Body of Australian former Hells Angels member found in Pattaya

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, police said Wednesday.

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.

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 Tuesday when his corpse 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, told AFP.

Police have named their chief suspect as Antonio Bagnato, a 27-year-old Australian national.

Media reported that Schneider and Bagnato had been out drinking together the night before the kidnap.

Sukthat said five people were believed to be involved in the kidnap and murder.

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 around one month and had rented a house, putting down a 130,000 baht ($3,626) deposit for six months.

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

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

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