19 May 2024

Sararat Rangsiwuttaporn, the suspect in what looks certain to become one of the world’s most talked-about criminal cases, is entitled to full-scale legal defense. But there is no stopping of the frightening impact generated by what she allegedly did. Certain friends or acquaintances of many people will face scrutiny that was never there, especially if they bring some food or drinks along.

Not only does her case engross the public, it also scares a lot of people. I have never been so petrified watching news,” a 7-11 employee told a customer. “I think I’m going to be sick,” famous TV news personality Kanchai Kamnerdploy said on air. Several YouTubers are now saying how easy it would be to prick a plastic bottle, poison it with liquid cyanide, watch the trusting victim drink it and then walk or drive away. “I will not lend anyone money now,” said one of them.

It took two days for her nickname, Am, to become household. The 36-year-old woman is officially implicated in one death, as close-circuit cameras showed her with a woman just seconds before the latter collapsed and she (Sararat) drove away without giving any help, but police suspect she might have poisoned others, too. She denied all charges and let her lawyer speak to the public.

Her alleged crimes were so far-reaching and required so much chemical and legal knowledge that the theory that there could be more accomplices was gaining ground rapidly. That she is three to four months pregnant carrying what many believe is her boyfriend’s child adds to the intrigue.

Using cyanide as a killing or suicide tool is more common than many think. The substance was linked to the Holocaust actually. Sararat’s case, however, terrified people because of the suspicion that is multiplying involving people who trusted or even loved her. One of them was her boyfriend. They died unexpected deaths that were all diagnosed as heart failure or blood poisoning.

She is under suspicion because the death of the close-circuit camera woman triggered a question why several other people who, allegedly, either loaned her money or were drawn into “investment” at her suggestions, died sudden, similar deaths showcasing symptoms of abnormal hearts or blood. Since families do not request autopsy of loved ones who died of apparent “heart attacks”, the deaths were mourned in private circles until the death of the CC TV woman roused curiosity.

Families are revisiting circumstances surrounding the deaths of their loved ones who had been close to her and who just collapsed and died out of the blue. Some surviving “victims” who knew her and have “narrowly escaped” their dooms have come forward. The mainstream media have put the number of potential victims at around 13-14 and counting. Police were said to be preparing additional charges.

Sararat was allegedly involved in “share” business (It’s a popular Asian monetary practice in which people come together in small groups, pay an equal amount of money monthly or bi-monthly or so into the “pool” and whoever offers the highest interest get the whole sum. But once you have successfully bid, you cannot bid next time while you still have to contribute to the poolEmbezzlement or simply refusal to pay once one has successfully bid is common in this money scheme.)

Residues of cyanide and antidote found in poisoning suspect’s car and parcel

Her legal defense will portray her as an unfortunate person who was repeatedly at the wrong place at the wrong time. The lawyer will also point at the lack of evidence. Although a small bottle of cyanide is now at the hands of the police, the suspect through her lawyer has denied knowledge. As to her apparent “indifference” shown toward the dead friends or acquaintances, her lawyer insisted it did not constitute murderous intent. (Apart from not rushing to help her CC camera friend, at least one more CC TV footage showed Sararat standing idly as another woman collapsed nearby, who later died.)

Some media outlets and police insiders have begun to tout the theory that if these were systematic killings, there must be more than one person involved. Certain reports have talked about men dressed like police attempting to meddle with recording devices. Key people in her life are being targeted for investigation, either by police or social media.

It would be a new ball game if the racketeer theory held. As of now, police claim, motives are erasing informal and personal debts and robbing targetted people of expensive belongings. In the case of the boyfriend who died, news reports said his family entitled her to some valuables. Another dramatic part involving the boyfriend is the emergence of a video purportedly showing Sararat celebrating her birthday just hours after he died.

She has a sister with reported knowledge about herbs who now will be subject to all kinds of speculation. Social media are working overtime to find fresh proclaimed “evidence” and do the demonising job at an amazing speed. Her lawyer, Thannicha Eksuwanwat, has drawn much fire herself due to their long-time connections, but she practically insisted that Sararat’s “weak” case was more about speculation than evidence.

The defense will rely much on the fact that there were no eyewitnesses of the alleged poisoning. This will go against what police say is strong circumstantial evidence against her.

Whatever it is _ smart crime or just pure rumors brought about by coincidences and solidified by social media _ Sararat’s case has the potentials to outdo most criminal stories not just in Thailand but also the whole world. Allegations are jaw-dropping and they will be even more so if she is found to be innocent. Either way, certain acquaintances offering friendly drinks or promising to treat ones to lunches or dinners after some financial hanky-panky will never be looked at the same way ever again.

By Tulsathit Taptim