‘Chief Joe’ says he suffocates suspects to scare, not kill them

Nakhon Sawan police suffocate a suspect in footage leaked Tuesday, at left, and a file photo of Col. Thitisan “Chief Joe” Utthanaphol, at right.
Nakhon Sawan police suffocate a suspect in footage leaked Tuesday, at left, and a file photo of Col. Thitisan “Chief Joe” Utthanaphol, at right.

Col. Thitisan Utthanaphon, the police chief better known as Joe Ferrari, testified Wednesday that although he did kill a man in his custody with a plastic bag, he didn’t mean for him to die.

On trial for murder at Bangkok’s Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct, the former Nakhon Sawan police chief said he only intended to intimidate and scare Jeerapong Thanapat, who was brought in on suspicion of a drug-related crime.

He admitted that Jeerapong was one of many suspects whose heads he wrapped in a plastic bag, saying he would make sure the bag wasn’t tied too tight. He also said the video of the killing, leaked in August by an unnamed whistleblower who said the chief was trying to extort money from Jeerapong, was tampered with.

He is joined by six co-defendants in the case. All were charged with multiple crimes inculding conspiring to murder by torture, malfeasance, and coercion.

At the hearing, Thitisan said he and his subordinates had gone undercover in August to arrest Jeerapong and his wife, who were found with 300 grams of meth.

Defense lawyer Chokchai Angkaew said the first witnesses will be heard starting Feb. 19, with testimony to wrap up March 13.

After Thitisan became a pariah for what looked to be a brutal jailhouse execution, his extensive collection of luxury sportscars drew attention to his unusual wealth.

He initially went on the run and, in the ensuing manhunt, a raid on his home revealed a massive collection of sports cars, launching an inquiry into how he obtained millions of baht worth of vehicles. 

Chief Joe has said the cars were obtained as “rewards” for his sting operations. In November, Thitisan and his subordinates were charged with murder.

Related

Thai police crusade against ‘fake news’ after torture snuff video embarrassment

Autopsy confirms tortured suspect died of suffocation, not overdose

‘Chief Joe’ shows world Thailand’s total mockery of justice

‘Chief Joe’ and deputy on the run after Thai jailhouse killing

Thai police chief, officers accused of torturing suspect to death

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