American man tries to DHL infant body parts from Thailand to US: Police

Heavily-tattooed, California Ryan Edward McPherson, seen in this image, has been interrogated by Thai police in the baby body parts case. --PHOTO: THE NATION\ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Heavily-tattooed, California Ryan Edward McPherson, seen in this image, has been interrogated by Thai police in the baby body parts case. --PHOTO: THE NATION\ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BANGKOK - An American man tried to ship infant body parts to the United States but the delivery was stopped after staff from the courier company discovered the parcels, said police in Thailand.

Police were called to the DHL service centre in Pathum Thani province on the outskirts of Bangkok on Saturday after workers found the body parts inside parcel boxes as they were scanning shipments for delivery, CNN reported.

"We have talked with an American who was trying to send the parcels to the USA, but we could not press any charges on him and we are not quite sure which laws we can apply to him," CNN quoted police colonel Adisorn Semsawat, chief of Bang Pongpang police station, as saying.

The Nation newspaper identified the man as Ryan Edward McPherson, 31, from California. The newspaper, quoting a police source, said he had left for Cambodia but promised to return to Thailand on Nov 25 and cooperate with police.

He was reportedly visiting Thailand for the first time and a tuk-tuk, or a three-wheel motorcycle, took him from Siam Centre for a ride. He said he was taken to a place he could not remember where he found the human fragments and decided to send them to some people in the US "just to spook them for fun".

DHL staff member Anirut Ninla, 43, told Bangkok Post that the three parcels were picked up from the DHL outlet at MBK shopping mall with items inside being declared as "toys". He alerted the police after an x-ray inspection found irregularities.

The first parcel contained the partial head and face of an infant, said the newspaper. The second parcel had an infant's right foot cut horizontally into three pieces and the third parcel had two pieces of human skin with Thai magic tattoos known for danger protection, along with a human heart, according to the report. The organs were immersed in formalin in clear acrylic boxes.

CNN reported that the American paid about US$100 (S$130) for them.

Bangkok Post, however, said there were two foreign men involved and they were summoned by investigators late on Saturday night.

The men reportedly said they bought the infant parts from a night market at Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge) in Thon Buri district but could not remember the directions to the shop. 

As the police did not find anything suspicious, the two men were released early Sunday morning without being charged.

Bangkok Post said police believe the baby organs may have been stolen from a medical or academic institute which had them for study purposes. The way the flesh was cut and preserved showed it was done by experts. Police were checking with hospitals to see if preserved human organs had been stolen and were also trying to locate the shop.

Some Thais practise black magic and believe that supernatural power comes from infant body parts if the rites are performed by monks or sorcerers. They believe that having the items provide protection and business success and can ward off bad luck. Such black magic rituals are also observed among some Chinese communities.

This is not the first time infant remains have been found in Thailand. In 2012, police discovered six human foetuses which had been roasted and covered in gold leaf as part of an apparent black magic ritual, Agence France-Presse reported.

In 2010, more than 2,000 illegally aborted foetuses were recovered at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, CNN said. The smell of decay led investigators to the Phai-nguern Chotinaram temple in central Bangkok where they discovered the foetuses.

Three people were arrested, including two morticians who were charged with hiding the bodies.