Sunday 22 April 2018

Coroner wept as families of two medical students murdered in Borneo spoke of their agony

Neil Dalton and Aidan Brunger were knifed as they walked back to their hostel on the Malaysia island

Aidan Brunger and Neil Dalton were on a six-week medical placement
Aidan Brunger and Neil Dalton were on a six-week medical placement

The coroner wept as families of two murdered medical students spoke of their agony at their ‘brilliant’ sons stabbed to death in Borneo by ‘evil’ fishmonger.

Neil Dalton and Aidan Brunger were knifed as they walked back to their hostel on the Malaysia island in a 'totally unprovoked' attack, an inquest heard on Tuesday.

Aidan Brunger Photo: PA
Aidan Brunger Photo: PA

The Newcastle University students, both 22, died of blood loss in the early hours of August 6 last year. They were just three days from completing their six-week placements in a local hospital in the popular tourist city of Kuching.

An inquest into their deaths, at Derby and Southern Derbys Coroner's Court, heard that they were involved in an altercation with a man before the incident.

Minutes later, as they were walked home, a car pulled up and Zulkipli Abdullah, 23, leapt out and stabbed them.

Abdullah was convicted of murder in Malaysia last March and sentenced to death.

Prosecutors there claimed he had told friends he wanted to "test his strength" against bigger and taller foreigners - and after knifing the pair had sniffed his hands and said: "The blood of white men smells nice".

Coroner Dr Robert Hunter became visibly upset during the inquest after hearing heart-breaking statements from the families of the two students.

After reading the statements, he asked the families, 'Do you mind if I have a few minutes?', before adjourning for a short break.

On his return, he said: "Having listened to evidence from Mr Parr (a witness) and the knowledge of criminal proceedings, there's one verdict that I can return in respect of both Aidan Brunger and Neil Dalton and that is unlawful killing.

"There were great hopes for them as doctors. The light that they shine far outweighs the darkness that befell them on August 8. I know you will miss them terribly.

"All the good they did in their short lives will far outweigh what many people do in far longer lives."

In a joint statement by Phil and Janet Dalton, the parents of Neil, which was read to the court, they said their lives were "haunted by the thought of what he went through that night".

They said: "We can look at photos and videos and smell his clothes, but we can't touch him.

"We will miss him coming home, cooking the dinner that he liked, going shopping and the wonderful hugs that he gave.

"Neil intended to go into general practice to help hundreds of people but now this will not happen. He had the chance to impact on lives taken away from him.

"It's both tragic and ironic that had someone else has been stabbed, Neil would have been the first to help them."

Neil and Aidan had gone out for dinner with other friends in Kuching, in the Malaysian part of Borneo, and had then visited a nightclub with friends from university.

On their way home at around 4am, a car approached the two men and a man got out armed with a knife and "quite randomly" started attacking the pair.

A statement from Paul Brunger, Aidan's father, was read to the court in which he paid tribute to a "bright, determined individual".

He said: "I was a proud father and Aidan made it easy to be one.

"As a family, our focus now is to protect each other and to try and gain some positive from the evil that entered our lives.

"I want justice, not revenge, for the murder of my son."

Pathologist Michael Biggs told the court both 22-year-olds suffered "sharp force injuries" and had died from stab wounds.

In a joint statement made by the families of Mr Dalton and Mr Brunger after the inquest, they said they were "satisfied" with the conclusion.

They added: "The loss of a child is utterly horrific and we still find it hard to believe we will never see our sons again.

"Our sons made us so proud of what they achieved in their too short lives, we loved them very much, and we always will."

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