Phuket, Thailand:An armed man, thought to be a foreigner to Thailand, died from deep cuts he sustained during a fight with the New Zealander owner of a boat, according to police. The fight took place on board a yacht moored at the Chalong pier around 11.30pm on Wednesday.
Chalong Pier in Phuket where the attack took place
The owner of the 10 metre yacht named Maria, who had sailed from New Zealand with his wife and children, was identified as Pierre Alain Oberson, 50, a New Zealand national.
Thawatch Boonfueng, deputy commissioner of Provincial Police Region 8, said Mr Oberson and a woman called Pornthip were on the yacht when a man, believed to be a foreigner aged between 35-40, swam up close to the boat. He was wearing a diving suit and carrying a concealed gun.
He explained that under questioning K. Porntip had told police that she and Mr Oberson were aboard the yacht that night when they noticed a man with a bag swimming toward the vessel.
Intrigued, they began to talk with the man and then invited him aboard. The man said he enjoyed swimming and diving at night, he said.
The man remained aboard for about one hour, during which time the group drank beer and coffee together while the man inspected the vessel. 'He stayed about one hour and then said, ‘I have to go.’ Then he said goodbye,' Col Samarn quoted the woman as saying.
Rather than leave, the man reached into his bag and pulled out a homemade gun and a knife. With the gun in one hand and the knife in the other, the man ordered K. Porntip to tie up Mr Oberson with rope and gag him with black electrical tape, said Col Samarn.
As she began to do so, both she and Mr Oberson exchanged glances before simultaneously charging at the man. In the ensuing fight, the man was hit twice by Mr Oberson with a boat hook, he added.
The man then fired his gun once, hitting Mr Oberson in his left shoulder, before jumping overboard.
Police are still seeking leads to discover the identity of the intruder(but see update below) and are especially interested in his homemade gun, recovered from the seabed by Marine Police around noon yesterday.
As the gun was unlike any they had seen before – it fired with a switch rather than a conventional trigger – they suspect the man may have been a weapons expert and will contact Interpol to see if his description matches the profile of a known international terrorist, Col Samarn said.
Pol Maj-Gen Thawatch said the diver's body was later found floating near the boat. He is thought to have died from heavy loss of blood. His face was also heavily bruised, possibly after being clubbed by a hard object. Mr Oberson was taken to the intensive care unit of a local hospital.
Update 16th January:
Chalong Police have finally identified the attacker as German national Peter Michael Schmid, aged 35.
The investigation by Chalong Police included showing pictures of the deceased frogman to hotel employees in Kata-Karon and Rawai.
Chalong Police Superintendent Col Samarn Chainarong told the Gazette that police still believe the attack was a botched robbery because Schmid had a gun, knife and black electrical tape with him when he boarded the vessel, a 10-meter sailboat named Maria.
Schmid was also thought to have been suffering from stomach cancer at the time of his death, Col Samarn added.
After the attack, Schmid’s body was recovered by police and rescue workers about 70 meters from Maria. He had sustained two large wounds: one to under his left eye and the other to his left wrist, inflicted by a gaff, or boat hook, kept aboard Maria.
Doctors at Vachira Phuket Hospital confirmed that the cause of death was blood loss from the wound to his wrist, Col Samarn said.
The victim Mr Orberson, 50, was rushed to Phuket International Hospital, where he was initially kept in the Intensive Care Unit for a gunshot wound to his shoulder.
He was released on Saturday. Chalong Police say they know where Mr Oberson is and that they plan to question him soon. They will have to file murder charges against him as a matter of procedure, though they expect the charges to be dropped eventually because all of the available evidence indicates that he was acting in self-defense.