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Italian Denis Cavatassi, accused of murdering partner Luciano Butti

Phuket Murder: Italian Partner Accused of Butti Killing

Saturday, March 19, 2011
PHUKET police have arrested an Italian man and three Thais over this week's shooting murder of Phuket-Phi Phi restaurateur and businessman Luciano Butti.

Three more Thais, including the shooter and his brother, remain wanted men at large.

Police say the Italian - Denis Cavatassi, 42 - paid the Thai men 150,000 baht to have Mr Butti killed. It was decided the murder had to take place on Phuket because Phi Phi was too small.

The Italian pair were partners in a Phi Phi business, one of several involving Mr Butti that included the Italiano restaurant, the Marine Hotel and the Maya guesthouse.

Initially the plan was to kill him on the road near the Versailles in Surin, on Phuket.

However on the night of the shooting, Mr Butti agreed to meet for a dinner at Ao Por on Phuket's east coast, eventually became suspicious, turned his motorcycle and was heading back towards Phuket City when his killers fired.

Prasong Yongjit, 32, who confessed to police, was the long-time trusted manager of the three Phi Phi businesses. He and Mr Kavatassi were arrested on Phi Phi about noon yesterday.

Two alleged accomplices, Somchai Klasuek, 26, and Rachanon Sawaree, 23, friends of Khun Prasong, were arrested later on Phuket.

Still being hunted are Suchart Nimla-or, the alleged shooter, his brother, Eakachai, the alleged motorcycle rider, and Ponlawat Jongrak, who allegedly found the pair for Khun Prasong.

The brothers, from Phang Nga, have worked in Thailand's troubled deep south, where killings are a regular occurrence.

The murder of Mr Butti had been planned for a week, officers told a media presentation at Phuket Police Headquarters in Yaowarat Road, Phuket City, today.

On Tuesday night, the Thais met at Surin then three rode in a white Peugeot to the Dara Hotel in Phuket City, where Mr Butti was staying. In the car were Khun Prasong, Khun Somchai and Khun Suchart.

Mr Butti, who enjoyed riding, rode his motorcycle behind the car to the spot in eastern Phuket where they had decided to eat and talk.

At some point, police said, Mr Butti became suspicious, turned his motorcycle around, and headed back towards Phuket City.

He did not know there were riders on two other motorcycles - Khun Eakachai on a green Honda Wave and Ponlawat and Rachanon on the other.

The car stopped once it was realised they had ''lost'' Mr Butti. Khun Suchart jumped from the car onto the motorcycle ridden by his brother. They pursued Mr Butti, and when they caught up, Khun Suchart fired four shots into his body.

After the shooting, police said, the men split up and went in different directions.

Details of Mr Cavatassi's motive for the killing remain unclear because, unlike the three Thais, he has not confessed.

Mr Butti, a well-known and liked businessman who commuted between Phi Phi and Phuket and who wrote a book after narrowly surviving the 2004 tsunami, was concluding a divorce from his second wife, a German woman. He had one son, aged 12, as well as a daughter from a previous marriage.

The presentation today was overseen by Major General Korkiat Wangwarachart from Region 8 police and Phuket Police Commander Major General Pekad Tantipong.

An elaborate wall chart explained the connections between the killers.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


Police say the Italian - Denis Cavatassi, 42 - paid the Thai men 150,000 baht to have Mr Butti killed

Jeez - 150k, apparently shared between no less than 6 Thai men who were accomplices to this murder.

Life is unbelievably cheap :(


Posted by Simon Luttrell on March 19, 2011 12:24


You get what you pay for.

In this case killing the guy was the easy part but they did a poor job getting away with it.

Posted by Rob on March 19, 2011 18:07


Well done, Phuket Police!

Posted by theodor on March 19, 2011 18:30


Good work, Phuket police. But the three kids without helmets got away!!!


RIP Mr. Butti, one death reminding us all, which company one should look for. I hope nobody is planning killing me right now...

Posted by Lena on March 19, 2011 20:37


Denis Is Innocent !!! trust me..I know him so much.. it's impossible

Posted by gianmario on March 20, 2011 17:04


Denis is innocent .... have you ever seen a creditor kill his debtor? .. and also pays for the assassins!

Posted by gianmario on March 20, 2011 17:18


I've known Denis for almost 30 years and I am sure he didn't do it!
It is completely out of character...he must have been framed!

Posted by Luca on March 20, 2011 18:41


he didn't do it, I am sure...Forza Denis

Posted by Dante on March 20, 2011 21:56


well i was one of his staff and he was a good guy i have never meet befor what happened to him we are think it not true you can come visit his restaurant and ask from all staff no one think he done this thing.....what he do he just help and helping us all the time we work and spend time with him for year and year apart so if you read from newspaper in one day just from one page and you believe that???? how stupid you are??? he is INNOCENT did you hear that from his staffs

Posted by koi on March 21, 2011 00:07


They made a TERRIBLE MISTAKE, I know him, he is a good guy.
I really think that it happens because he's italian and he lives working in a foreign country.
I hope everything will end soon..

Posted by Anonymous on March 21, 2011 03:28


Denis is innocent!!!! i m the best friend and a talked with him three day before murder, from italy, was everything ok, with business, and with partners. Phuket police please, you are in the wrong way you need to find the good one.

Posted by daniele on March 21, 2011 06:51


I know Denis, he would not even kill a fly! He manages a restaurant on PP, is happily married to a nice Thai lady and they are going to have a baby girl in few months. Why should he risk everything for such dumb revenge? Come on, Thai cops, find the real master-mind!

Posted by Peppo on March 21, 2011 17:57


Free Denis Now !!! He is a very good Man!

Posted by Massimo & Cinzia on March 22, 2011 01:35


Denis is innocent! I'm willing to bet on it! Furthermore, leaving aside my personal belief (though I've known Denis for more than 30 years and this is worth more than the poor evidence gathered by the Thai Police), there are neither objective evidence that he is guilty nor a believable motif for having committed such a crime. I'm therefore confident that the Police will keep investigating and finally find the right culprit!

Posted by Francesca on March 24, 2011 03:55


We Know Denis very well and we are sure: he is innocent. He is a beautiful, generous and honest person. It's impossible. Free Denis! Un grande abbraccio Denis. La tua innocenza verra?? fuori. Ti siamo vicini e ti pensiamo sempre con affetto

Posted by ALDO E DERN on March 24, 2011 04:51


Denis paid for the killers to stay at his hotel one week before the murder so they could plan it. I think he did it.

Posted by Anonymous on March 24, 2011 13:19



Posted by ceciolia capanna on March 24, 2011 17:56


Aldo E dern

He is a beautiful person? Ok....Of course he is innocent then!

Posted by christian on March 25, 2011 10:09


I think the thai police is making a terrible mistake and has done a horrible job. Come-on guys, arresting 4 people and identifying another 2 and solve a case of murder in less than 24 hours? Who can ever believe in this efficiency!? It's orrendous they keep Denis, a wonderful person who has made the only mistake of landing 30,000 bat I'm saying 30.000 bat and not 150.000 to one of his staff who claimed to being in real need of financial help. Free Denis now, right now! He's innocent.

Posted by Anonymous on April 1, 2011 14:48


Thailand was my dream country but if this is how they treat innocent people, I will never get my foot there again and will not suggest to my customers (I'm a travel agent) to get there anymore. It's horrible what they are doing to Denis. Free him now, he's innocent.

Posted by giuliana on April 2, 2011 03:23


Is this a kidnapping or an arrest? How can the police keep an innocent in jail just because somebody has accused him and they have no proofs whatsoever to support the accuse?? It is horrible these things still happen nowadays! Denis out of jail now! He's clearly innocent. You have no proofs and he had no motivation to do such a horrible thing. This nightmare has to finish now.

Posted by Jon on April 2, 2011 03:33


do you really think a man could pay someone through bank for a murder? Police must investigate on this case with professional skills. At moment an innocent is into a jail without any reasonable evidence! free Denis

Posted by Santo Russo on April 2, 2011 04:35


denis is innocent, police make very bad and fast work, i hope anything can finish now, i know denis very well, it is impossible, common police phuket work well and serious, a innocent men pay for your mistake!!!!!!!! free now denis

Posted by giuliano on April 2, 2011 11:11


Knowing Denis for 10 years there is no way that he is guilty and the sooner this travesty of justice is sorted out and the guilty person/persons apprehended, the sooner Denis and his family can get on with their lives...

Posted by Johnny Wilkinson on April 2, 2011 12:30


Foolish proof to say Denis is guilty!!! This is Thailand... everything easy to do.. they don't care, just wanna close this case as soon as possible.. I think someone powerful behind this murder, and that because their business in phi phi island is very tempting. Come on people, just open yours eyes!!!

Posted by Farang on April 2, 2011 12:49



Posted by Nunzio Fiale on April 2, 2011 15:17


Free Denis! He's innocent!!!

Posted by Barbara on April 2, 2011 15:19



Posted by Cesare bruni on April 2, 2011 18:36


The police was certainly wrong, freed Denis is innocent. Europe is watching you!

Posted by mauro DB on April 2, 2011 20:24



Posted by Anonymous on April 3, 2011 01:47


It's crazy to think that a man can do a bank transfer to hire a killer! Free Denis, it's innocent!

Posted by Luciana on April 3, 2011 03:40


Free Denis! He's innocent!!!

Posted by grazia on April 3, 2011 05:50


Europe is watching? Dont think so..Maybe some local newspaper in Italy is watching. Besides, every time a crime of this magnitude takes place, there are always a chorus of people that are "shocked" and "cant believe it" that a person they know is involved. Just because you know someone for 10 years or whatever that does NOT mean the person is incapable of a crime like this. Note to the fanclub: Most people charged with hiring hitmen are not raging, violent lunatics. That kind of people usually end up committing violent crime themselves, and do not hire hitmen.

Posted by christian on April 3, 2011 06:20


Denis is innocent! Where is the evidence for all the allegations?? Please leave innocent people out of this and find the true murderers of this awful crime. Let Denis go free and let him and his family get on with their lifes.

Posted by Madelon on April 4, 2011 22:55


Denis is innocent! Police give him the possibility to prove his innocence....he has the right as human person!

Posted by Anonymous on April 5, 2011 00:06


Free Denis now!! He's innocent!!
It's a mistake...he should have the right to defend himself.

Posted by Cristina on April 5, 2011 06:07


Denis is innocent!!! Why you keep him in jail? Everybody wants Denis free, because he is innocent!!!! he is a good person he isn't able to do something to anyone. Leave him free.

Posted by daniele rossi on April 5, 2011 06:16


All Your friends ARE WITH YOU!

Posted by Donatella on April 5, 2011 14:46


Denis is innocent

Posted by marialuigia on April 5, 2011 15:02


I know Denis, I' m ready to bet on his innocence! Free Denis or Italian Tourists will no more come in Thailand!

Posted by donato on April 5, 2011 18:09


In thai life must be very cheap.... danis is innocent... free denisssss!!!!

Posted by Astrid on April 5, 2011 19:23


Denis is innocent, the proof is the money (150,000 baht ) that he gave to another person by bank!I t's only a short way to solve the case!

Posted by Valeria on April 5, 2011 19:46


I've known Denis for more than 30 years. and I'm sure: he is innocent. He is a beautiful, generous and honest person. It's impossible. Free Denis!

Posted by Renata on April 5, 2011 19:55


..Free Denis!! He is Innocent!!....

Posted by Barbara on April 7, 2011 04:31


If this is the Thailand i will never get my foot there again .... an innocent man in prison in horrible conditions .... i'm disgusted!!

Posted by Paolo on April 8, 2011 02:23


Come on editor i wrote a comment on this subject...why have you not posted's bad enough you have allowed all these repetitive blind defences of the accused, probably from one or two people under different aliases...But restricting the odd view opposing theirs is out of order... how many other views suggesting the guy is guilty have you not posted...

Posted by Steve on April 8, 2011 09:44

Editor Comment:

The postings about this man's innocence are a waste of time, but you can't say he is guilty unless you have evidence of his guilt, and if you have evidence of his guilt, you should pass it on to the police. We've already published the police case, yet he remains innocent until a court decides otherwise. So the 'innocent' posters are at least accurate - for now.



Waste of time or no waste of time they are attempting to taint the facts as known and you are allowing that to happen.
Currently the evidence is pointing overwhelmingly at the accused, so anyone who is blindly suggesting otherwise is lying because they most certainly don't know the guy is not guilty. At least anyone suggesting the guy is or may be guilty is doing so backed up by the evidence as known and not just ''oh he was a nice guy, i know he didn't do it''.
When you allow these en masse blind defences just remember a guy has been murdered and they are blindly defending the guy the evidence is showing is most likely responsible for that.. So the least you can do is allow those who want to point that out to the blind defenders the opportunity to do so...

Posted by Steve on April 9, 2011 07:41

Editor Comment:

To treat the 'Denis is Innocent' campaign seriously is precisely what the campaigners want. A Thai court will decide innocence or guilt. The rest is cant.


It's a shame that an innocent is in prison and the real murderer is still free! Free Denis!

Posted by FraRegina on April 10, 2011 04:55


denis is innocent! get him free....

Posted by giulia on April 11, 2011 00:13


Steve, apart from the thing that evidences are absurd.. in which world you would pay killers for their job via bank transfer, where everything is recorded? Even a film producer would reject this idea cos it's the most stupid thing in the world and has no sense whatsoever! Police can't hold a man in jail for over a month and refuse to set him free twice just because someone said he's guilty. Simply words as evidences? Fair enough! Loads of people have written over here loads of things about him as well as a member from his restaurant's staff! Therefore, it's about 30 people against 4!!! He's still in jail though and, still, evidences that are supposed to bind him are absurd.
I invite the local police to go much deeper and to consider real things they have about him!

Posted by Carlo on April 11, 2011 05:11



To suggest the evidence is flawed because it is too obvious is nonsensical...

This is real life not some book or some film where everything is planned out in extreme detail by a criminal mastermind...In reality murders are predominantly carried out by idiots or people driven by emotion and not thinking straight..

The reason murderers get caught is because they make mistakes, usually very silly ones, partly because they are not expecting to get caught so they are not expecting the things that incriminate them to come to light....

If you want to taint this piece of evidence you would be better off making up another story for why someone with a grievance with the victim would be transferring 150k in to the account of one of the confessed murderers. Then once you have done that explain why coincidentally the confessed murderer who just happened to have 150k transferred into his account from the accused would make up a story that the accused paid him to kill the victim...

Or maybe just get as many people as you can to write what a nice guy he was, so he must be innocent. And continue to accuse the police and the killers of being liars and the evidence of being falsified....that's much easier than facing up to the evidence logically.

Posted by Steve on April 11, 2011 07:06


steve is only 30 k,not 150k
staff like borrow money from owner, is logical
me too i'm owner,and often staff borrow money to me
do you know denis?i just know he very well and i see he 2 day ago and confirm that khun saa kill butti, no involve from denis, i hope the true can come out and khun saa can confirm all to the judge,so the bad work of police can be very clear,just strong denis, we are with you and wait about the true

Posted by giuliano on April 11, 2011 12:49


steve,please,before speak, do you know well about details of this story? if everybody defend denis will be a valid reason, not for sport..........please inform about denis and details of this story and later maybe you can said what you think about.......we are all very closed to denis and we know well about this story and the bad work of police at this time

Posted by giuliano on April 11, 2011 12:55


30k, 50k, 150k, The figure is irrelevant, the point is the confessed murderer has said the money was for arranging the murder of the victim, not an advance of wages as you are trying to convince yourself.. What other reason would the confessed murderer have for killing the victim and going to such lengths to plan it and carry it out. Also why would he bother lying about other's involvement when he has already confessed to the murder...

The accused had issues with the victim he put an unusual amount of money in the confessed murderers account and the confessed murderer has said he was asked to murder the victim by the accused... too many coincidences i'm afraid...

Posted by Steve on April 12, 2011 00:48


Steve i don't know where you come from, but in normal state, when you put someone in jail you have to be sure his guilty. why the police don't listen the conversation about "Saa and Danis' by cell.?So before give an opinion, you have to know fact, ok. I invite all the italian people don't go in thailand because without reason you can go in jail.

Posted by daniele rossi on April 13, 2011 02:54



They obviously are convinced he is guilty that is why they have jailed him.
I think they know more about the case than you do, as they are listening to all those involved and the evidence connected to them, not just your friends denials...

True if he were in my country or yours it's possible but unlikely he may have been bailed...But as another case involving one of my own countrymen who has recently murdered an American gentleman in Phuket has shown, it is likely farang who murder in thailand if free to do so will likely find a way to leave thailand to avoid facing justice...So i don't think it strange at all that a murder suspect is being kept in jail...

I think most Italian people that don't know the accused will be more interested that the person/s responsible for the murder of Mr Butti are brought to justice, whether they are Thai or Italian and not just blindly defending the main suspect just because he is Italian...

Posted by Steve on April 14, 2011 00:51



My thoughts are with him and his family.
Stay strong


Posted by mara on May 7, 2011 03:36

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