Former police commissioner Lt-General Chalor Kerdthet was yesterday sentenced to two life terms in prison after being convicted of abetting in the brutal double murder of a mother and her 8-year-old son in 1994.
The sentence was reduced to one life term owing to a limit on penalties.
The verdict is being hailed as a deterrent to the notorious tactic of using crime to fight crime.
Assigned to resolve the Saudi jewellery theft case in 1990, Chalor spun a web of crime leading to his involvement in abduction, ransom demands and killing, as well as other serious offences that made the crime he was supposed to be solving pale in comparison.
The murder of the wife and son of jeweller Santi Srithanakhan in 1994 happened four years after the discovery that many pieces of jewellery returned by the Thai police – earlier stolen from the palace of a Saudi prince in 1989 – were in fact fake, the Criminal Court stated in its verdict.
Chalor was in charge of tracking down a Thai worker, Kriangkrai Techamong, who had stolen the jewellery.
Chalor solved the case and personally delivered the recovered jewellery to a Saudi prince.
Saudi authorities, however, said that many items of the retrieved jewellery were fake, especially the “blue diamond” piece which had a great sentimental value to the Saudi royal family.
The former police commissioner was again put in charge of the case.
Chalor had earlier been convicted of abducting Santi a number of times with the aim of forcing him to reveal the whereabouts of the missing pieces of jewellery.
He also tried to force Santi to reveal the identity of those who had taken wrongful possession of the blue diamond. But Santi refused to cooperate and went into hiding.
Citing forensic evidence and 50 material witnesses, the prosecutors named him and eight others as defendants for the premeditated murder of Santi’s wife, Darawadi, and their only son, Seri.
Prosecutors said the murders were motivated by an attempt to cover up the abduction that had gone astray.
Chalor’s co-defendants were Police Lt-Colonel Pansak Mongkolsilp, Sgt-Major Yong Klamnak, Sr Sgt-Major Somnuek Vejsri, Wirachai Pholtisaeng, Nikom Monsiri, Samran Chamjamras, Sommai Pudthes and Suphap Changsai.
Suphap, however, has died and his case was dismissed, reducing the number of defendants to eight.
During the trial only Chalor pleaded not guilty.
Other defendants and prosecution witnesses testified that Chalor had ordered Pansak to kidnap Darawadi and Seri in order to use them as bait to draw Santi out of hiding.
Pansak was said to have recruited the remaining defendants as accomplices before staging the abduction in July 1994.
The mother and son were detained at a bungalow in Sa Kaew province.
For almost a month following the abduction, Chalor led negotiations with Santi, first seeking his cooperation in the theft case and, failing that, demanding Bt2.5 million in ransom.
Santi paid the ransom on July 25 before reporting the kidnapping to the government.
After the scam was exposed, Pansak said in his statement, Chalor instructed him to “get rid of the evidence”.
Pansak, Nikom and Samran confessed that they had beaten the mother and son to death and placed their bodies in a car on July 31. The car was left on a highway late at night before a truck crashed into it in an attempted cover-up.
The court ruled that with the exception of Somnuek, Chalor and six other defendants were guilty of charges relating to the murder of the mother and son.
Somnuek’s acquittal was based on reasonable doubt, as the prosecution presented only circumstantial evidence and no material witnesses to pinpoint his role in the abduction and murder, the court said.
Owing to the lack of evidence to confirm his presence at the murder scene, Chalor was convicted for one count of abetting the abduction and one count of assisting in the killing.
He was also found guilty of abusing his police power.
Pansak, Nikom and Samran will each serve life in jail as convicted murderers.
Yong, Wirachai and Sommai were convicted of assisting the abduction, and received jail terms ranging from 2.8 years to four years.
The three were released following the verdict, as they had already completed their terms during trial.
Chalor still faces another trial in connection with the alleged embezzlement of the retrieved jewellery.