Nicole Sauvin-Weisskopf, 57, arrived on the island on July 13 and her body was found on August 5 by a local resident.
Police said at a press conference on Sunday that a Phuket man, Theerawat Thortip, admitted robbing and killing Sauvin-Weisskopf.
Thortip was introduced at the conference and told reporters: “I regret everything I have done. I confessed to the police. I also want to apologize to the Thais and the family of the deceased.”
Police said the man, who phoned the press conference, was in a room with his lawyer and wife while addressing the media. CNN could not reach Thortip’s lawyer, but his wife of 12 years confirmed to CNN that he had confessed to the murder.
Forensic experts are still investigating the cause of Sauvin-Weisskopf’s death. She was found dead near Ton Ao Yon Waterfall, a remote Phuket destination that sometimes attracts tourists.
Police allege Thortip took 300 Thai baht ($ 9) from the victim and say it was used in part to buy illegal drugs. âI lost my job due to Covid-19 and I still don’t have a job. My income is so small,â Thortip said during the briefing. Thortip and his wife have a child, aged 11.
The program allows people to travel freely on the island, but to qualify they must spend at least two weeks in Phuket. The island’s economy is driven by tourism, which almost came to a halt during the pandemic.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued a statement on Friday expressing condolences to the Swiss government and Sauvin-Weisskopf’s family, adding that local forces investigating the death had been ordered to report to the office of the Prime Minister to update him on their probe.