The story was too good to pass up. The kind of headline editors dream about.
A vegetarian restaurant owner (a vegetarian!) in Bangkok had served the flesh of a man he murdered to his own customers.
The ghoulish Sweeney Todd-like tale quickly made the rounds in a number of Singaporean and Western outlets, most prominently Vice and Newsweek on the English-language side.
Just one little problem: It never happened, according to police investigators who spoke with Coconuts Bangkok.
It couldn’t have, because the restaurant wasn’t even open.
Pol. Lt. Col. Adul Thongpetch, an investigator with the Lat Krabang police, told Coconuts last night that since the restaurant — located on Soi Romklao 25/6 — wasn’t open, there were no customers dining during or after the period when victim Prasit Inpathom, 61, was allegedly murdered.
“We suspect he was murdered on Oct. 21,” Lt. Col. Adul said in an interview.
“This restaurant hasn’t fully completed construction. They opened for three days towards the end of the vegetarian festival (which ended Oct. 17). This means the restaurant had been closed for several days before the man died,” he said.
Lat Krabang police spokesman Sub-Lt. Sawang Wongbut also told the same story when contacted by Coconuts.
“This is just a murder investigation,” he said, chuckling at the widely reported angle.
The story, which had been picked up by Vice, the Daily Mail, Toronto Sun among others, all quoted a translation from Asia One, which they in turn sourced from Singapore’s largest Chinese-language newspaper, Zaobao, which in turn sourced a site called Oriental Daily.
It’s pretty much the lamest game of “telephone” imaginable.
The only Thai sources mentioned in the Asia One article — The Nation and Komchadluek — mention nothing about human flesh being served to customers, only that a body had been discovered at a restaurant.
Asked if there was any indication that the victim’s flesh was missing (and possibly used in cooking), Lt. Col. Adul said no, only that the victim had taken a severe beating to his head and face.
“That’s not accurate at all,” he added.
The murder suspect, identified as Boonyuen Kamtawee, was the brother of the restaurant’s owner and being paid to work on its construction. The victim, meanwhile, also received money for helping Boonyuen out, and the pair was often seen drinking together late at night.
“The murder suspect was attending to the restaurant. Around the time the murder happened, he disappeared. Two days later (Oct. 23), the owner came back to find no one there and alerted the police.”
Blood and (to be fair) bits of brain were found splashed across the kitchen.
Prasit’s body was found in the septic tank behind the restaurant. His family identified his body from the tattoo on his chest.
Boonyuen, who “had gone back to his hometown” in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, turned himself in on Oct. 27 following the arrest warrant. He declined to cooperate with police and is now working with his lawyer to defend himself in court.
The officer said that he’s waiting for results of forensic investigations before sending the case on to prosecutors.
A court date has not been set.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the tattoo by which the victim was identified was on his back. It was on his chest.