Thai court to deliver verdict in murder of 2 British tourists on resort island

KOH SAMUI, Thailand -- A Thai court was to deliver its verdict Thursday in the high-profile murder case of two British backpackers found bludgeoned on a resort island last year, a gruesome crime that focused global attention on tourist safety and police conduct in the country.

See Full Article

Two Myanmar migrants could face the death penalty if convicted of killing David Miller, 24, and raping then murdering Hannah Witheridge, 23, last year on the island of Koh Tao.

The defendants, Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, both 22, have pleaded not guilty and say they were tortured by police to make initial confessions to the crimes. Human rights groups have repeatedly called for an independent investigation and raised concerns that the men might be scapegoats.

Miller and Witheridge's battered bodies were found Sept. 15, 2014 on the rocky shores of Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand known for its white sand beaches and scuba diving. Autopsies showed that the young backpackers, who had met on the island while staying at the same hotel, both suffered severe head wounds and that Witheridge had been raped.

The killings tarnished the image of Thailand's tourism industry, which was already struggling to recover after the army had staged a coup just months earlier in May 2014 and then imposed martial law.

From the start, the case raised questions about police competence. Investigators faced a variety of criticism, starting with their failure to secure the crime scene and then for releasing several names and pictures of suspects who turned out to be innocent. After Britain's Foreign Office expressed concern to Thai authorities about the way the investigation was conducted, British police were allowed to observe the case assembled by their Thai counterparts.

Under intense pressure to solve the case, police carried out DNA tests on more than 200 people on Koh Tao.

The two migrants were arrested about two weeks after the murders. Police said the pair had confessed to the killings and that DNA samples linked them to the crimes. Both men later retracted their confessions, saying they had been coerced by the police. Police have denied the accusations.

One of the defendants, Win Zaw Htun, testified that he was tortured, beaten and threatened so he would confess. He told the court that police handcuffed him naked, took pictures of him, "kicked him in the back, punched him, slapped him, threatened to tie him to a rock and drop him in the sea," according to defence lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat.

Zaw Lin, the other defendant, testified that he was blindfolded, beaten on his chest and told he would be killed if he didn't admit to the charges, Nakhon said, adding, "He also said he was constantly suffocated by a plastic bag that was put over his head until he passed out."

The case hinges on DNA evidence that police and prosecutors say link the suspects to the crime but the defence says is flawed.

The defence says that the DNA found on a garden hoe police say was the murder weapon does not belong to the defendants. An expert witness testified that the hoe contained DNA from two males, but not the suspects.

"The prosecution case is marked by an absence of significant evidence needed to prove the guilt of the accused for crimes they are charged with," the defence team said in a statement released this week.

About 2.5 million people from Myanmar work in Thailand, most as domestic servants or in low-skilled manual jobs such as construction, fisheries or the garment sector. Migrants are often abused and mistreated without the safeguard of rights held by Thai citizens.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • At least 16 dead in Afghanistan blast as officials try to dispose of explosives

    World News CBC News
    At least 16 people were killed Tuesday when Afghan security forces tried to dispose of a container full of explosives found in the southern city of Kandahar, officials said. Daud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor, said four security forces were among those killed. Source
  • Bride continues with wedding hours after mother dies in B.C. surfing accident

    Canada News CTV News
    A Vancouver Island wedding day took a tragic turn when the mother of the bride died in a surfing accident on the morning of the ceremony. Ann Wittenberg, a government worker from Ottawa, travelled to Tofino, B.C. Source
  • Trump the dealmaker facing challenges ahead of N.Korea summit

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Weeks before his planned North Korea summit, U.S. President Donald Trump is staring down a dealmaker's worst nightmare: overpromising and under-delivering. As the Singapore meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un draws near, the president and his allies are growing increasingly anxious about how he can score a win on the world stage. Source
  • Trump the dealmaker facing challenges ahead of North Korea summit

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Weeks before his planned North Korea summit, U.S. President Donald Trump is staring down a dealmaker's worst nightmare: overpromising and under-delivering. As the Singapore meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un draws near, the president and his allies are growing increasingly anxious about how he can score a win on the world stage. Source
  • As summit looms, North Korean media return to angry tone

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- North Korean media stepped up their rhetorical attacks on South Korea and joint military exercises with the United States, warning Tuesday that a budding detente could be in danger. State media unleashed three strongly worded commentaries slamming Seoul and Washington for the manoeuvrs and demanding Seoul take action against defectors it claimed were sending anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets across the border. Source
  • Police investigating U.S. links to Carleton University campus threat

    Canada News CTV News
    An online threat against staff and students at Ottawa’s Carleton University from a Twitter account that has posted photos of guns and bombs rattled nerves on campus before police determined the threat was not credible. Source
  • Ariana Grande sends love to fans on Manchester anniversary

    World News CBC News
    Ariana Grande shared a message of hope with fans Tuesday on the anniversary of the bombing at Manchester Arena that killed 22 people. The pop star told survivors and the families of victims that she was "thinking of you all today and every day. Source
  • Investigation continues after human remains found beside busy Toronto highway

    Canada News CTV News
    An on ramp to the busy Highway 401 on the east side of Toronto will stay closed Tuesday as police investigate the discovery of human remains. The discovery was made in a grassy ditch along the highway as Toronto police were investigating an unrelated matter on Sunday. Source
  • Australian archbishop convicted of child sex abuse coverup

    World News CTV News
    CANBERRA, Australia -- An Australian archbishop on Tuesday became the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in the world convicted of covering up child sex abuse in a test case that holds to account church hierarchy that kept silent in the face of an international pedophile crisis. Source
  • Syrian forces celebrate reclaiming of Damascus after 7 years

    World News CBC News
    Syrian government forces raised their flag over the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus on Tuesday as state media promoted what it said was the "liberation" of the last quarters of the capital from rebels and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants. Source