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Police hunt for murderer as backpackers hacked to death on idyllic island

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Police examine the scene on the beach on the island of Koh Tao, where the bodies of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were discovered. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

Police examine the scene on the beach on the island of Koh Tao, where the bodies of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were discovered. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

Reuters

David Miller and Hannah Witheridge

David Miller and Hannah Witheridge

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Police examine the scene on the beach on the island of Koh Tao, where the bodies of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were discovered. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

Police in Thailand are hunting a man in connection with the brutal murder of two backpackers on the Thai holiday island of Koh Tao.

The two British backpackers were hacked to death in a brutal attack on a popular holiday island.

University graduate Hannah Witheridge, 23, from Great Yarmouth and 24-year-old David Miller, from Jersey, were attacked with a garden hoe as they walked back to their resort following a late night beach party on the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.

Miss Witheridge, who was awarded a degree in Education from the University of East Anglia, before undertaking post-graduate work at the University of Essex, had only been on the island for three days when she was killed.

She had been travelling with three female friends and only met Mr Miller, who was travelling with two male companions, hours before they were murdered. Their semi-naked bodies were found in the early hours of yesterday morning.

On hearing news of the brutal killings, locals on the normally peaceful island blockaded the ferry port to prevent the killer or killers from escaping.

But Thai police said they were keen to speak to one of the travelling companions of the male victim, who disappeared shortly after the murder.

"We need to talk to this man as a matter of urgency," said a spokesman for the Thai police.

Detectives said the man is believed to have left the island on the first available ferry to the mainland and was thought to be heading for Bangkok.

Police also temporarily detained another friend of the victim after it emerged that he had injuries to his hands, but he was released after providing what the police described as a "satisfactory explanation".

Police Colonel Songsak, who was brought in from the neighbouring island of Koh Phangan said: "We wish to interview [the victim's] friend, but we cannot give out his details at this stage. His name has been circulated. They all arrived together on August 25th. We need to talk to him as a matter of urgency."

Colonel Songsak said the female victim had arrived on Koh Tao with three friends on September 12th and had met the other group just three days ago.

The bodies of the couple were found in a rocky enclave which separates Sairee Beach, the island's most popular, and another small beach, less than 100 yards from where they were staying in the Ocean View resort.

It is understood both groups were among around 50 people who attended a beach party on Sunday night.

Police were checking closed circuit TV footage at nearby restaurants, hotels and shops for clues and said they could be seen leaving a bar together around 1am.

Local police chief, colonel Prachum Ruangthong said: "The man was chopped in the back and on the side of his head, while the woman was chopped in her face. It's very gruesome."

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "We are aware of the death of the two British nationals on September 15 on the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.

"The embassy is urgently seeking information from the local authorities and consular staff stand ready to provide assistance to friends and family at this tragic time."

The deaths have come as a shock to tourists and residents on the island, who include a tight-knit community of ex-pats working as dive instructors.

Following the discovery, the Regional Police Chief, General Panya Mamen, immediately flew to Koh Tao to urge his officers to find the killer quickly.

While the police have expressed an interest in tracing the travelling companions of, Mr Miller, most murders of foreigners in Thailand are committed by locals. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent