Thursday 12 December 2019

Police have no leads in hunt for backpackers' murderers

The heartbroken family of Hannah Witheridge, comfort each other in Bangkok.
The heartbroken family of Hannah Witheridge, comfort each other in Bangkok.
David Miller
Hannah Witheridge

Tom Philips

Investigations into the horrific murders of two British tourists appear to have hit a dead-end after Thai police admitted they had no firm suspects and did not even know whether the killer or killers were still on the island.

The semi-naked bodies of David Miller, a 24-year-old University of Leeds engineering graduate, and Hannah Witheridge (23) a qualified speech therapist from Great Yarmouth, were found on Monday morning on Sairee beach on the island of Koh Tao.

Yesterday, police officials on Koh Tao claimed an arrest was imminent and said a British man had become their prime suspect. Christopher Ware and his brother James, two Britons who had been staying with Mr Miller on the island, were detained by police in Bangkok as they tried to leave the country and questioned. However, that line of inquiry appears to have hit a dead-end after DNA tests performed on samples from the victims' bodies failed to provide any link to Christopher Ware, who is a childhood friend of Mr Miller.

Yesterday, police said they were also close to ruling out the involvement of James Ware, who they said had left the island one day before the crime.

"We don't think he is a suspect because he left the island before the incident happened," Kiattipong Khawsamang, the regional police chief leading the investigation, told reporters.

Friends of the two brothers in the UK said that they did not believe either brother could have been involved in the crime.

Police now appear to be focusing on finding three men - two tall, one short - who were seen on Sairee beach near the place the bodies were found.

The group had been on the beach smoking, playing guitar and singing an "English" song in the early hours of Monday morning, investigators said.

"It is possible that they are both Asian and Western. We are looking at all possibilities," said Mr Khawsamang.

Prachum Ruangthong, the police chief responsible for Koh Tao, admitted investigators had not yet been able to identify those people. He declined to comment on whether they were considered suspects or key witnesses. Asked if that meant the police now had no suspects, Prachum Ruangthong said: "We cannot rule anyone out at the moment." He said it was "difficult" to say whether the person or persons responsible for the killings were still on Koh Tao.

Sean McAnna, a friend of Mr Miller's who had been living on the island, said the murders were "not the kind of thing that happens on Koh Tao".

"It's a shock to the island. Everyone is mourning together. It is harsh what has happened," Mr McAnna added.

Meanwhile, the country's Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha apologised last night for criticising tourists who wear bikinis in Thailand. "

Tourists think that Thailand is beautiful, safe and that they can do anything they want here. That they can put on their bikinis and go anywhere they want. I ask, can you get away with wearing bikinis in Thailand? Unless you are not beautiful?" Gen Prayuth said in a televised speech on Wednesday, sparking outrage that threatened to hit tourism."I am sorry with what I said and if it has caused any ill-feelings," Gen Prayuth said.

"I just wanted to warn tourists that we have different traditions and they have to stay on their toes." (©Daily Telegraph)

Irish Independent

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