Policeman allegedly struck by Red Bull scion's Ferrari; senior cop made 'inactive'
It could have been explained away as another death of a policeman killed by a car on a Bangkok street at dawn on Monday. However, this time the car was a Ferrari driven allegedly by a grandson of late billionaire businessman Chaleo Yoovidhya. And the accident caught the attention of the media after a senior officer of the victim allegedly attempted to make another man the suspect during the prosecution process.
A senior Thong Lor police officer, Pol Lt Colonel Pannaphol Nammueng, who is the immediate boss of victim Pol Snr Sgt Major Wichean Klinprasert, has been transferred to an inactive position for 30 days by an angry Pol Lt General Khamronwit Thoopkrajang. Khamronwit announced he would quit his position as commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau if he could not bring to justice the driver responsible for the death of Wichean, 48.
The police chief made the emotional announcement at a news conference at Thong Lor police station, drawing loud and long applause from the victim’s fellow junior officers, after Worrayuth Yoovidhya, 27, agreed to turn himself in.
Earlier there was a show of police force at Worrayuth’s luxury home off Sukhumvit Soi 53, not far from the scene of the fatal accident between Sois 47 and 49. Witnesses said Wichean, riding a motorcycle, was hit by the Ferrari and dragged for a long distance.
A grandson of Chaleo, who was a regular on Forbes’ richestpeople’s list, Worrayuth is managing director of the Krating Daeng Company, which produces and sells the popular drink locally. Krating Daeng is the original brand of worldrenowned Red Bull. The Yoovidhya family was ranked the fourthrichest in Thailand this year by Forbes, with a net worth of US$5.4 billion (Bt169 billion).
Chaleo Yoovidhya died in March at age 88, leaving his heirs a wide range of businesses, including shares in the globally popular energydrink brand, hospitals and real estate.
In his show of force, Khamronwit ordered two companies of antiriot police to surround Worrayuth’s house after obtaining a courtapproved search warrant, at around 8am. He spent 20 minutes inside after talking his way in, before emerging with Worrayuth, who appeared emotionless.
Even though he is a senior Bangkok police chief, Khamronwit’s first attempt to get into the house was turned down, along with another attempt by a number of senior policemen who entered the grounds but not the sixstorey home, before a warrant was obtained.
Worrayuth was kept in a room at Thong Lor police station before being released on Bt500,000 bail in the evening.
Police had said earlier that a suspect in such a case would be charged with causing death through carelessness and hit and run and would undergo an alcohol test. But it was not immediately known whether Worrayuth has been charged accordingly or tested for alcohol.
A senior investigator in charge, Pol MajGeneral Anuchai Lekbamrung, later quoted Worrayuth as claiming during initial questioning that his car hit Wichean after the officer, on his service motorcycle, cut abruptly in front of the Ferrari.
Initial crimescene investigation (CSI) found a piece of metal rank insignia that had been worn by Wichean stuck on the shattered windscreen of the Ferrari, which sustained several cracks in the front left bumper. The bronzegrey coupe is a Pininfarina model and carries the licence plate Yor YingYor Ying 1111 Bangkok. It has been towed to the Thong Lor police station as evidence and will undergo checks for DNA and latent fingerprints.
A CSI team also reported seeing a logbook recorded by the family’s personal security guards, which read: “Boss [nickname of Worrayuth] leaves home at 0512 am.”
A reenactment was carried out at the accident scene, on a 650metre stretch between Sois 47 and 49. Details were volunteered by taxi motorcyclists who police said claimed to have witnessed the accident and followed the Ferrari to Worrayuth’s home.
Speaking before his successful search of Worrayuth’s house, Khamronwit said he knew that a senior Thong Lor police officer was close to a person living in the home and had produced another man as the suspect. He was later charged with giving false statements.
“I have transferred this officer away, so he will no longer work closely with the people. A policeman was killed, but he is siding with the [actual] suspect,” he said emotionally.
Wichean, whose duty hours were midnight to 8am, was riding to a regular sentry position in Sukhumvit Soi 53, a superior said.
He was described, by former wife Nongnuch Saengpraphan, as a silent, wellbehaved and tidy man. His funeral will be held at Wat That Thong near Soi 63 at Shelter 10.