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Swede mistaken for Bangkok bomb suspect

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Swede mistaken for Bangkok bomb suspect
CCTV images of the alleged bomber. Photo: Royal Thai Police via AP
10:35 CEST+02:00
A Swedish freelance journalist has told of his shock after Thai police turned up at his door – because officers thought he resembled a suspect involved in the deadly Bangkok bombing.

Marcus Westberg, who works for Swedish travel magazine Vagabond, is visiting Thailand for a couple of weeks and was working from a room he had rented in an office building when the company's chief executive suddenly knocked on the door.

Believing it was just part of a routine security check, the Swede was escorted to a room where eight police officers were waiting to question him. They asked him to account for his whereabouts on Monday evening – the same night a deadly bomb tore through a religious shrine in the centre of Bangkok, killing 20 people and wounding more than 120 others.

“It was not until they asked to see my phone and started going through my photos that I considered that something might be wrong,” he told the AFP news agency on Friday after his experience, which took place on Tuesday afternoon, was made public in Sweden.

“They told me that I very much resembled their main suspect,” he added.

Other foreigners have found themselves in a similar predicament since the deadly blast as police scramble to locate the suspect and any accomplices he may have had.

Most appear to have come under suspicion because they share a passing resemblance to a primary suspect, seen leaving a backpack under a bench at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok's bustling shopping district just moments before the bomb went off.

A sketch of the alleged bomber released by Thai police, based on CCTV and witness descriptions, shows a young man dressed in a yellow t-shirt with dark shaggy hair, a suggestion of stubble and thick-rimmed glasses.

The same day Westberg was being questioned, and Australian model and aspiring actor called Sunny Burns posted a selfie on Instagram from inside a Thai police station. He said that he had handed himself to the police after amateur internet sleuths started posting his details online as a potential bomb suspect.

"I would never wear those clothing – I'm a fashion blogger," he told his fans on social media.

Multiple Thai news reporters also posted pictures on Wednesday evening of what they said was a dual French-Swiss national who was briefly detained on arrival at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok. He too had shaggy hair and thick glasses.


A Thai policeman patrols Bangkok with a bomb sniffing dog. Photo: AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

Westberg, who has a beard and neck-length hair, said his encounter with Thai police was “fairly relaxed” and that officers showed “politeness and professionalism” throughout the one-hour conversation.

“We agreed that the man in the CCTV footage had shorter hair and much less of a beard than I, and after joking with me that perhaps I should get a haircut before venturing outside again they thanked me for my time and cooperation and apologized for any inconvenience,” he said.

“It really was not until the next day that I began to reflect on how very differently this could have played out,” he added, particularly when he started asking himself why he specifically had come under the spotlight.

“I later found out that it had been entirely by chance: a police officer had seen me earlier on Tuesday, thought that I resembled the suspect and alerted his colleagues,” he said.

“That was a relief to find out, I will admit.”

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