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.


Latest Canada & World News

  • Israeli military confirms it hit Syrian nuclear site in 2007

    World News CTV News
    TEL AVIV, Israel -- The Israeli military confirmed Wednesday it carried out the 2007 airstrike in Syria that destroyed what was believed to be a nuclear reactor, lifting the veil of secrecy over one of its most daring and mysterious operations in recent memory. Source
  • MMIW: Manitoba family says woman's death never fully investigated

    Canada News CTV News
    The family of a young Manitoba woman who died outside her home has taken their story to the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, to raise concerns that her death was never properly investigated. Source
  • From DMZ to ship at sea, Trump-Kim summit site rumours swirl

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- With just weeks to go, there's still no official word on where U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will hold their unprecedented summit. Will they pick an obvious place like one of their own capitals, or something off the wall, like a ship at sea? Or a place so obscure the curious will be sent frantically searching Google Earth? Source
  • Austin, Texas, authorities report another explosion

    World News CBC News
    Austin, Texas, authorities say emergency personnel are responding to another reported explosion, this one at a Goodwill store in the southern part of the city. Austin-Travis County emergency services tweeted Thursday evening that at least one person was injured but that details about the severity of those injuries and the explosion itself were unknown. Source
  • Latest blast not linked to package bombs, Austin police say

    World News CBC News
    Police and federal authorities say the latest explosion to hit Austin was caused by an "incendiary device" and is not related to the series of bombs that has rocked Texas' capital city. The Austin Police Department and the U.S. Source
  • Trump warns of dire consequences if Democrats win 2018 midterm elections

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump says Republicans are "going to win" in this year's midterm elections -- and warns of dire consequences if they don't. Trump made the prediction Tuesday during rah-rah remarks at the National Republican Congressional Committee's annual March fundraiser. Source
  • Mueller should be allowed to 'finish his job,' McConnell says

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday expressed confidence in special counsel Robert Mueller and said he should be allowed to "finish his job," the Senate leader's first response to President Donald Trump's recent outburst of criticism of Mueller and his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Source
  • Smoke-filled WestJet plane undergoes emergency evacuation in Nanaimo, B.C.

    Canada News CBC News
    A WestJet flight from Vancouver to Nanaimo declared an emergency after smoke filled the cabin and flight deck on its approach to the Nanaimo airport Tuesday. Passenger Robin Thacker was sitting in row 17 near the back of the Bombardier Q400 twin turboprop. Source
  • Manitoba moves to ban smoking weed at beaches, parks

    Canada News CTV News
    WINNIPEG -- Even after the federal government legalizes recreational marijuana later this year, Manitobans aren't likely to have many places where they will be allowed to use it. The Progressive Conservative government introduced a bill Tuesday that would forbid people from smoking or vaping cannabis in almost all public areas. Source
  • Alberta-Saskatchewan licence plate dispute doesn't require summit: minister

    Canada News CTV News
    REGINA - Saskatchewan's minister of trade says there is no need to meet with Alberta officials to discuss a short-lived ban on Alberta licence plates on government construction projects. Jeremy Harrison says the issue has been dealt with. Source