Polish man nabbed for blowing up ATM with ‘balloon bomb’

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda shows the rubber ball and a hose connected to it in a press conference at the Royal Thai Police Office in Bangkok on Wednesday. Police said they found the equipment from an arrested Polish suspect believed to blast such a hydrogen-inflated ball to break a Bangkok ATM to steal some 300,000 baht on Sept 13. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Police arrested and charged a Polish man, 36, with blowing up a bank ATM in Bangkok and making off with about 300,000 baht on Sept 13.

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said on Wednesday that Gracjan Pawel Stanisewski was arrested on Chalerm Phrakiat Road in Prawet district, Bangkok, at about 7pm Tuesday.

The police chief linked the foreigner with the bombing of a Bangkok Bank ATM in front of a Tesco Lotus store on Krungthep Kritha Road in Prawet at about 4am on Sept 13. Police believe the suspect set fire to a big rubber exercise ball inflated with hydrogen to blast open the ATM.

According to Pol Gen Chakthip, witnesses saw a man riding a motorcycle from the crime scene after the explosion. Surveillance camera footage tracked the man as far as Krungthep Kritha 15/1 Road.

Searching the area, police found a large bag submerged in a pond at the end of the road. Inside the bag were a crash helmet, a pair of gloves, three jackets, two pairs of trousers, a pair of shoes, a mask, a rubber ball, a hose, 3,100 baht in cash, numerous pieces of adhesive tape – and a packet of egg custard buns. Police also found two empty packets of egg custard buns near the pond.

The buns were of the A Plus brand available only at 7-Eleven stores. They were made on Sept 9 and set for expiry on Sept 15.

Eventually, police learned that a large foreign man bought three packets of A Plus egg custard buns at a 7-Eleven store located between Krungthep Kritha 5 and 7 roads on the evening of Sept 11.

The store camera footage showed the buyer wearing trousers similar to those retrieved from the pond. The footage tracked the man as far as Ramkhamhaeng 50 Road. Police enquiries revealed that the suspect was staying with his Cambodian wife at Manuka apartment building on Ramkhamhaeng 52 Road in Bang Kapi district.

After police obtained an arrest warrant on Tuesday, the suspect was detained.

Pol Gen Chakthip said that the suspect blew open the ATM in an unprecedented fashion – by filling a large rubber exercise ball with hydrogen and setting it alight. He called the technique a “balloon bomb”.

He said the Polish man had visited Thailand three or four times. After the blast in Prawet, he travelled to  Malaysia with his wife. Later he returned to Thailand with some equipment bought in Malaysia – apparently to make similar bombs. Police found the materials in his room.

The suspect denied all charges but Pol Gen Chakthip said police had enough evidence, including the suspect’s DNA and fingerprints on materials used in the crime.

He said Thai police had asked Interpol if such an explosive technique had been reported anywhere. He believed the suspect acted alone.

Police examine the ATM blast site at a Tesco Lotus store on Krungthep Kritha Road in Prawet district, Bangkok, on Sept 13. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

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