A Swiss parliament worker is believed to have been raped and murdered days after arriving on a Thai island which only re-opened to tourists last month.
Nicole Sauvain-Weisskpf, 57, was found half-naked from the wait down in shallow water at a remote waterfall in Phuket by a passing local on Thursday afternoon (Aug 5).
Her blue denim shorts had been removed and a pair of Nike trainers and mobile phone were found nearby. Officers suspect she had been raped at the remote beauty spot.
A stack of business cards with her work email address details of her job in the Swiss parliament as ‘chief of protocol’ were found in her jacket pocket. Police later released her passport details to identify her.
The death comes just over a month after Phuket – one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations – relaxed travel restrictions with a ‘sandbox’ scheme allowing vaccinated tourists to enter in what was hoped to be a model for reviving travel across Asia.
Officers are now investigating the suspected rape and murder of the woman, who is believed to have been dead for up to three days before she was found.
Deputy Inspector General Wuttichai Chanfai said: ‘We received the report at 1:30 pm that the body of the foreign woman was found.
‘The police and doctors that arrived at the scene found the body face down in the crevice of waterfall rocks, where her body was covered with a black sheet. Her lower body was bare.
‘From the condition of the body, we estimate that she had been dead for at least 48 hours.
‘This is a remote and isolated waterfall that only an expert would know how to reach.’
Officers said that Nicole was found at the Ao Yon Waterfall, part of the region’s national park.
She had been wearing a chain with two silver coins and she had a small bird tattoo on her waist. She was wearing a cream-coloured sleeveless top over a black bikini top.
Immigration officials said that Nicole had arrived in Thailand from Singapore on July 13. She is believed to have last been seen on Tuesday afternoon walking towards the beach.
Police have now sent her body for a post mortem examination to find the cause of death while the hunt the suspected rapist killer.
National police chief General Suwat Chaengyodsuk said he was travelling from the capital Bangkok to Phuket to oversee the investigation.
He added: ‘Phuket is a pilot model for tourism in the new Covid-19 crisis. This may affect the image of the safety of foreign tourists in Thailand.’
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Natapanu Nopakun said Swisss ambassador Helene Budliger Artieda was ‘immediately informed’ of the death and ‘expressed condolences’.
He added: ‘We are saddened. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinated with Phuket provincial authorities, police and embassy. The autopsy will be released soon.’
The Phuket sandbox scheme started on July 1 to allow fully vaccinated holidaymakers to re-enter Thailand but they would first have to spend 14 days on the island. It was hoped that it would revive the country’s tourism industry, which accounted for up to 20 per cent of GDP before the pandemic.