Sunday, 20 November 2016

11/20/2016 05:02:00 pm
An Australian man has already been convicted of helping accused murderer Antonio Bagnato flee after the death of a suspected drug trafficker in Thailand, undermining Bagnato's testimony in court.

Bagnato could face the death penalty.

Antonio Bagnato told the Pattaya Provincial Court he feared for his life after the kidnapping of Hells Angel Wayne Schneider in December, and took a taxi then a bus to the Cambodian border.

But the ABC has learned that last year a separate Pattaya court convicted Australian Luke Cook of aiding and abetting for his role in driving the Bagnato family to the border in a private car.

Cook's three-month jail term was suspended for two years, because he pleaded guilty.

Bagnato's testimony that he caught a bus to the border was also contradicted by 22-year-old Tyler Gerard, who testified he too was in the car, along with the kickboxer's wife and daughter.

"Luke decided he would take us to Cambodia," said Gerard.

The court heard Gerard broke his collarbone in a motorcycle accident days before Schneider's murder and Bagnato helped him find a hospital.

About nine hours after the kidnapping on 30 November, Bagnato called the American and asked for his help to flee.

"He said he was scared. He helped me with my arm, he was my friend, so I helped him," Gerard told the court.

"I couldn't do much, I was pretty sick," he said, explaining that he was feverish from a skin infection and taking the strong pain medication Tramadol.

Antonio Bagnato was arrested in the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh.

Key points:

* Antonio Bagnato told a Pattaya court he fled to Cambodian border by taxi, bus
* Testimony is contradicted by prior conviction of Australian man and testimony of American man
* Trial ends, verdict expected February 7

'Big communication barrier'
The final day of hearings was marred by language problems, with important testimony not properly translated into Thai for the judges.

At times, the courtroom degenerated into farce.

When mother Tracy Gerard took the stand, the judge tried to establish how many children she had.


"How many brothers and sisters do you have?" asked the court-appointed translator.

"I have two sons," replied Mrs Gerard.

"How many?"

"Two."

"Two sons?"

"Yes"

"How many boys?"

Translation has been a major issue in this case.

Former Hells Angels drug suspect Wayne Schneider's shrine in Pattaya.

Gerard said there was a "big barrier of communication" with police and translators who asked him to sign documents in Thai and took him to houses around Pattaya, where he was photographed.

"The police took me and told me to point there — I was scared so I pointed," he said.

The photos were used as evidence against him, with Thai media reporting he had confessed to being involved.

Gerard said he was interviewed for about 12 hours without a lawyer.

"I asked for phone calls but they wouldn't give me any phone calls," he told the court.

Later, after firing their first lawyer "Mr Mo", the Gerard family insisted police take a second statement from Gerard in prison, with an independent translator.

The two defendants have been separated inside prison due to alleged threats and violence from Bagnato.

'Dancing girl' alibi
Both men face the death penalty if convicted, although executions are rarely carried out in Thailand.

The court heard from a key witness in Bagnato's defence — a Thai woman he said he was with at the time of the kidnapping and murder.

Puttharat Chanrasri, 21, described her occupation as "dancing girl" at Marine Disco in Pattaya's notorious red light district, and said she was with Bagnato from around midnight until noon on December 30.

Bagnato's wife and infant daughter were in Koh Samui at the time.

The 28-year-old kickboxer — whose fighting moniker was Tony Bang — told the court he came to Thailand to learn more about the martial art Muay Thai.

He arrived shortly after the murder of Bradley Dillon in Sydney in 2014 and is wanted by Australian police for questioning about the case.

His cousin, Diego Carbone, was arrested in August 2014 while trying to board a flight to Thailand and was charged with the murder of Bradley Dillon, who was shot five times at close range by two men.

Bagnato told the Pattaya Court his sole source of income — which he estimated at $12,000 a month — was from owning a boxing gym in Sydney.
Hells Angels run a bar in Pattaya called Angels Place.

Other reports describe him as a bodyguard for Wayne Schneider, a member of the Thai Hells Angels chapter, who was wanted by Australian police for questioning about international drug trafficking.

Former Hells Angels drug suspect Wayne Schneider was kidnapped and murdered in Thailand last year.

In Pattaya, the motorcycle club runs a bar called Angels Place, with a shrine to Schneider in the yard.

Some club members have "RIP Wayne 81" stitched on their shirt sleeves, the number a reference to the club's initials HA, the eighth and first letter of the alphabet.

Outside court on Friday, a representative of the Bagnato family rejected reports that Bagnato had named Hells Angels members or had claimed the club was responsible for Schneider's death.

Thai soldiers were deployed around the court this week, after a group of Hells Angels members were detained on court premises during a previous hearing.

The trial has now finished and a verdict will be handed down February 7.

Source: ABC

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