Monday 9 December 2019

Police hunt for killer of tourists

Police at a Norfolk property thought to be the home of the parents of Hannah Witheridge
Police at a Norfolk property thought to be the home of the parents of Hannah Witheridge

Police on the resort island of Koh Tao in southern Thailand stepped up their hunt for the killer of two British tourists whose bodies were found on a beach.

More than 70 police officers were deployed to the popular diving destination in the Gulf of Thailand, as the country's leaders called for a swift investigation into the brutal murders that marked a new blow to Thailand's tourism industry.

Police conducted a sweep of hotels and workers' residences for clues.

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

Defence minister Prawit Wongsuwan said police were working "to make an arrest as soon as possible".

The bodies of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were discovered yesterday morning in a rocky alcove along the shore close to the hotel where they were staying.

Both had deep wounds and gashes to the head and face that police believe were inflicted by a bloodied hoe found near the bodies.

The pair travelled to Koh Tao with friends and met each other on the island while staying in neighbouring rooms at Ocean View Bungalows, said police spokesman Major General Kiattipong Khawsamang.

"They went out to a bar and left together after 1am (Monday), according to closed circuit TV camera footage," he said.

Police have released still images from surveillance cameras in the area. One showed what police said were the two victims walking together hand-in-hand. Another image from later in the morning showed a single man walking in the same direction.

Police said the man looked Asian and was considered a prime suspect, but investigators were pursuing several leads.

"We are focusing on migrant workers because of the surrounding witnesses and evidence, including the video footage," Major General Kiattipong said.

"We are sweeping hotels, bars, businesses and residences of migrant workers on the beach to find the suspect."

Another police official, Colonel Prachum Ruangthong, said investigators were also looking for a group of bar employees and had questioned a group of foreigners as well.

"This morning we surrounded three locations, including the residences of migrant workers, to search and collect DNA," he said.

Last night, about 100 local residents gathered on Sairee Beach for a candlelit vigil and said prayers for the young British couple close to the spot where their bodies were found.

The bodies of Ms Witheridge, from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and Mr Miller, from Jersey, Channel Islands, were being sent today to forensic police in Bangkok.

The attack came amid government efforts to revive Thailand's tourism industry after a military coup in May ended prolonged, sometimes violent political protests. Martial law remains in effect in many parts of Thailand.

Koh Tao, which is about 250 miles south of Bangkok, is known as a quiet, small and scenic island.

It is a short boat ride from the better-known resort islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, the latter known for its raucous "full moon" parties that attract young travellers from Thailand and abroad.

PA Media

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