BANGKOK, Thailand – A Canadian schoolteacher suspected of having sex with dozens of young boys will be held in a Thai jail for at least 12 days pending a trial on molestation charges, a court ordered Saturday.
Christopher Paul Neil, one of the world's most wanted alleged pedophiles, denied he did anything wrong following his arrest Friday at a house in Thailand's rural northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, which he rented with a Thai transvestite friend whose phone calls police had traced.
A judge in the Bangkok Criminal Court signed a police order to extend his detention to 12 days, and could move later to keep him behind bars up to 84 days. After the closed-door hearing, Neil was incarcerated at the Bangkok Remand Prison.
The 32-year-old Neil arrived in court wearing a red-striped T-shirt, baseball cap and sunglasses. Looking haggard, he said "no comment" when reporters asked if he had anything to say to his family.
"He was stressed out and could not sleep very well," said police Maj. Gen. Wimol Powintara, chief of the crimes against children, juveniles and women division. "I asked my subordinates to take care of him and give him food and drinks, so he feels better."
Neil was charged Friday with taking a child under 15 without parental consent with intent to molest, punishable by up to 20 years in prison; illegal detention, punishable by up to three years; and sexual abuse of a child under 15, punishable by up to 10 years.
Wimol said the investigation into the allegations could take a month and a trial could start soon after.
Though Neil has not spoken publicly, Lt. Col. Manat Thongsimuang said he "denied all the charges" when questioned by police Friday.
In Canada, Neil's family issued an e-mailed statement in which they said "mistakes have been made but he is still a member of our family."
"We will do everything we can to support him during this troubling time in his life," said the Neil family statement. "We are all in agreement that he should be extradited to Canada to face these allegations."
Speaking separately to reporters outside his home in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Neil's younger brother, Matthew, said the family is "relieved and we want to see this move forward to the next phase of the event."
"I would like to see him come back to Canada, but I understand that it's an international incident and I understand the need for multinational involvement," he said.
Neil's arrest ended a global manhunt that started three years ago when German police discovered hundreds of photos online showing a man — his face obscured in a swirl — having sex with Asian boys.
German police reconstructed a recognizable image believed to be Neil, and Interpol last week issued an unprecedented worldwide appeal to identify and apprehend the suspect.
Immigration counter cameras took Neil's picture as he arrived at Bangkok's international airport, confirming his whereabouts. His photo was subsequently splashed across Thai newspapers, prompting people to call police with tips.
On Thursday night, police traced a call made on a mobile phone by a 25-year-old Thai transvestite who they have said arranged some of Neil's alleged sexual liaisons with boys.
They found the Thai man in the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum. He told police he and Neil had rented a house together in neighboring Nakhon Ratchasima province, and on Friday morning the man led the five-man police team there.
When they went to the house, Neil surrendered peacefully and acknowledged he was the man they were looking for. The police used a warrant issued Thursday to place him under arrest.
The charges are based on Neil's alleged abuse of a 9-year-old boy in Bangkok in 2003, but Thai police say at least three other boys are believed to have had sex with him, and more charges may be filed.
Late Friday, Interpol called on victims of the captured suspect to come forward.
"The investigation must now continue. All victims of this man must make themselves known," the head of Interpol's police services, Jean-Michel Louboutin, said at a news conference in Lyon, France, the organization's headquarters.
Whether Neil would have to serve a sentence in Thailand if convicted is unknown. Foreigners convicted of crimes in Thailand are sometimes declared undesirable aliens after their trials and are expelled from the country.
Canadian authorities have said they will seek his extradition, but have not yet done so, according to Thai officials. Canada has sex tourism laws allowing prosecution for crimes committed overseas.
Neil lived in Thailand from 2002 to early 2004, police said. Three Thai youths contacted police Wednesday after seeing Neil's photograph on television, claiming he had paid each of them 500 baht to 1,000 baht (US$16 to US$32) to perform oral sex on him in 2003. They were aged 9, 13 and 14 at the time of their alleged abuse.
Neil had taught at various schools in Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam since 2000. Before then, Neil worked as a chaplain in Canada, counseling teenagers. He abruptly left his most recent teaching job in South Korea last week on a one-way ticket to Thailand as investigators came closer to identifying him.