All of the travel agents from Perth who were part of the group with murdered tourist Michelle Smith were heading home on a 2.55pm flight from Phuket via Singapore. Six top police from Phuket were present at the media conference at the Katathani Phuket Beach Resort, where the travel agents, on a familiarisation trip to Phuket, were staying. The agents were not part of the media conference.
PHUKET: Three Australian women talked today about hearing screams last night as a woman from Perth was knifed and killed in the street outside a Phuket resort.
The women, all from Sydney, plan to take precautions after learning how Perth mother Michelle Smith died in a savage attempt at a bag snatch that went horribly wrong.
Police all over Phuket were today hunting the two young men who murdered the 60-year-old travel agent for nothing and wounded her companion, Lynn Tammee Lee.
Ms Lee and the other travel agents on the familiarisation tour of Phuket were checking out of the five-star Katathani Beach Resort today and heading for home.
Outside the resort today, Jenni Thuge, her mother Dianne and Rebecca Edgell, all from Cronulla in Sydney, told of their shock at hearing the piercing screams as the two women were attacked last night about 10.30pm.
''I heard someone screaming loudly and yelling 'Help, help,'' Jenni Thuge said. ''It was horrible.''
Ms Thuge turns 40 on Saturday and is on Phuket with her mother and a dozen friends for a week-long holiday celebration.
Her mother Dianne said: ''We read the news this morning and were shocked. We couldn't believe that this could happen. Phuket is such a pleasant place.''
Rebeccas Edgell said: ''We've decided to not carry bags just to play safe, although I forgot and brought mine with me just now.''
The women are determined not to let the tragedy of last night ruin their long-planned holiday. ''We read about drink-spiking in Bali and decided to come to Phuket instead.''
Her mother added: ''These things can happen in Parramatta Road. We just feel so sorry for the poor woman. But it's hard to blame Phuket.''
The mood was sombre inside the busy resort in just one corner of the lobby as the travel agents prepared to head straight back to Perth. They were reluctant to talk to the media and grieving for their companion.
Elsewhere, though, hundreds of guests enjoyed the swimming pools or headed for a walk along the Kata Noi beach. Resort managers said the Katathani is full and about 80 percent occupied by Australians.
Australian honorary consul Larry Cunningham was meeting with police and the tour group in private, with a media conference promised for 2pm local time.
Local Saitong Jankeaw, aged 40, sells popular pappaya salad close to the point where Mrs Smith collapsed to the ground last night with a long knife slash to her heart.
''My husband Mr Preeya heard the screams. We were afraid to go out to help, it was so loud and frightening. I asked him whether we should go out but he said 'Maybe it's better not to go.''
Phuket Police Colonel Boonlert On-Kang, who is heading the investigation, said today that teams of police all over Phuket were hunting for the Honda Wave motorcycle identified as the getaway vehicle.
Phuket tourism authorities fear a turn-off by visitors, especially from Australia, unless the killers are apprehended quickly.
The Tourism Authority Thailand is in ''deep shock and regret'' following the death of an Australian travel agent in Phuket, a spokesman said today.
Public relations manager Pongsak Kanittanon told e-Travel Blackboard that the tourist bureau considers agents its ''closest friends'' and will ''try their best'' to locate and arrest the two attackers.
''This incident affected a group of travel agents who we consider our closest friends, who help us to promote the destinations in Thailand,'' Mr Kanittanon said.
''As a National Tourist Office, we will closely monitor this situation and raise this incident with the higher authority in Bangkok to make sure that something like this will not happen again.''
Mr Kanittanon went on to send his deepest condolences to the family of the victim and prayed for the speedy recovery of the second agent injured during the incident.
''We sincerely hope that the local authorities will try their best to arrest these two attackers and try to bring back the confidence and safety to Phuket.''
The passing of the Australian travel agent has sent shockwaves through the entire island of Phuket and our travel industry, the TAT said.