BANGKOK — Ten people have been questioned in connection to the suspected abduction and sexual assault of a promotional model, who was found dead in the lobby of a condominium earlier this week, police said Thursday.
Signs of rape were found on Thitima “Bell” Noraphanpiphat, 25, according to the police. Thitima was found dead some time after a man was seen carrying her, unconscious, into his apartment room in the early hours of Tuesday. The man also boasted online of a sexual encounter with her, though he has since denied any wrongdoing.
Preliminary examinations suggest Thitima died of an acute heart attack, but police have yet to establish a clear cause of death pending a more thorough autopsy, police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen said.
“We won’t decisively determine her cause of death or rule out any possibilities until we receive the autopsy report,” the spokesman said.
Thitima was a popular model, or pretty, with over 62,000 followers on her Facebook.
Thitima’s relatives have called her death suspicious. CCTV footage at the condominium where she was found dead shows a man, later identified as 24-year-old Rachadech Wongtabutr, carrying her unconscious body into his room before taking her down to the lobby several hours later.
Rachadech, who also works as a model, said he contacted Thitima’s friends to pick her up after leaving her on a sofa.
He also posted a video of himself filming the unconscious Thitima, stroking her head, and making sexually charged references.
“I didn’t ply her with booze, she was naughty on her own,” his caption says.
“I don’t know whether my 100th wife can make it. She’s wearing my clothes, which I put on her,” reads another post.
The video, which struck many netizens as disturbing, led police to raid Rachadech’s room soon after Thitima was found dead. Police said they had to break down the door because Rachadech wouldn’t let them in.
He was then taken to the police station for interrogation. According to Rachadech’s testimony, he and Thitima met at a house party in Bang Bua Thong where they were hired to work as entertainers.
After some drinks, the two engaged in casual conversation. Thitima became inebriated so he decided to take her to his room with her consent.
“I don’t know when she passed away, maybe she had health problems or was dehydrated, but when I brought her to my room I was able to hear her breathe,” Rachadech said.
Thitima’s family said they suspect foul play, and vowed to withhold a cremation ceremony for her until the investigation has been resolved.
But Rachadech denied drugging or having sex with her. He said he only took her into his room to change her clothes, because they were wet and revealing.
“I can confirm that there were no drugs involved at the party and I’m 100 percent innocent,” Rachadech said. “I have no reason to do anything like that because we clicked with each other during the party. The forensic report will reveal the truth.”
Police said they found no irregularities inside his room, and he agreed to give a DNA sample.
Rachadech was eventually released without any charges. Krissana said 10 people have been questioned so far, but further investigation is needed before they press charges against anyone.
CCTV footage showing Rachadech carrying Thitima’s unconscious body on Sept. 15-16.