Thai­land Brit mur­der sus­pects ‘still wait­ing’ on ev­i­dence re­view

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

Lawyers for two Myan­mar na­tion­als ac­cused of mur­der­ing a pair of Bri­tish hol­i­day­mak­ers in Thai­land said Sun­day they have “deep con­cerns” that they will be un­able to in­de­pen­dently re­view foren­sic ev­i­dence be­fore the trial starts.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun have pled not guilty to the mur­der of 24-year-old David Miller and the rape and mur­der of Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the Thai is­land of Koh Tao in Septem­ber.

The pair’s de­fense team has long voiced con­cerns over the qual­ity of the Thai po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, claim­ing the crime scene was con­tam­i­nated and that their clients were tor­tured into con­fess­ing.

In April a court on the nearby is­land of Koh Sa­mui ap­proved the de­fense’s re­quest to in­de­pen­dently an­a­lyze the ev­i­dence against their clients, in­clud­ing DNA and phys­i­cal ev­i­dence at the crime scene such as blood stains and a shirt.

But the lead lawyer on the de­fense side said his team had been told by the court that they would only find out whether they can ac­cess the ev­i­dence on July 8 — the first day of the trial.

“The de­fense lawyers ur­gently need both cru­cial in­for­ma­tion gained from the re-ex­am­i­na­tion of foren­sics ev­i­dence in this case and also ad­e­quate time to con­sider this in­for­ma­tion prior to the trial be­gin­ning. I am now deeply con­cerned at this de­vel­op­ing sit­u­a­tion,” Nakhon Chom­phuchat said in a state­ment re­leased Sun­day.

“Foren­sic ev­i­dence is cen­tral to this case. With­out re-ex­am­i­na­tion of this ev­i­dence ... the abil­ity of the two de­fen­dants to de­fend them­selves against the se­ri­ous crimes they are charged (with) will be se­ri­ously im­peded,” he added.

The court was un­reach­able over the week­end.

The de­fen­dants, both aged 22, con­fessed to the crimes af­ter their ar­rest in Oc­to­ber but later re­tracted the ad­mis­sion of guilt, al­leg­ing it had been ex­tracted un­der duress.

Rights groups have ac­cused Thai au­thor­i­ties of us­ing the men as scape­goats.

How­ever both po­lice and pros­e­cu­tors have de­fended their in­ves­ti­ga­tion and in­sist that the foren­sic ev­i­dence is solid.

The vic­tims’ fam­i­lies have also said they have seen strong ev­i­dence against the sus­pects and ex­pressed con­fi­dence in the case af­ter Bri­tish de­tec­tives trav­eled to Thai­land to ob­serve the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Miller and Witheridge’s corpses were dis­cov­ered on a Koh Tao beach on Septem­ber 15. Po­lice said both had been blud­geoned to death, while Witheridge’s body showed signs of sex­ual abuse.

The ac­cused, who have been in cus­tody on Koh Sa­mui since Oc­to­ber, face sev­eral charges in­clud­ing mur­der, rape and rob­bery.

The mur­ders fur­ther dam­aged Thai­land’s im­age as a tourist haven af­ter months of po­lit­i­cal protests fol­lowed by last May’s army coup.

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