Wednesday 11 December 2019

Families pay tribute to murdered tourists as police release CCTV of suspect

Police released CCTV footage of the man they want to speak to in connection with the "gruesome" murder of two tourists

The families of two young Britons found murdered on a Thai island have paid tribute to them as police continue the search for their killer.

The bodies of David Miller, 24, from Jersey, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, were discovered semi-naked on a beach in the divers' paradise of Koh Tao yesterday.

Thai officers work near the bodies of two British tourists
Thai officers work near the bodies of two British tourists
Thai officers walk near the bodies of two British tourists

Ms Witheridge was described by her family as "a beautiful, intelligent, loving young woman who poured joy into the lives of all who knew her", while Mr Miller was a "hard-working, bright and conscientious" young man who would be "sorely, sorely missed".

In a statement, Ms Witheridge's family said: "She was selfless and caring and made each and every day that little bit more wonderful.

"Our family are utterly devastated and shocked by what has happened to our beautiful Hannah. To lose her in the way that we have is beyond comprehension.

"We are heartbroken and no words can possibly describe how we feel. As such, we would be extremely grateful to be left in peace while we come to terms with our loss."

Mr Miller's family said: "David was an artist by temperament, so talented. He had a creative eye that he carried with him through life and in his degree.

"He was hard-working, bright and conscientious, with everything to look forward to.

"David was very giving to his family and friends and we all adored him. He will be sorely, sorely missed."

Mr Miller finished studying civil and structural engineering at Leeds University in June, where he was on course to achieve a first-class degree.

He left Jersey on July 18 to undertake a six-week work placement as part of a scholarship at a mining company in Australia before travelling on to Thailand for a break with a close friend.

He had been due to leave Thailand today, and was looking forward to spending more time travelling in south east Asia before returning home to complete his master's degree.

The bodies of the two Britons were found on a rocky section of the shore around 100 yards from the scene of a beach party.

Police said they sustained horrific injuries, with both suffering deep wounds to the head and face. A bloodstained garden hoe, believed to be the murder weapon, was found nearby.

More than 70 Thai police have been questioning migrant workers and tourists on the island, visiting hotels, bars, homes and businesses as they search for the killer.

Major General Kiattipong Khawsamang told reporters: "Now police have collected evidence at the scene, such as a hoe, which was used to attack the victims.

"We also have clothes, shoes that belonged to the victims, as well as other evidence. Now we are processing it all."

Initial reports suggested police were looking for a British backpacker, but police said they were focusing on migrant workers.

British consular officials from the Thai capital Bangkok have travelled to the island to liaise with local officials.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Bangkok said: "We are not aware of any information to suggest that any British national is currently a suspect in the case. The investigation is a matter for the Thai authorities.

"The consul from Bangkok travelled to Koh Tao today to liaise with the local police and authorities and to register our strong interest in the case ... Consular staff are providing assistance to friends and family at this tragic time."

Mr Miller and Ms Witheridge travelled to Koh Tao with friends and met each other on the island while staying in neighbouring rooms at the Ocean View Bungalows resort, at the southern end of the main Sairee beach on the island's west coast.

They are not thought to have been a couple, but had met recently on the island.

Fellow travellers and local people gathered last night for a candlelit vigil in memory of the two young Britons.

The University of Leeds also paid tribute to Mr Miller, saying: "Our thoughts are with David's family and friends, and our support services are in place to help any students and staff through this difficult time.

"David had just completed his third year of civil and structural engineering and was about to start the fourth year of the MEng course. He was an excellent student and clearly had a promising career ahead of him."

According to her Facebook page, Ms Witheridge had a keen interest in horses and lived in Colchester, Essex.

She graduated from the University of East Anglia in 2012 after finishing an education studies degree and began a master's degree in speech and language therapy at the University of Essex last year.

There are fears the murders could badly damage tourism in Thailand, which has already been affected by the country's deep political crisis and the introduction of martial law.

Prime minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha said: "This should not have happened in Thailand. It will affect our image in the eyes of international countries."

He also urged tourists to be conscious about their safety in the country, telling reporters: "In their countries, (foreigners) can travel wherever they want, so they thought it is safe, but in our country, there are still problems.

"There are different types of people, so they have to be careful. Those related must warn them, and this incident has to be investigated because Thai people won't tolerate this."

Koh Tao's bright coral, sharks and rays are popular with divers, hikers enjoy jungle walks and the bar scene "rages on until dawn", according to the Lonely Planet travel guide.

PA Media

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