Wednesday 13 December 2017

Families arrive as backpacker murder trial begins

Murdered: Hannah Witheridge and David Miller
Murdered: Hannah Witheridge and David Miller

David Eimer in Koh Samui

The families of two British backpackers murdered in Thailand last year arrived for the start of the trial of the alleged killers, just as the defence revealed that new evidence supplied by the British authorities could prove their innocence.

Hannah Witheridge (23), from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and David Miller (24), from Jersey, were killed on the island of Koh Tao last September.

Their families have travelled to the nearby island of Koh Samui where Burmese migrants Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, also known as Win Zaw Htun, stand charged with murder and rape.

Before the trial began yesterday, the defence said that new evidence supplied by the British authorities could prove the innocence of the accused.

Speaking outside the Koh Samui Provincial Court, lead defence lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat said: "We have received information from Britain that shows inconsistencies in the prosecution case. It is significant evidence."

It is thought the information supplied by the UK relates to DNA found on the victims.

The lawyer added he hoped the trial would be a just one. "We hope the truth will be revealed," he said. "We hope the mechanism of justice in Thailand ... will have the same standards of international countries."

The first policeman who was called to the scene of the killings last year, and a doctor who examined the bodies of the two Britons, were the first witnesses called as the trial opened.

"I found a man's body lying on the beach with seawater lapping his body," said Lieutenant Jakrapan Kaewkao, a witness for the prosecution.

"Then I found the woman's body behind the rocks."

He added that the bodies, both of which were mostly unclothed, were several yards apart and said Ms Witheridge's bore signs of physical assault.

He also said the rocks were spotted with blood.

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, both 21, confessed to the murders after being arrested in October. They retracted their confessions later, saying they had been tortured into admitting the crime.

The pair could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The battered bodies of Ms Witheridge and Mr Miller were discovered on Sairee Beach on the morning of September 15. Ms Witheridge had been sexually assaulted and died from severe head injuries inflicted by a garden hoe. Mr Miller drowned after receiving blows to his head that likely left him unconscious. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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