Saturday, September 18, 2021

Swiss woman found murdered near waterfall in ‘sandbox’ Phuket

Phuket island is effectively sealed off from the rest of the country to keep Covid-19 at bay and provide a safe tourist experience.

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A Swiss woman has been found dead in Thailand on the resort island of Phuket, near a waterfall tourist attraction which has remained mostly unvisited during the pandemic.

The southern island resort is currently sealed off from the rest of the country as the government tries to revive the tourist industry. Most locals have been vaccinated as part of the drive to provide a Covid-free holiday for foreign visitors but not many have arrived yet.

Local officials have identified the victim as 57-year-old Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf.

Police found her face down in the water, covered by a black sheet, with her phone, shorts and trainers nearby.

As yet it is unclear what happened to the Swiss national. Results of an autopsy are expected later on Friday.

Local officials however have suggested she was raped and murdered.

A spokesman for Thailand’s foreign minister Don Pramudwinai said on Twitter he had sent his condolences to the Swiss ambassador for the “murder of a Swiss woman in Phuket”.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had ordered police “to expedite the investigation to identify and arrest the culprit”.

He also ordered officials to increase security in Phuket.

Switzerland’s foreign ministry meanwhile released a statement on Thursday saying Thai authorities had contacted them about the death of an “apparent Swiss citizen” but gave no more details, citing privacy concerns.

The death comes just weeks after Thailand launched its so-called “Phuket Sandbox” scheme. Sauvain-Weisskopf reportedly arrived in Thailand on July 13.

Under the programme, vaccinated tourists can come to the island without the need to quarantine, but cannot travel to the mainland within 14 days.

On Friday, Police Gen Suwat arrived with a large team of experienced detectives and forensic experts from Bangkok to head the investigation.

In the afternoon they reported the victim had been dead for about two days, but they had no suspect yet.

The Bangkok Post reported late on Friday that the victim was deputy protocol chief of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland.

Suwat said surveillance camera footage showed the victim went alone to the crime scene.

He said there were “traces” in the body and he is now awaiting the official autopsy report from Bangkok.

Police on Friday released the victim’s timeline since her arrival in Phuket, ending with her 18-minute walk, alone from her hotel near Ao Yon beach to the waterfall, about 1.4km away, on Tuesday.

They are appealing for anyone who may have seen her in the area to come forward.

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