The police in Thailand have arrested a woman in the poisoning death of a friend and charged her with premeditated murder in the deaths of eight other people.
After the arrest, the authorities quickly linked the woman, Sararat Rangsiwuthaporn, to six more deaths, and the number grew to 14 after members of the public came forward and claimed that relatives had died soon after meeting her.
She has so far been charged in nine of the deaths, but the authorities said they believed she was responsible for all 14 deaths over several years, as well as one attempted poisoning.
Ms. Sararat, 36, is the ex-wife of a senior police official, the authorities said. She was found with a bottle of cyanide when she was arrested last week, they added.
Her lawyer said that Ms. Sararat denied all the charges.
The police said they believed that Ms. Sararat killed the victims for financial reasons. She owed money to some of them; others were found with jewelry or valuables missing from their bodies, the authorities said. Many of the deceased had transferred large sums of money to Ms. Sararat before their deaths, the police said.
“It’s all about money. Money is the main cause,” Surachate Hakparn, Thailand’s deputy national police chief, said on Thursday at a news conference, adding that Ms. Sararat had borrowed around $1,500 to $7,300 from some of the victims.
The police said they believed that Ms. Sararat poisoned the people after befriending them, gaining their trust and inviting them on trips to temples or to have meals or coffee.
Local media reported that Ms. Sararat had previously been diagnosed with psychiatric problems. But Mr. Surachate said that she was “not sick to the level that she did something unknowingly. She did everything consciously. Even planned them ahead.”
“It’s like a serial killer that does it regularly, repeatedly,” he added.
In a separate news conference, he said that the police were investigating the possibility that there were more victims, urging “anybody whose relatives died without any causes and had a financial connection” with Ms. Sararat to come forward.
The 14 killings that Ms. Sararat is accused of involved people 33 to 45 years old, according to the police. The deaths go back to 2020 and occurred in a number of provinces, mostly in Thailand’s west.
The death that led to Ms. Sararat’s arrest was that of Siriporn Khanwong, 32, on April 14. The two women had traveled to a Buddhist ritual together when Ms. Siriporn collapsed on a river bank and died. An autopsy found that she had died of heart failure, with traces of cyanide in her bloodstream.
Ms. Siriporn’s mother made a police report after discovering that her daughter’s money and jewelry were missing. She suspected Ms. Sararat’s involvement because she had recently befriended her daughter, who was wealthy.
The police are examining old case files, performing autopsies and interviewing witnesses to collect additional evidence. They have interviewed Ms. Sararat’s former husband and are also investigating Ms. Sararat’s sister, who owns a pharmacy and who the police suspect supplied Ms. Sararat with cyanide.
Ms. Sararat, who is four months pregnant, was denied bail and is being detained at the Central Women’s Correctional Institute in Bangkok.