Phuket police said yesterday they know the identity of a young thief who allegedly killed an Australian woman on Wednesday night – and warned they would shoot him if he tries to resist arrest with the use of a weapon.
Police Maj-General Chanasit Wattanawarangkoon, chief of Phuket police, also urged the killer and his accomplice to surrender to police. He vowed they would get fair treatment in the case. “We now know the identity of the assailants and their whereabouts. They should surrender to police,” Chanasit said.
“If the suspects resist arrest, police may have to defend themselves and the suspects may end up being killed in a justifiable homicide,” he said.
He said police were questioning witnesses and studying images from security camera recordings of the attack and attackers. With sketches of the suspects, police last night sought court permission for arrest warrants, the provincial police chief said.
Police are hunting for two young men who stabbed and killed Australian travel agent Michelle Elizabeth Smith during an attempted bag-snatch on Wednesday night.
Smith, 60, was stabbed in the chest as she was returning to her hotel after dinner at Phuket’s Kata beach.
Earlier yesterday, police also offered a reward of Bt300,000 for the arrest of the two assailants.
Deputy National Police chief Pol General Pansiri Prapawat, who was in Phuket to help inquiries into the case, said yesterday that the reward was offered by the commander of Police Region 8, the Phuket police commander, and the president of the Kata Thani Hotel, Sombat Atiseth, who each would contribute Bt100,000.
“This is an important case that must be solved urgently. We should not let only two people cause damage to Phuket’s tourism. I promise that police will arrest those two perpetrators as soon as possible,” Pansiri said.
Smith was walking back to her hotel with a friend after dinner, at about 10.30pm, when the attack occurred.
Two men, aged about 20 to 25, rode past the women twice before one of them tried to snatch Smith’s bag, police said. Tammee Lynn, who suffered a slash wound to her right arm during the attack, told police Smith struggled to hold on to the bag – which prompted one of them to stab her in the chest. The knife struck her heart and she died shortly after at the scene.
The two men fled empty-handed.
The authorities have intensified efforts to find the killers. Deputy Premier Chalerm Yoobamrung said the case was important for Thailand’s image as a tourist-friendly destination. Tourism Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa said the incident had damaged the country’s image overseas.
Yesterday, Pansiri chaired a meeting of senior Phuket officers at the local police headquarters, during which he stressed the importance of restoring tourist confidence following the incident. He said police would get tough with local influential figures who abused foreign tourists and caused much damage to the country’s tourism reputation.