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Thailand’s ‘Joe Ferrari’ cop jailed for life over death of suspect

BANGKOK (AFP) – A flashy Thai cop nicknamed “Joe Ferrari” for his taste in fast cars was yesterday jailed for life for torturing a drugs suspect to death during a brutal interrogation.

A Bangkok court found Thitisan Utthanaphon guilty of murder by torture in a case that caused public outrage and shone a rare light on police brutality and corruption in the kingdom.

Leaked viral footage showed Thitisan and six other officers wrapping seven plastic bags around 24-year-old Jirapong Thanapat’s head while questioning him and trying to extort USD60,000, leading to his death.

The judge at Bangkok’s Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases sentenced the 41-year-old to death, but immediately commuted it to life imprisonment.

“I felt helpless during the ruling, and my wife was crying,” the victim’s father Jakkrit Klandi, said outside the court.

“All seven officers should learn their lesson and pay for their crime,” he said.

The court reduced Thitisan’s sentence to life imprisonment because he had attempted to revive the suspect, and had paid for the funeral expenses for the family.

Parents of Jirapong Thanapat, walk out of the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct following the ruling against Thitisan Utthanaphon. PHOTO: AFP

But Jirapong’s mother Penh Thanapat was not satisfied, telling reporters she never wanted to see Thitisan’s face.

“I want (the death sentence). I want things to happen to him as it happened to my son,” she said.

Thitisan looked healthy and was seen chuckling with guards inside the courtroom before the verdict, but closed his eyes as the sentence was read.

Five of the other six officers involved in the case were found guilty of murder and also received life sentences. A seventh got five years and four months, following his testimony.

Thitisan and the other officers have a month to appeal against the verdict, according to their lawyers.

The victim’s parents said they were unhappy with the officers’ offer of TBH600,000 (USD17,000) compensation, with Jakkrit telling reporters he would consult lawyers.

They had initially asked the court for TBH1.6 million.

After the footage leaked in August last year, the officer – a former district chief in the northern province of Nakhon Sawan – surrendered himself to police, who raided his Bangkok mansion and found several luxury cars.

In a press conference after his surrender, he said Jirapong’s death was an accident.

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