Santiphap Pengduang, the driver of missing businessman Akeyuth Anchanbutr, has confessed to murdering him, while another man apprehended Tuesday has said he helped hide the body, police say.
Santiphap Pengduang, the driver of Akeyuth Anchanbutr, left, is brought before the media by police Tuesday after he was arrested in Samut Songkhram on Monday night. Police said Mr Santiphap confessed to killing Mr Akeyuth because he wanted to steal 5 million baht from him. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Police brought Mr Santiphap, 24, before the media Tuesday to talk about Mr Akeyuth's disappearance.
He was arrested in Samut Songkhram province on Monday night.
Police from Provincial Police Region 9 last night also detained another man in Phatthalung suspected of conspiring with Mr Santiphap to kill Mr Akeyuth.
The arrested man was identified as Chaowalit Woonchum, 23. He was captured on Koh Libong in Trang yesterday. A third suspect, identified as Prakarn Songkhao, 24, was still at large.
Deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Thitirat Nonghanpitak said Mr Santiphap told police he had conspired with two of his friends to kill Mr Akeyuth because he wanted to rob him.
Akeyuth Anchanbutr: Dead in a robbery-murder plot
Mr Akeyuth is thought to have withdrawn 5 million baht from a bank before he disappeared on Thursday.
However, Mr Santiphap has not disclosed any further details about how he murdered his boss, Pol Maj Gen Thitirat said.
A police source said Mr Santiphap admitted killing Mr Akeyuth because he became angry after Mr Akeyuth fired his girlfriend from her job.
Police also seized a black Volkswagen van, 66,300 baht in cash and a wristwatch from him.
He previously told police Mr Akeyuth ordered him to drive to various locations before they separated in Phetchaburi province.
After appearing before the media yesterday Mr Santiphap was flown to Phatthalung to identify the location where he allegedly murdered Mr Akeyuth and to find his body.
Mr Chaowalit told police he did not kill Mr Akeyuth but admitted to being involved in hiding his body.
He said Mr Akeyuth's body was buried on Jingjo mountain in tambon Chai Buri in Phatthalung's Muang district.
Pol Maj Gen Saksommai Phutthakul, Phatthalung provincial police chief, rejected rumours police had found the body of Mr Akeyuth, although he said a search is ongoing in several areas of the province.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said yesterday he believed Mr Akeyuth could already be dead.
Mr Chalerm said Mr Santiphap could have killed Mr Akeyuth as the driver had worked for him for less than a year and had no close ties to him.
Mr Chalerm believed robbery was probably the motive as Mr Akeyuth had millions of baht in cash with him.
Mr Chalerm denied politics was the motive and said the disappearance of Mr Akeyuth had nothing to do with a conflict with senior police or the scandal at the Four Seasons Hotel last year when Mr Akeyuth claimed he was assaulted by a man at a coffee shop at the hotel.
Mr Akeyuth had claimed that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra held a private meeting with business people at the hotel.
Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Khamronwit Thoopkrachang said a team of investigators is trying to gather more evidence before determining the reason behind Mr Akeyuth's disappearance and possible killing.
Pol Lt Gen Khamronwit assigned his deputy Pol Maj Gen Anuchai Lekbamrung to head the investigation into the disappearance before the rumours of Mr Akeyuth being murdered surfaced.
Relatives of Mr Akeyuth say they do not believe Mr Santiphap's story.
Metropolitan Police Bureau officers became suspicious of driver Santiphap Pengduang's story shortly after they took him into custody late Monday night for questioning. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Supaporn Waenlor, Mr Akeyuth's elder sister, said she did not believe Mr Santiphap's statements. She suspected foul play.
She said she did not trust Mr Santiphap as he had worked for her brother for only six months.
Mr Akeyuth is a staunch critic of and campaigner against deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Mr Akeyuth fled overseas to avoid being charged over a collapsed pyramid scheme in 1985. He returned to Thailand after the statue of limitations expired.
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