Tourists walk on a beach on the Thai island of Phuket.
File photo: Tourists walk on a beach on the Thai island of Phuket. Image Credit: AFP

Bangkok: A Thai man has been jailed for life for the robbery and murder of a Swiss tourist whose body was found near a waterfall on a popular beach resort island.

The partially-clothed remains of Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, 57, were found on the island of Phuket, where she had travelled under a scheme to reopen Thailand to tourists after COVID-19 travel restrictions were eased.

A court on Phuket ruled on Tuesday that Theerawut Tortip met Sauvain-Weisskopf at the waterfall and intended to rape her, but instead killed her and stole her money, a justice spokesman said.

Theerawut confessed to murder, concealing a body and robbery.

"With all counts, the court sentenced the defendant to life imprisonment," a spokesman for the national court service said in a statement.

At an earlier hearing, Theerawut told the court he had taken around 300 baht ($9) after killing Sauvain-Weisskopf.

The murder cast a pall over the launch of Phuket's "sandbox" pilot scheme to reopen Thailand's pandemic-hit tourism sector after a year of strict travel curbs.