Former Thai police colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon, known as Joe Ferrari, was sentenced along with five subordinates to life imprisonment for murdering and torturing a suspect at Muang police station last August. The suspect confessed to all the charges against him except for the murder by torture. A video of Thitisan ordering other officers to assault the suspect in custody has been posted on the Internet. The officers threw Mr. Jeerapong, 24, to the ground and put a black bag over his head.
The officers later tried to revive him but were unsuccessful. He was rushed to the hospital where he died. An arrest for possession of drugs was the cause of the tragedy. The six defendants were convicted of premeditated murder and torture as well as two other lesser charges, were originally sentenced to death, but the court cited mitigating circumstances and their sentences were reduced to life imprisonment.
The reasons were the officers’ efforts to revive the victim and compensate his family. A seventh officer who was not present in the room when the assault occurred was sentenced to five years and four months in prison for abuse of power and extortion.
The case dates back to August 5, when Mr. Jeerapong and his girlfriend were arrested by police with more than 100,000 units of methamphetamine. They reportedly underwent a police interrogation where they first demanded about $40,300 from the suspects, which they agreed to pay for their release, according to the account of the whistleblower, who has not been named for his own safety.
A video clip, which was posted on social media, shows that Jirapong was tortured during his interrogation. The police officers involved, including Thitisan, were accused of using several layers of plastic bags to cover the suspect’s head. Police claimed that the suspect had tried to escape and accidentally fell and collapsed, but an autopsy showed that he died of suffocation.
The arrested woman was released and told not to say anything about the incident, and that Thitisan paid the victim’s father to keep quiet. Police and officials from Thailand’s anti-money laundering office seized approximately 131 million baht ($5.27 million) worth of Thitisan’s assets.
These include a mansion valued at $2.3 million and 24 cars worth $2.8 million. According to media reports, the vehicles were acquired under suspicious circumstances. Thitisan has become known for being responsible for the seizure of more than 400 smuggled luxury cars, mostly from Malaysia, during his career.
Last year, 24 expensive vehicles, worth about 70 million baht, were discovered at his luxury mansion on the outskirts of Bangkok. They were all confiscated. Mr. Jeerapong’s father, Jakkrit Klundee, said the family would seek compensation from the police department.