Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thai police let Aussie stab suspects go

TWO men wanted in connection with the stabbing murder of good samaritan Luke Mitchell were arrested when they arrived in Thailand and released after questioning.

A high-ranking source in the Thai police force said the men were arrested at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport and taken to the Crime Suppression Division Headquarters for interrogation.

The source said they were released after questioning as they had not committed a crime in Thailand.

He said Thai police were waiting for an extradition request from Australia before they would pursue the matter.

Mr Mitchell, 29, was attacked in Brunswick early on Sunday after stepping in to stop a brawl. He walked away from the initial fight and was fatally stabbed a short distance away.

Two of thee suspects are known to have fled to Thailand shortly after the murder, with reports indicating that Australian police knew they were on board a Jetstar flight.

Jetstar has said it received no formal police request to turn around an aircraft containing a suspect.

A spokeswoman said that Australian Federal Police told the airline's operations centre at about 7pm on Sunday that a "person of interest" was on flight JQ29 between Melbourne and Bangkok.

She said the man paid about $1000 cash for a return ticket at some point between 11am and 1pm that day.

The flight departed at about 2pm from Tullamarine Airport.

According to the spokeswoman, the AFP contacted the airline about five hours into the journey, when the aircraft was out of Australian airspace. "The first information we received regarding the passenger … was when the aircraft was … in closer proximity to Bangkok," she said.

"We … had no formal request to bring the aircraft back to Australia."

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland has said that international extraditions are difficult. He said he was unaware of reports that federal police had been alerted that the men were on a flight to Bangkok and the authorities were not in a position to turn flights back to Australia.

"There's nothing we could do, or could have done, to stop them. In one case, we did not even know who they were until they left the country," Mr Overland said earlier this week.

He also said police now knew the identity of the two suspects.

Victoria and federal police refused to comment on the issue last night.

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