What happened to murdered tourists?

Written By komlim puldel on Jumat, 03 Oktober 2014 | 20.01

Two Burmese men have confessed to the murders of British backpackers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in Thailand, police have said.

British students, Hannah Witheridge (L) and David Miller (R) were both found bludgeoned to death. Source: AFP

POLICE have finally made a breakthrough in investigating the shocking murders of two British backpackers whose battered bodies were found last month on a beach in southern Thailand, but mystery still surrounds the horrific discovery.

David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, didn't know each other before they met on holiday in Thailand in September.

Around three weeks ago, on September 15, their bodies were found together on a beach on Koh Tao island.

British students, Hannah Witheridge (L) and David Miller (R) were both found bludgeoned to death. Source: AFP

Since then, the case has perplexed police, devastated their families, and damaged the country's tourism industry.

Thai National police today charged two Myanmar men with murder and rape after they confessed to killing the pair, with AFP reporting their DNA matched traces at the crime scene on Koh Tao island.

Both were detained on the island and questioned by police who brought them to the crime scene to re-enact their alleged crimes, a standard part of criminal investigations in Thailand.

Crowds of onlookers watched as the suspects were led to the rocky alcove along the shore where the two bodies were discovered.

Autopsies showed that Witheridge died from head wounds while Miller suffered severe blows to the head and drowned in the surf. It is still unclear what prompted the killings.

During the re-enactment, the two men wore flak jackets and motorcycle helmets as protection against angry residents, who fear the crime will damage tourism to the remote island.

The men have been charged with the murder of both Britons -- a charge which carries the death penalty.

"The two Myanmar nationals are charged with murder (of both tourists), gang rape (of Witheridge) and stealing," Prachum Ruangthong, police chief of neighbouring Koh Phangan island, told AFP.

GRUESOME DISCOVERY

The bodies of the two tourists were discovered in a rocky alcove close to the hotel where they were staying on the holiday island of Koh Tao almost three weeks ago.

Their bodies were found semi-naked and severely battered, and both had severe head wounds.

The body of David Miller, wrapped in plastic sheet, is carried at a forensic police facility in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) Source: AP

It only emerged in recent days that Witheridge, a speech therapy student from England, was brutally raped before her death.

"Two of the suspects raped and killed Witheridge while another witnessed the murder," Thai police told the Bangkok Post.

WHY THEM?

The pair did not know each other before their holiday, but CCTV footage shows them leaving a bar together just hours before their battered bodies were discovered.

Hannah Witheridge was a 23-year-old speech therapy student who planned to return to her studies in the summer after her island getaway.

David Miller, 24, from Jersey in the Channel Islands, had been backpacking across Asia and Australia before spending time on the popular party island of Koh Tao.

CCTV footage shows the two leaving a bar together just hours before their battered bodies were discovered.

The final photo of the pair looking happy and carefree, the couple appear to be with a large group of friends, enjoying their evening with drinks at a bar called Choppers.

Hannah (left) and David (second right) with David's friend Chris Ware (third right) on the evening Miller and Witheridge were murdered on the Thai island of Koh Tao. The picture was taken an estimated three hours before the murder took place. Source: AAP

Questions remain over how the pair got to the beach and what they were planning for the remainder of the evening.

Both families have revealed their struggle to come to terms with their tragic losses, and have remained hopeful throughout the investigation.

"Our hearts go out to the Witheridge family who are also coming to terms with the sudden trauma of the equally senseless ending of their Hannah's life," Mr Miller's family said in a statement earlier this week.

"We urge anyone who can help these investigations to please assist the Royal Thai Police in solving these murders and bringing the culprits to justice.

"We are confident that these people will be caught now or later."

The Ocean View Bungalows hotel where two backpackers were staying. AFP PHOTO Source: AFP

THE INVESTIGATION

Critics, particularly those from the British media, have accused Thai authorities of bungling the investigation in the three weeks since the murders by chasing the wrong leads and failing to lock down the island in the hours following the killing.

The seemingly sluggish response was compounded by insensitive comments made by the coup-leading prime minister, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who was forced into a rare public apology after suggesting women wearing bikinis could be more vulnerable to attack.

Thai policemen conduct DNA tests on staff from two beachside bars as part of the investigation. AFP PHOTO Source: AFP

Eventually about 300 people on the island had their DNA taken, and 10 had been at AC Bar, the last place he pair were seen alive.

A bloodstained garden hoe, which is thought to be the murder weapon, was discovered nearby, AFP reported.

Lt Gen Panya, appointed assistant national police chief earlier this week authorities had arrested three immigrant migrant workers.

Today it emerged that two men had confessed to killing the pair.

Thai forensic investigators inspect a hotel room where the two were staying. AFP PHOTO Source: AFP

TOURISM LOCKDOWN

Thailand's image as a tourist paradise has been badly damaged by the brutal murders.

Thailand on Tuesday announced plans to give tourists wristbands carrying their personal details and install more surveillance cameras and better lighting in major tourist areas.

Under the scheme hotels will distribute the wristbands to new arrivals. "If anything happens to them we will then know their names, nationality and hotel," said Arnuparp Gaesornsuwan, director general of the Department of Tourism told AFP.

Thai Police General Jarumporn Suramanee and British Consul from the British embassy Michael Hancock address media over the case. AFP PHOTO/Christophe ARCHAMBAULT Source: AFP

"We have discussed it with hotel operators and they are willing to do it," he said.

"We are not going into their personal information — it's just the details they have to fill out on the immigration form already," he said.

Tourist police said the safety measure would be voluntary.

"In case they (tourists) get drunk and fall asleep on the beach we can bring them back to their hotels," Apichai Ti-armataya, commander of the Tourist Police told AFP.

He said the plan would be rolled out "soon" on popular resort islands such as Koh Tao and Koh Phangan and also the tourist beach area of Pattaya.

Koh Tao is a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, and is primarily known as a destination for scuba diving. Source: Supplied

In addition to tagging tourists the Department of Tourism is keen to curb partying hours in visitor hot spots.

"Most of tourists are coming here for diving or to admire our nature — not to party," Arnuparp said, adding new "zoning" curbs would likely control all-night bars and clubs.

The government has lowered its forecast for tourist arrivals this year to 25.9 million, down from an initial target of 28 million.


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