Thai police find body of abducted Australian

BANGKOK • The body of an Australian former Hells Angels member who was abducted at gunpoint by a group of masked men in Thailand has been discovered in a woodland grave, the police said.

Mr Wayne Rodney Schneider, 37, was kidnapped on Monday by a gang of men, believed to be foreigners, outside his house in Pattaya, a seaside resort town notorious for its sprawling red light district and links with organised crime.

The police launched a frantic search after security guards saw the Australian beaten unconscious and then bundled into the back of a van which sped off.

But their search took a grim turn late on Tuesday when his body was discovered outside the city.

"He was murdered. His body was buried two metres deep in a woodland area out of town," Police Colonel Sukthat Pumpanmuang, commander of Pattaya city police, said yesterday.

The police have named the chief suspect as Mr Antonio Bagnato, a 27-year-old Australian national. Media reported that Mr Schneider and Mr Bagnato had been out drinking together the night before the kidnap.

Col Sukthat said five people were believed to be involved in the kidnap and murder and that Mr Bagnato had likely fled the country.

He added that an American national had been detained at a border crossing while trying to reach Cambodia and was being questioned as a suspect.

But Col Sukthat did not state what offence he was arrested for or how he might be involved.

Mr Schneider's body was found in the Sattahip district south of Pattaya, he said, adding that cause of death had yet to be determined and that an autopsy would be carried out.

The Australian had been in Thailand for about one month and had rented a house, putting down a 130,000 baht (S$5,118) deposit for six months.

Pattaya is renowned for its seedy underbelly but it is unusual for foreigners to be killed in such a brazen manner.

The Sydney Morning Herald said Mr Schneider had previously had run-ins with the law in Australia, linked to his membership with the Hells Angels.

The newspaper added that Australian outlaw biker gangs have built up a growing presence inside Pattaya in recent years.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2015, with the headline 'Thai police find body of abducted Australian'. Print Edition | Subscribe