BANGKOK – Two Thai men were sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for murdering an Australian tourist they were trying to rob on one of Thailand's most popular resort islands.
Michelle Smith had traveled to Phuket with colleagues to survey the island for their travel agency. She was walking near her hotel on June 20 when two men on a passing motorcycle tried to steal her pocketbook.
Streetside surveillance cameras captured the attack: The motorcycle slowed alongside Smith and her friend, the bike passenger attempted to grab her bag, but Smith resisted.
Surasak Suwannachote, 26, jumped off the backseat of the motorcycle and stabbed Smith repeatedly before racing back onto the moving bike.
Smith, 60, collapsed and died shortly afterward.
Surasak and the motorcycle driver, Surin Tabthong, 37, both admitting to attacking Smith. Surasak told police he had intended to slash her pocketbook strap and never meant to hurt her.
Their confessions resulted in sentences of life imprisonment from the Phuket court instead of the death penalty.
Smith's traveling companion, 45-year-old Tammy Lee Lynn, suffered a gash on her arm while trying to aid Smith. She required hospitalization but was well enough to return home.
Thailand's top police officials were assigned to the case, showing the importance authorities placed on prosecuting the killers in an attempt to protect the country's tourist-friendly image.