understood that a high profile meeting between senior police working on the main criminal case, this week, and prosecutors responsible for Region 6, led to tensions given the extraordinary circumstances of the investigation where the victim died at the hands of a senior police officer in the city of Nakhon Sawan and while in police custody.
On Monday, the Sawanpracharak Hospital released the results of its autopsy of the body of Jeerapong Thanapat who died at the hands of Police Colonel Thitisan otherwise know as ‘Ferrari Joe’.
Drug dealer put on breathing tube at Sawanpracharak Hospital when he was first admitted says report
It also released previously unknown details surrounding the death of the man and a revealing report that a breathing tube had been inserted into the body when he was admitted on the evening of August 5th while hospital staff were unable to obtain certain information from his father, Mr Navin Thanapat.
The autopsy found that the man had died from asphyxiation while it noted that the deceased had concentrations of the methamphetamine drug in his bloodstream but not in sufficient quantities to cause death.
Prosecutor demands a new autopsy involving all key officials and agencies to be finished in 10 days
After the conference between senior police and prosecutors in Nakhon Sawan in the last 48 hours, the Deputy Director-general of the Attorney General’s Office for Police Region 6, Sompong Yenkaew, indicated that a new autopsy would be required to be conducted by hospital physicians under the supervision of the police, the prosecutor’s office and local administration officials.
This outcome also has to take into account the authenticated video clip.
Full report for the Provincial Court
Mr Sompong estimated that it would take 10 days to complete a full report which should be presented to the Provincial Court on who died, how he died and who acted in relation to the man’s death.
This testimony should also include witnesses to what happened at Nakhon Sawan City police station on the evening of August 5th last.
In the meantime, the initial autopsy result, which has been made available by Sawanpracharak Hospital, has been received by the local police team investigating the death of the drug suspect.
This was confirmed by Police Colonel Anek Taosupap.
Main suspect admitted he tortured the victim but obfuscated as to the reason and its nature
During last Thursday night’s controversial press conference, the main suspect in the case, ‘Ferrari Joe’ or Police Colonel Thitisan, admitted to the media that he partially suffocated the victim in the case. His actions are obvious from the video which police still insist is being investigated with regard to whether it might have been edited.
During his interview, last Thursday, Colonel Thitisan, at one point, suggested that he wrapped the plastic bags, reportedly six in total, around the victim’s head in order to stop him from looking at the police who were interrogating him.
Colonel Thitisan adamantly denied reports that he was attempting to extort money from the drug suspect as claimed by some witnesses who reported the matter to well-known public lawyers.
Investigation is now looking at the actions of 13 to 15 people and could see further charges emerge
Earlier this week, General Suchart who has been appointed by the police commissioner to oversee the case, revealed that the investigation is currently examining the actions of 13 to 15 people.
This includes an investigation into who leaked the video. The top officer did not rule out charges in this respect although he did emphasise that the video itself is significant and valuable evidence.
The senior officer also provided evidence of ฿64,000 withdrawn from Nakhon Sawan Police Station in early August in connection with the drug sting which ultimately led to the arrest of the ill-fated drug suspect, Jeerapong Thanapat and his wife.
The money was used to buy crystal methamphetamine from a local drug dealer identified as ‘Marvin’ and was signed out by Police Captain Somyot Klainak, a senior officer at the station.
Claims that ‘Ferrari Joe’ suffered from a bipolar mental health condition treated with scepticism by the officer leading the investigation
General Suchart was questioned by reporters on whether this disbursement of police funds was recorded in real-time by the police station and was forced to admit that there was a delay before the withdrawal was recorded.
The top police officer later commented on reports from Nakhon Sawan suggesting that Police Colonel Thitisan had been suffering from a bipolar mental disorder.
General Suwan appeared to treat such reports with scepticism saying that without prior evidence of such a condition or treatment, such claims would hold little or no weight before the court.
Police are impartial and will pursue the case
He assured the press that the police and key agencies were approaching this investigation, in all its respects, in an arms-length manner and would follow the evidence wherever it led.
Responding to questions about the man, driving a white car, who delivered Police Colonel Thitisan into custody in front of Saensuk Police Station last Thursday, the officer said it was a retired official who did not shelter or provide support to ‘Ferrari Joe’ who, at that point, was a fugitive.
Accused officers could not respond substantially to the disciplinary enquiry without consulting lawyers
Back at Phitsanulok Provincial Prison, the seven policemen being held there by court order, when confronted with the disciplinary probe on Monday, denied the accusations against them and said that they could not respond in further detail without speaking to their lawyers.
It was also reported that charges of ‘dereliction of duty’ are being considered against the six officers linked with the torture incident quite apart from the main suspect.
This may be a telling development.
Police Major General Suwat Saengnoom of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) confirmed on Tuesday that the six policemen have already given formal statements as witnesses in connection with the murder investigation.
Policemen on antidepressants after being diagnosed with insomnia and depression, do not like the taste of prison food, using the prison shop
In the meantime, the Governor of Phitsanulok Prison, Mr Narong, has confirmed that all seven inmates are suffering, to varying degrees, from depression and insomnia because of their plight and some had been prescribed anti-depressants by prison psychologists while a review of their case will again take place in 30 days.
Authorities have strongly denied preferential treatment for the prisoners pointing out that Police Colonel Thitisan is being held in a shared cell with a fan but without air conditioning, as claimed by some media reports in recent days.
He suggested that they had begun to eat normally although he made reference to some of the inmates not liking the taste of prison food and resorting to the prison welfare shop as was their right.