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“Hit and run” – Red Bull heir confessed

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The son of Chalerm Yoovidhya, a top executive of the world-famous Red Bull empire, has confessed to a hit-and-run charge following a road accident that killed a police officer on Sukhumvit Road early yesterday, police say.

A Thong Lor police inspector was transferred to an inactive post for allegedly trying to make the suspect’s family driver the scapegoat in the case.

Vorayuth Yoovidhya, 27, known as Boss, was arrested yesterday morning after a black Ferrari ran into a motorcycle about 5.30am on Sukhumvit Soi 47.

The motorcycle’s rider, Pol Snr Sgt Maj Wichian Klanprasert, 48, of Thong Lor police station, was killed. His body was dragged by the Ferrari about 200 metres along the road. He reportedly suffered a broken neck and multiple broken bones.

Police said Pol Snr Sgt Maj Wichian’s pistol could not be found when investigators arrived at the scene. His body was sent for an autopsy and taken later to Wat That Thong in Ekamai for funeral rites by family members.

Witnesses told police that a black sports car ran into the motorcycle and then sped away before entering the grounds of a house on Sukhumvit Soi 53. The house belongs to the Red Bull family.

After being alerted to the incident, police arrived at the soi and found a long trail of engine oil on the road leading from the entrance of the soi leading to the house.

Police believed the car in question was at the house. They asked the security guard to let them in to conduct a search, but he refused because the house owner was not at home.

At 8am yesterday, Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) chief Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit Thoopkrachang arrived at the house.

He was allowed inside but was not permitted access to the house’s underground car park.

He then directed investigators to seek a search warrant.

After leaving the house, Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit said the driver of the vehicle was not at home and might be consulting his lawyer.

Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit said he would try everything in his power to bring the perpetrator to justice and that he would resign if he failed to do so.

At 9am, police were eventually allowed to enter the house after a lawyer representing the family arrived.

Police found the 32 million baht Ferrari parked in the underground car park. The vehicle was then lifted onto a truck and taken to Thong Lor police station to be examined by forensic police.

Police also checked the log book which the security guard uses to record the coming and goings of the family’s vehicles.

The log showed that Mr Vorayuth left the house in the Ferrari at 5.12am yesterday morning.

Mr Vorayuth later surrendered to Thong Lor police at 10.30am.

He admitted hitting the policeman, but told investigators that the officer had come out of nowhere and cut in front of him, making it impossible for him to take evasive action, police said.

Police have charged Mr Vorayuth with causing death by reckless driving and failing to stop to help or inform authorities. Investigators also took him to the Police General Hospital for a blood-alcohol test. He was later released on 500,000-baht bail.

Samak Chewaphanont, the family’s lawyer, said the family was ready to offer compensation and sponsor the funeral rites of the officer. He said Mr Vorayuth was still in shock and could not speak to anyone. Mr Samak insisted that his client had not drunk any alcohol prior to the incident.

Mr Chalerm yesterday said he deeply regretted what had happened and that he was ready to take responsibility.

Meanwhile, Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit said he had ordered the transfer of Pol Lt Col Pannapon Nammuang, the Thong Lor crime control inspector, to an inactive post following the incident.

Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit said Pol Lt Col Pannapon had tried to get a Yoovidhya family driver to take the blame for a crime he had not committed.

“After the incident, [the officer] attempted to detain the wrong suspect for questioning to manipulate the situation and make him a scapegoat. For me, this is unacceptable. The officer, as a superior, cared nothing for his dead subordinate,” Pol Lt Gen Kamronwit said.

Suwes Hom-ubon, 45, who looks after the family’s vehicles, had claimed soon after the incident that he was the driver of the Ferrari. But police did not believe his story. They said he could not give details as to what happened and physical checks found he bore no injuries from the accident.

Police have also charged him with giving false statements, which carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to 1,000 baht.

Pol Lt Col Pannapon yesterday insisted he had no intention of arresting the wrong suspect. He said when he arrived at the house looking for the suspect, Mr Suwes appeared and claimed he was the driver so he naturally had to detain him for questioning.

Mr Vorayuth is the third son of Mr Chalerm who is the son of the late Chaleo Yoovidhya _ the founder of the world-renowned energy drink Red Bull, or Krating Daeng in Thai, and was one of the nation’s richest men. – Bangkokpost