Man arrested over murder of six-year-old beauty pageant girl

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A man suspected in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, a six-year-old "beauty" pageant contestant, nearly a decade ago has been arrested in Thailand.

Mary Lacey, the district attorney in Boulder, Colorado, said the arrest followed several months of work. She disclosed no details about the suspect before a news conference scheduled for today.

CBS reported that the suspect is a 41-year-old primary school teacher and will be brought back to the United States this weekend. Federal officials said the man was already being held in Bangkok on unrelated sex charges.

Lin Wood, a lawyer for the Ramsey family, said in Atlanta, Georgia, that the arrest was vindication for JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, who had come under suspicion. Mr Wood said the Ramseys learned about the suspect at least a month before Patsy Ramsey's death on 24 June after a long struggle with ovarian cancer. "It's been a very long 10 years, and I'm just sorry Patsy isn't here for me to hug her," the attorney said.

Mr Wood said that he had been told that the suspect once lived in Conyers, Georgia, outside of Atlanta. He would not comment on whether the Ramseys knew him, and he said he knew nothing else about the man. The Ramseys lived in Georgia up until 1991; they moved back to Atlanta after their daughter's death.

JonBenet was found beaten and strangled in the basement of the family's home in Boulder on Boxing Day 1996. Patsy Ramsey reported finding a ransom note demanding $118,000 (£62,000) for her daughter.

The image of JonBenet, who had curly, blonde hair, in child pageants has haunted television talk shows for years, helping to feed many theories about her killer.

Investigators said at one point that JonBenet's parents were under an "umbrella of suspicion". The Ramseys insisted an intruder killed their daughter, but no one was charged.

In the months after the killing, Patsy Ramsey went before the cameras, defending herself and her husband, chastising the media and criticising local law enforcement as incompetent.

In a statement yesterday, John Ramsey said: "Patsy was aware authorities were close to making an arrest and had she lived to see this day, would no doubt have been as pleased as I am with today's development."

In 2003, a federal judge in Atlanta concluded that the evidence she reviewed suggested an intruder killed JonBenet. That opinion came with the judge's decision to dismiss a libel and slander lawsuit against the Ramseys by a freelance journalist, whom the Ramseys had named as a suspect.

Mr Wood said yesterday's arrest further vindicated his clients. "Today is additional vindication of the family, but I think knowledgeable individuals familiar with the evidence have known for many years that this family was falsely accused and that what they lived through in the last 10 years was an American tragedy."