2020-02-14 06:33:27

They said it was suicide...

When Nittaya Salae was told by police in November her daughter had hanged herself, she accepted the police version of events that it was simply a tragedy and there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding her death.

After all, Natnaree Melgul, 24, had been an unhappy young woman when she visited her mother in Surat Thani the previous month, telling her she wanted to leave her job as a nursing assistant at the Koh Samui Hospital as she was having problems with her boyfriend, a work colleague.

Police said Koh Samui nurse's assistant Natnaree Melgul hanged herself in a tragic suicide, but her mother knew better. (Story and photos by Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai)

But Ms Nittaya, 42, counselled Natnaree it was unwise to throw her job away and her daughter agreed to return to thehospital to secure heryearly bonus and attend the annual staff party.

On Nov 21, Ms Nittaya received a phone call from police telling her Natnaree's body was found hanging in her one-bedroom, rented house located in a row of accommodation popular with hospital staff.

Natnaree had phoned in sick to her supervisor at 7.30am, said Atchariya Rungrattanapong, president of the the Club for Justice Under Investigation which has provided legal advice and counselling on the case. The boyfriend later phoned Natnaree's neighbour, a co-worker, at 9am and asked her to check on the young woman as he was concerned for her welfare. After knocking on the door and getting no response, the neighbour forced her way into the house and found Natnaree's body.

The boyfriend and the owner of the house, who lives nearby, arrived a short time later.

Ms Nittaya travelled to Samui immediately to retrieve her daughter's body for burial within 24 hours, in accordance with Muslim religious customs.

"I wasn't on Samui when they found my daughter's body," she told the Bangkok Post Sunday. "By the time I arrived, her body was already wrapped up in cloth in the hospital morgue and ready to give to me."

Ms Nittaya, who works in Surat Thani took her daughter's body to the family's home village in Satun province for burial.

It was when she was preparing the body for burial that she made a disturbing discovery. "I unwrapped my daughter for final bathing before putting her in the ground," said Ms Nittaya. "I was shocked to see she had bruises all over her body. Her neck was broken and her head can turn 360 degrees. She had a deep cut on her upper lip, scratches on her wrists and bruises on her right eye."

Distressed by the unexplained injuries which the police didn't mention, Ms Nittaya immediately travelled back to Bo Phut police station on Samui and demanded to see photos of what she now believed was a crime scene. She was convinced her daughter had been murdered and her death made to look like a suicide.

"I was told the pictures are confidential and the officer said they can't disclose them to me," she said. "I didn't know what do, so I started asking for help from other police stations."

What followed was a frustrating eight months for Ms Nittaya and her husband Chaiyo Melgul, 50, who were told by two investigating officers from Bo Phut station and also the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) in Bangkok that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding her daughter's death. The CSD went to Koh Samui to investigate the parents' claims after the pair travelled to Bangkok on June 20. (Story continues after the photo)

Nittaya Salae weeping at Crime Suppression Division headquarters last month, when CSD officers told her that there were no suspicious circumstances involving her daughter's death.

"The police officer in Bangkok told me that he went to Samui to investigate my daughter's case with his team and they found nothing suspicious about the case. He told me that my daughter simply committed suicide," said Ms Nittaya.

"How can I take his word for that when I saw my daughter's body covered in bruises? The police at Bo Phut police station told me that she hanged herself from higher up, but the picture shows that she was kneeling down on the floor.

I talked to the rental house owner and they said they saw my daughter's boyfriend go into her house on Nov 21 before she died.

"The fan in her room was damaged, the mirror was broken into many pieces and the door was destroyed. The surroundings obviously show that my daughter was killed in cold blood."

Eventually Ms Nittaya heard about the Club for Justice who offered advice on how to pursue the case.

The parents went to the Bo Phut police station and discovered her daughter's case had been sent to the provincial prosecutor's office and sent back. Ms Nittaya, persisted and asked the Surat Thani Provincial Police to take over the case, but all they did was appoint a new investigator.

"Pol Lt Tawatchai Promthep, the new police investigator, didn't even investigate my daughter's boyfriend even though he admitted they had had a fight and he injured my daughter. The police told me that my daughter just hurt herself."

The Club for Justice eventually bought the case to the attention of Pol Lt Gen Yongyuth Caroenwanit, the commissioner of Provincial Police Region 8.

Commissioner Yongyuth said he learned of the case on Tuesday and had ordered an investigation into Natnaree's death and local police officers' handling of the investigation.

"As soon as I found out about the case, I appointed the Provincial Police Region Eight Deputy Commissioner Pol Maj Gen Krajang Suwannarat to lead the investigation team from the Provincial Police Region Eight office," he told the Bangkok Post Sunday. "We are now reinvestigating the case to see how it has been handled before.

"We have to investigate whether this case is murder or not. If it turns out that it is, we will have to press charges against the person who committed the crime. If we find out that the police officers didn't perform their duty, they will also be investigated and disciplined."

The boyfriend is already being investigated over the alleged assault.

Pol Lt Suppanat Aengyong and Pol Lt Tawatchai Promthep will be investigated by the committee from Provincial Police Region 8 to determine whether they were negligent in their handling of the case.

Ms Nittaya said it had been worth waiting for justice. "All I want is the person who killed my daughter to go to jail for what he did. Then my daughter can finally rest in peace."