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

  • Fidel Castro's ashes arrive in eastern city of Santiago

    World News CTV News
    SANTIAGO, Cuba -- Fidel Castro's ashes have arrived in the eastern city of Santiago, ending a four-day journey across Cuba. Thousands of people welcomed the leader's remains to shouts of "Fidel! I am Fidel!" The 90-year-old former president died Nov. Source
  • Proposed bill would guarantee coverage for B.C. first responders: MLA

    Canada News CTV News
    A B.C. MLA wants the provincial government to declare post-traumatic stress disorder a “presumptive illness” for emergency workers in order to guarantee coverage for health services. B.C. NDP MLA Shane Simpson says there is concern the British Columbia government isn’t doing enough to help firefighters, police officers and paramedics suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Source
  • Cat named 'Starvin Marvin' after surviving month inside church roof

    Canada News CTV News
    One tough kitty, nicknamed “Starvin’ Marvin,” has been rescued from beneath the eaves of a Vancouver church, where he’s believed to have been trapped for at least a month. Church Road Gospel Chapel says, over the course of the past month, it received several complaints about meowing soundsin the area but every time someone checked, the sounds could not be traced. Source
  • Syria: Thousands of Aleppo's displaced pack market shelter

    World News CTV News
    JIBREEN, Syria -- Azza Haj Hussein held out for four years in war-ravaged eastern Aleppo, moving from one bombed-out home to another and surviving mostly on bread, crushed wheat and rice for four months under a suffocating government siege. Source
  • North Dakota officials pledge 'humane' help for protesters as 'winter begins to take hold'

    World News CBC News
    The head of North Dakota's emergency management services says the state is prepared to respond to Dakota Access pipeline protesters who may need help during a winter storm or some other crisis. State Homeland Security Director Greg Wilz said it would be a "huge challenge," especially during a mass evacuation, but his office has winter shelter plans in place and various agencies are ready to respond. Source
  • 'It's just a ploy': North Dakota protesters reject help from officials to leave as winter descends

    World News CBC News
    The head of North Dakota's emergency management services says the state is prepared to respond to Dakota Access pipeline protesters who may need help during a winter storm or some other crisis. State Homeland Security Director Greg Wilz said it would be a "huge challenge," especially during a mass evacuation, but his office has winter shelter plans in place and various agencies are ready to respond. Source
  • At least 9 dead in fire at Oakland, Calif., warehouse party [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    OAKLAND, Calif. — At least nine people died in a blaze that broke out during a party in a warehouse late Friday night in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to fire officials. Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloche-Reed says at least another 13 people are unaccounted for as of Saturday morning. Source
  • Brothers in barbarity [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    The Clark brothers had bizarre tastes. And that taste was for human flesh. Hadden and Bradfield Clark were cannibals. And both were vindictive, mean-spirited monsters. “Sometimes, he couldn’t control himself. If something didn’t go his way, he’d get very upset. Source
  • 'Anybody can be a terrorist'; Ohio a hotbed for radicalization?

    World News Toronto Sun
    CINCINNATI — Authorities are investigating terrorism as a possible motive in the car-and-knife attack on the Ohio State University campus, the latest in a series of cases involving young men who apparently became radicalized in the heartland state. Source
  • Chef credited with inventing General Tso's Chicken has died

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- The chef credited with inventing General Tso's Chicken, a world-famous Chinese dish smothered in a sweet sauce that was never a staple in China, has died in Taiwan at 98. Peng Chang-kuei died of pneumonia last Wednesday in Taipei, his son, Chuck Peng, told The Associated Press. Source