BANGKOK — A man identified by police as the robber who gunned down three people during a gold store robbery two weeks ago said Thursday that he did not mean to kill his victims, which include a 2-year-old boy.
Speaking through a phone call to a news conference held at the police headquarters in Bangkok, 38-year-old Prasittichai Khaokaew said he opened fire at Robinson department store on Jan. 9 to “clear the way.” Police said Prasittichai shot up to seven people during the robbery in Lopburi province, killing three of them.
Prasittichai, who was being held at the Crime Suppression Division in northern Bangkok, also offered his contrition.
“I want to say I’m sorry,” Prasittichai said. “I want to apologize to the families of the dead victims, especially nong Titan and the staff, and everyone that I shot.”
When a reporter asked why he fired several shots at one of his victims – the clerk who manned the Aurora gold store – if he had no intent to kill, Prasittichai said he accidentally discharged the shots because his glove was stuck in the trigger. He also denied targeting nong Titan, the 2-year-old toddler, saying it was a stray bullet that hit him.
It was the first time Prasittichai directly spoke to the press after he was arrested in the early hours of Wednesday following weeks-long manhunt operation by the police.
The suspect, who works as a director of a public school in Singburi, also said he acted alone and denied several online rumors related to his motives, while police laid down evidence that they said implicated Prasittichai beyond reasonable doubt.
Displayed at the news conference inside the Royal Thai Police office were key evidence retrieved from various locations based on Prasittichai’s testimony.
They include the handgun, magazines, clothes, motorcycle, and gloves allegedly used by Prasittichai during the deadly robbery. The firearm was registered under the name of Prasittichai’s father, who is a retired police officer.
The 500,000 baht worth of gold necklaces stolen from the shop were also on display; police said they found the jewelry hidden at a residence of Prasittichai’s father; earlier media reports said Prasittichai hid them at his wife’s family home.
Some evidence, such as the shoes and backpack worn during the heist, were already burned and destroyed, police said, adding that traces of the burning were found close to Wat Pho Chai School, where Prasittichai works. The handgun silencer remains missing.
Deputy police commissioner Suwat Chaengyodsuk said investigators tracked down Prasittichai largely due to the forensic traces left by the firearm and tip-offs from the public, and not the “sweat DNA” as claimed by some media sites.
Although police said Prasittichai fully cooperated with the investigation, they said not all of his testimony is treated as credible.
“He has the right to say whatever he wants,” Gen. Suwat said.
In his phone call to the news conference, Prasittichai maintained the motive behind the robbery was solely for the money, and he had no other personal issues.
“I have financial problems,” the suspect said. “I planned it two, three days in advance.”
Prasittichai also maintained he acted alone, “I didn’t consult anyone. Those actions of mine, I did them all on my own.”
Gen. Suwat said police have not found evidence that implicates anyone else in the incidents.
The suspect also spoke on his experience of working at the school and living a normal life even after the alleged killings, “I tried to live and act normal. I didn’t think of fleeing, I didn’t think of anything. But everytime I see the news, I feel sorry about what I did.”
Prasittichai is charged with premeditated murder, armed robbery, and firearm offenses. If found guilty, he faces the death penalty.
It is unclear when he will be brought to court for a remand hearing. Justice minister Somsak Thepsuthin said police informed him they needed more time to question Prasittichai.