Car owned by Phuket based US teacher Michael Dylan Gregory who lived in Thailand until February 2012 was de-registered in 2010 and was the subject of a court order issued to Kasikorn Leasing in 2011 for its seizure. An intensive police probe continues in Nakhon Si Thammarat after catching the attention of Deputy National Police Chief General Suchart Teerasawat or ‘Big Mai’.
Police are investigating if a luxury BMW car owned by a 52-year-old American, found suspiciously buried in a Nakhon Si Thammarat palm oil plantation on Tuesday, was linked to a gang active in the Chaloem Phra Kiat district of the province involved in cutting up luxury cars for spare parts. It comes after they tracked the US man down through international police agencies and confirmed that he was safe and alive.
Senior police in Nakhon Si Thammarat, on Thursday, were expressing relief that the discovery of a BMW car found buried in an oil plantation in the Chaloem Phra Kiat district of the province does not appear to be connected with a serious crime or, as it had been feared initially, murder.
The BMW car was originally owned by an American national who up to February 2012, is believed to have worked as a teacher in Phuket.
It has emerged that the BMW, an expensive and sought after brand in Thailand, was the subject of legal proceedings initiated by a division of Kasikorn Bank in 2011 which, that year, ultimately led a court to order the seizure of the car by the leasing company involved named as Kasikorn Leasing Company Limited.
US man, a former teacher in Phuket until 2012, named in evidence as 52-year-old Michael Dylan Gregory
The man has been named as 52-year-old Michael Dylan Gregory and police in Phuket, on Wednesday, are believed to have interviewed a former girlfriend or relationship partner of the US man who they have also confirmed is alive and well at this time.
Police revealed, on Thursday, that Mr Gregory departed Thailand at 5.32 pm on the 12th February 2012 from Suvarnabhumi Airport meaning that he has been out of Thailand just short of 10 years.
His former girlfriend told police officers that Mr Gregory left Thailand a long time ago and that she herself knew nothing of the whereabouts of the car involved, pointing out that such cars were easily available to lease in Phuket.
National Police Chief ‘Big Mai’ flies in by helicopter to get to the bottom of the mystery of the BMW car
The case has drawn widespread media attention and public interest leading Deputy National Police Commissioner General Suchart Teerasawat or ‘Big Mai’ to fly into Nakhon Si Thammarat province on Wednesday before an update was given by the officer in charge of the investigation, Police Colonel Anurak Pradubmook, the police chief of Chaloem Phra Kiat.
General Suchart flew into a temporary heliport in the area by helicopter to personally oversee the ongoing investigation after the wrecked car was removed to Chaloem Phra Kiat Police Station.
Police Colonel Anurak said that while police were relieved, at this stage, that it appears the car is not linked to a more serious crime, they are suspicious of why it was buried by those who had possession of it.
Worker found the wreck after heavy rain unearthed its steering wheel and thought it was an old boat wreck
The car was discovered by a 52-year-old worker on the plantation named Mr Yong Meesuk.
He initially thought the debris may have been the remnants of a boat and investigated it looking for parts.
The car’s steering wheel had become visible on the 60 rai plot of land after unusually heavy rains.
Police, on Wednesday, were cordoning off the car from interested onlookers as a large forensic team examined it for evidence. It is understood that documents were retrieved from the vehicle in shaggy and wet condition.
The BMW sedan, dark blue colour or midnight blue, was registered by Mr Gregory as Kor Jor 3979 until the registration was cancelled in 2010.
It also appears that the car had been cannibalised for some of its parts before being buried with potentially valuable components removed.
However, most of the car, which was found buried in a pit reported as being 1.5 metres deep in the plantation, was still intact.
The car still had its seats installed and expensive wheels and tyres fitted.
Owner of the land and local village chief denies any knowledge of the car being buried there after police questioned him, focus now on parts gang in district
As part of their probe, police also questioned the owner of the palm oil plantation and local village chief, named as Anant Chukaeo.
He has denied any knowledge of the car or how it came to be on his land.
Police officers, briefing reporters on Wednesday, revealed one of their lines of enquiry is to investigate a local gang in the district who are active in dealing with stolen or suspect cars, often cutting them up and selling them for parts to the motor industry.
They are also checking to see if there is any connection between the landowner and the former owner of the car, the American man Mr Gregory.
Over the last few days, it is understood that police have successfully tracked down the US man to make sure he is alive through Interpol as part of their enquiries.
On Thursday, police dismissed reports of evidence linking the car to firearms or firearm discharges but cautioned reporters that it will take a week to fully complete their forensic examination due to the high level of mud in the car which was caked to its components.