BANGKOK — Police said Wednesday they are trying to piece together the dark criminal past of a man accused of murdering a fellow Israeli and former policeman, as they try to figure out what happened to his missing wife.
Investigators have pinned the grisly murder of 63-year-old Eliyahu Cohen, whose body was found under freshly poured concrete Saturday on Yaakov Shimon Sakira Bitton, who they say was aided by his 17-year-old son. Since then, investigation into his background landed on a trail of other bodies, another family, and missing wife.
After running Bitton through the Criminal Records Division, police found this morning he was an accomplice in the murder and disposal of a body in a Kanchanaburi river in 1997.
He served jail time before being booted out of the country, only to return years later under an assumed name to fetch the son he had with Nantiya Saengurai and return to Israel with him. In 2015, he returned to Thailand and began living with her.
Soon after that, she went missing.
On Sunday, her 62-year-old father filed a missing person report for his daughter. Anant Saengurai believes she is dead. There has been no activity on her phone or financial records for months.
Anant said that he last heard from his daughter in November 2015 when she was busted at the Nong Khai border crossing with drugs. He contacted the Laos embassy but received no help. When he heard his son-in-law was arrested, he decided to contact the police to look for his daughter.
Police found no clues Tuesday when they searched the last residence Nantiya was known to live with Bitton and their son in the Bang Kruai district of Nonthaburi.
“At the moment, we are trying to find information from witnesses and other people close to Nantiya or ‘Aoi,’” said police Col. Arun Vachirasrisukanya, referring to her nickname. “There’s very little information to go on.”
One person of interest is Bitton’s 35-year-old ex-wife.
“The perpetrator had two houses, like how guys do,” the police chief said.
On Wednesday the unidentified woman told police she knew nothing about Cohen or Nantiya, and did not know Bitton was married. She said Bitton, who she shacked up with, was never violent, but that she did not know him well. She claimed he received 20,000 baht to 30,000 baht every month from a relative.
Police believe Bitton killed Cohen because he owed him money. They say he and his son cut Cohen into three pieces and put them in bags they buried with a lot of mothballs under some bricks near his bathroom.
They poured some concrete over it all, but officials exhuming the body said an unbearable stench permeated the whole house.