US man charged over Aus bikie's murder

  • 04/12/2015

A 21-year-old American man has been charged with the kidnap and murder of an Australian former Hells Angels member whose body was found buried in a shallow grave in Thailand.

Wayne Rodney Schneider, 37, from NSW, was kidnapped on Monday (local time) by several men outside his rented house in Pattaya, a sleazy Thai resort town renowned for its go-go bars and links with organised crime.

Security guards saw the Australian being beaten unconscious and then thrown into the back of a van.

A day later, police discovered his corpse in a hastily dug grave in woodland outside of the city.

Thai police on Wednesday arrested 21-year-old American Tyler Gerard at an immigration checkpoint as he attempted to cross into Cambodia.

Gerard was among a list of suspects wanted in connection with the kidnapping of Schneider.

The American was charged with joint murder and kidnap, which carries a life sentence, Pattaya's police commander Sukthat Pumpanmuang said on Friday.

The man "confessed" to driving the vehicle, but "said he did not kill the victim ... and did not know anything about the murder," Sukthat added.

Also detained at the same time as Gerard was the Thai wife of the man police named as their chief suspect, Antonio Bagnato, a 27-year-old Australian national, who was believed to have been out drinking with the dead man shortly before his disappearance.

Bagnato is also a Sydney bike gang member and was Schneider's partner in a Sydney fitness business, the Bangkok Post reports.

Bagnato "has probably fled the country", Sukthat said, adding an examination of the victim's body showed his neck was broken.

Three other suspects are being hunted by police.

The Australian victim had been in Thailand for around a month at the time of his murder.

Thai police are yet to establish a motive but have ruled out a link to drug dealing.

Pattaya, which is 150 kilometres south of Bangkok, is notorious for its racy nightlife and seedy underbelly.

Schneider had been living in Pattaya for about a month and shared his villa with Amad Malkoun, a former head of Australia's criminal Comancheros biker gang, police said.

Schneider is reported to have had a long criminal history. Six years ago, he was arrested for drug trafficking, obstruction of justice and involvement in the theft of AU$200,000 worth of chips from a Melbourne casino.

Thai authorities have previously drawn links between Australian bikie gangs and local drug traffickers and other illegal businesses.

The motive for Schneider's kidnapping and murder remains unclear.