A young backpacker found dead on a Thai island was raped and murdered, say police after quizzing and arresting a local man as a suspect.
Miriam Beelte’s body was discovered under leaves and rocks on Koh Sichang, or Ko Si Chang, off the east coast of Thailand on Sunday evening.
The 26-year-old German woman suffered severe head wounds and a broken leg in the attack in which she was repeatedly hit in the face with a rock, say police.
Local man Ronnakorn Romruen, 24, was arrested shortly after the tourist’s body was found, and police say he confessed to raping her and then murdering her to stop her from reporting the sex attack.
He began talking to her and asked her for sex, then followed her along apath and attacked her in woodland as she tried to get away from him, say police.
Romruen, who has been charged with murder, rape and concealment of a body, claims he was high on methamphetamine when he attacked the holidaymaker.
Miss Beelte was from Hildesheim, near Hanover in northern Germany, and had been backpacking through Thailand.
A tourist who was out taking photos found her body and alerted the police at about 8pm on Sunday evening, the Bangkok Post reported.
Police launched a search and stopped anyone from leaving the island while they investigated the death.
Police said Romruen was arrested after he was spotted acting suspiciously, and he admitted to raping and murdering Miss Beelte.
He allegedly told police he tried to hide the body by throwing it behind rocks and covering it with dried leaves.
Footage from the early hours of Monday show him being taken back to his house in handcuffs to point out the clothes he had allegedly been wearing during the attack.
Police Colonel Angkul Sarakul said: “The police station was informed of the foreign woman that had been murdered and hidden among leaves and rocks.
“At the scene the initial examination showed that the victim had been beaten in the head several times.
“She had been dead for around five hours. We suspected rape and murder and immediately stopped anyone from leaving the island.”
Police said that Miss Beelte had been on holiday in the nearby city of Pattaya and was travelling alone when she took a boat from the Si Racha district to the island.
She rented a motorcycle just before lunchtime when Romruen saw her riding the bike and allegedly tried to start a conversation with her.
Police claim he asked her for sex but she refused, and he then followed her to a rock path, leading to Phra Chulachomklao mountain and Assadang flagpole, as she tried to get away from him.
Romruen allegedly told police Miss Beelte screamed for help as he raped her in woodland, and then killed her by hitting her in the face with a rock.
Officers claim that Romruen confessed to murder after four hours of interrogation.
The suspect was taken by boat to the mainland in Chonburi province, where he will be remanded in custody.
Police Colonel Sarakul said: “The suspect was brought to the station in the early hours of the morning.
“Based on his confessions, he will be charged with premeditated murder, rape and concealing a body.
“The body of the victim will be sent to the forensic hospital for a full examination to find the exact cause of death.
“We immediately contacted the German embassy for them to communicate with the relatives of the victim.”
British and European backpackers have been killed or injured in a number of high-profile attacks in Thailand in recent years.
UK tourists Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were bludgeoned to death on a beach in Koh Tao, southern Thailand, in 2014.
The Foreign Office warns: “Violent sexual assaults and unprovoked attacks have been reported in tourist destinations across Thailand.
“These are particularly common during Full Moon parties and other similar events and late at night near bars.
“Drink spiking and date rapes have been reported in tourist destinations around Thailand, with both male and female victims.
“Be careful about taking drinks from strangers or leaving your drinks unattended, particularly in Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Pattaya and at the Full Moon party on Koh Phangan.”