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Spaniard facing death penalty in Thailand in gruesome murder and dismemberment case

A Thai police officer escorts Spanish Daniel Sancho Bronchalo on suspicion of murdering and dismembering a Colombian surgeon from Koh Phagnan island to Koh Samui Island court.
A Thai police officer escorts Spanish Daniel Sancho Bronchalo on suspicion of murdering and dismembering a Colombian surgeon from Koh Phagnan island to Koh Samui Island court. Copyright Somkeat Ruksaman/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Somkeat Ruksaman/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Laura Llach
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In a crime that has gripped Thailand's media, what is true and what is a lie?

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Ten days after one of Thailand's most heinous murders, police on the resort island of Koh Pha Ngan say they've closed the case, and are seeking the death penalty for Spaniard Daniel Sancho. 

Thai authorities believe there was never any doubt that Sancho, son of the famous Spanish actor Rodolfo Sancho, killed and dismembered Colombian surgeon Edwin Arrieta.

They say the Spaniard stabbed Arrieta in the chest, and then when he fell, the surgeon hit himself in the sink of the hotel where he was staying. Police say Sancho dismembered the body and dumped the remains in the rubbish, which ended up in a local landfill.

"We have consulted with the prosecutor on some of the evidence and it is consistent enough to charge him with premeditated murder, which carries the death penalty," Thailand's deputy police chief Surachate Hakparn told a news conference Tuesday. 

According to the investigation, Sancho wanted to end their relationship and the Colombian refused to do so.

"I felt like a hostage in a glass cage," the Spaniard told the media.

"I am guilty, but I was Edwin's hostage. He held me hostage. It was a glass cage, but it was a cage. He destroyed my relationship with my girlfriend, he made me do things I would never have done," he added.

Speaking on Spanish television, Sancho said that Thai police had taken him to a luxury restaurant for dinner to celebrate his cooperation with the authorities.

"I'm very well, the police treat me very well. They treat me so well that I'm having dinner with them at the best hotel on the island, the Anantara," he told the journalist, in a statement that was later denied by the restaurant itself, further muddying Sancho's story.

In a crime that has gripped Thailand's media, what is true and what is a lie?

Somkeat Ruksaman/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Thai police forensic officers investigate a garbage dump site as they search for parts of the body of a Colombian surgeon in Koh Phagnan island, southern Thailand.Somkeat Ruksaman/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

Security cameras and a body at the dump

There has been a lot of speculation about the murder, but in the end the authorities have said that Sancho acted alone and have ruled out the hypothesis of an accidental death.

Whether the stab wound was the cause of the Colombian surgeon's death or whether it was the blow that killed him is something the police have not yet been able to establish.

The Spaniard travelled to the Thai island on 31 July and Arrieta joined him on the trip.

"Every time I tried to get away from him, he threatened me," Sancho told local authorities.

Arrieta's remains were found at various locations on Phangan, including the lake and rubbish dump.

Just a few days earlier, the Spaniard had gone into a supermarket to buy knives and cleaning products, where he was caught on security cameras. As if that were not enough, he threw the receipts in the same bin bag where the body was found.

The prosecution could still use the 83-day police investigation period - which began when Sancho was remanded in custody on the neighbouring island of Koh Samui on 7 August - to investigate the case and request further evidence before setting a trial date.

The family issued a statement asking the media for "maximum respect for Daniel Sancho himself and for the whole family in these delicate moments of maximum confusion".

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