Koh Tao victim attempted suicide in Bangkok, believed to be cult member: Police

Koh Tao victim attempted suicide in Bangkok, believed to be cult member: Police
A view from the south end of Koh Tao, a diving hot spot in the Gulf of Thailand
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Police are collecting evidence in the death of a 30-year-old Belgian tourist on the notorious Koh Tao resort island, including information about her mental condition and her experiences with the Sathya Sai Baba sect.

The sect's guru, Raaman Andreas, told an online tabloid that Elise Dallemange was happy and seemed normal when she left Koh Phangan, where the religious group holds activities.

Meanwhile, the Satya Sai International Organisation (Thailand), headquartered in Bangkok, told The Nation it had no links with the sect or the Belgian girl. The organisation said it had nine branches in Thailand, and none in Koh Tao.

The case was reopened following comments by Dalle-mange's mother Michele van Egten to foreign media that Thai police may have covered up the death of her daughter and that she did not believe police claim her daughter had taken her own life by hanging herself.

Pol Colonel Pumin Pumpanmuang was in the process of collecting information from the Noppawong Police Station officers about reports that Dallemange had tried to kill herself by running in front of a moving train in Noppawong district on April 4, a source said yesterday.

However, the apparent suicide attempt failed after railway police and officials managed to stop her, after which she was sent to have her mental condition checked at Somdet Chaopraya Institute of Psychiatry, according to police.

Police will also seek information from the institute about her condition today.

Woman found dead on Koh Tao Island believed to be a cult member

Dallemange had entered Thailand on a tourist visa many times, with the latest visit in March and she applied for an extension at Don Mueang Airport before her visa expired on March 30, the source said.

Police are seeking to interview Andreas, the spiritual mentor of the Sathya Sai Baba sect in Koh Phangan, after they found that she had come to Thailand to live at a yoga and tantra retreat supervised by the religious sect.

Dallemange talked with her mother via Skype on April 17, telling her that she was returning home. She departed Koh Phangan for Koh Tao, where she reportedly booked a ferry to go to Bangkok via Chumphon province. Her body was found on April 27 hanging from a tree and police concluded the death was a suicide.

Meanwhile, in an exclusive conversation with The Mirror, Andreas said Dallemange had found "peace and solitude" while travelling through New Zealand for six months prior to her stay in Thailand. "She visited us to prepare to go home. She told us she wanted to return to Belgium so she could make some money in order to come back."

Andreas told the online news portal that her behaviour was "normal" and "happy" on the day she left the sect.

"She was preparing herself to go home, and I was preparing for my visa run to leave the island, so we hardly interacted in that time.

"But I do know she was actually happy after her Skype call with her parents. Her behaviour was normal and she was definitely not sad."

In addition, police are seeking witnesses who saw Dallemange's three suitcases that she allegedly left on a ferry from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao.

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