Myanmar migrants sentenced to death for murder of British backpackers in Thailand

KOH SAMUI, Thailand - A Thai court on Thursday sentenced two Myanmar migrants to death for murdering 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

The court ruled there was sufficient evidence to convict Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, both 22, of killing David Miller, 24, and raping then murdering Hannah Witheridege, 23, last year on the island of Koh Tao.

Andy Hall, an activist working with the defence team, said the two were found guilty on all counts. They face the death penalty but are expected to appeal.

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 met on the island while staying at the same hotel, 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 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 hinged 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.

-----

Associated Press writer Jocelyn Gecker contributed to this report from Bangkok.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • New Orleans takes down white supremacist monument

    World News CTV News
    NEW ORLEANS -- A monument to a deadly white-supremacist uprising in 1874 was removed under cover of darkness by workers in masks and bulletproof vests Monday as New Orleans joined the movement to take down symbols of the Confederacy and the Jim Crow South. Source
  • The Promise's director thinks Armenian genocide deniers are behind hostile online ratings

    World News CBC News
    Repercussions from the Armenian genocide have been felt for more than 100 years, but with the release of a new historical drama, the conflict has taken an unexpected direction — into the world of online film ratings. Source
  • State Department-run blog promoted Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort

    World News CBC News
    The U.S. State Department has removed its promotional posting about President Donald Trump's Florida resort, after a storm of ethics criticism Monday. In an April 4 blog post that was republished by several U.S. embassies abroad, Mar-a-Lago was described as "Trump's Florida estate," where he has hosted foreign leaders. Source
  • Unusual bacterial infection forces Elton John to scrap string of shows

    World News CBC News
    Elton John has cancelled more than a month of upcoming shows after contracting an unusual bacterial infection during a South America tour that left him in intensive care for two nights. John is scrapping all upcoming April and May dates of The Million Dollar Piano at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, as well as performance on May 6 in Bakersfield, Calif. Source
  • Halifax to debate motion that could change commemoration of city's founder

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX - The story of Edward Cornwallis in Nova Scotia is told two ways: The tale of a brave leader and his entourage of soldiers and settlers trying to survive in a new world, or the commander of a bloody and barbaric extermination campaign against Mi'kmaq inhabitants. Source
  • Ex-Fox News host Andrea Tantaros claims she was harassed online by Fox in lawsuit

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros says in a lawsuit she believes network operatives used bogus social media accounts to torture her after she complained about sexual harassment. She also says she believes someone hacked her computer and phone. Source
  • Russian woman shot execution-style in Oregon park in love triangle with accused killer, another woman: Prosecutors

    World News Toronto Sun
    CORVALLIS, Ore. — A woman who was found shot in the Oregon woods arrived in the United States last month from Russia and was having a relationship with the man arrested in her death, authorities said Monday. Source
  • Truck with radioactive material stolen in Mexico

    World News Toronto Sun
    MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities say a company’s pickup truck carrying industrial X-ray equipment that uses radioactive material has been stolen in northwestern Mexico. The Interior Department says the truck was stolen Sunday in Tlaquepaque, a town in Jalisco state. Source
  • Arkansas executes Jones; plans second lethal injection of night

    World News Toronto Sun
    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Two condemned Arkansas killers who admit they’re guilty but fear their poor health could lead to extreme pain during lethal injections set for Monday might become the first inmates put to death in a double execution in the U.S. Source
  • Finalists hope to become a Canadian astronaut [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The Canadian Space Agency unveiled a list of 17 finalist in the competition for two jobs as the country’s next astronauts. There were 3,772 applicants. The Toronto Sun spoke with three of the finalists: •What motivated you to apply for this position? Source