Koh Tao double murder Trial of British Tourists, is vital DNA evidence missing?

The trial of two 22 year old Mayanmar nationals, Zaw Li and Wai Phyo began on 8th July 2015 at Koh Samui courthouse. The pair were arrested two weeks after the brutal murder of two British tourists, Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.

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They subsequently confessed to these Koh Tao beach murders, but later claimed it was under duress. The murders took place on Koh Tao on 15th September 2014.

The families of the two British victims arrived on Koh Samui on Wednesday 8th July. They have refused to comment about the case so far.

The Myanmar suspect’s lawyers have stated there are visible discrepancies between DNA evidence held by the Thai police and the DNA samples that were tested by the British police. Local Thai authorities say that forensic evidence, including the suspects DNA, were found on cigarette butts near to the bodies and tied them to the scene.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Somsak Nurod, who is believed to hold evidence related to the case, spent a few minutes in court on the cases opening day. He showed the judge a list of evidence exhibits including the alleged murder weapon, a hoe, found at the scene.

He left the courthouse shortly after this to check what other evidence was available, It was not immediately clear if DNA evidence, collected from sperm and cigarette found at the crime scene, would be provided to the defence.

Nurod appeared confused in court when asked to provide forensic evidence. He said the samples may have been destroyed.

Lead defence lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat said that the police officer will ring the defence later today to confirm what evidence he has.

When asked if he is disappointed that it appears that key DNA evidence may be missing or unusable, Chompuchat said: “We expected this before.” He added that it was important that the court acknowledges these facts, which cast doubts on the fairness of the trial and the reliability of the evidence.

A migrants’ rights activist from Britain, Andy Hall, who is working for the defence, reported to the Guardian newspaper that recent information provided by UK authorities has raised “a lot of very important inconsistencies between the Thai evidence and the evidence from the UK.”

He did not give details on what evidence UK authorities had provided. But Metropolitan police detectives were sent to Thailand in 2014 to look over the case and report back to officials and the families.

“For this case to rest, it’s very important to re-examine that DNA material and find out whose DNA profile it really is,” Hall said.

The legal team representing the 22-year-old bar workers is made up of pro-bono lawyers who also criticise Thai police for improperly collecting evidence at the crime scene, and intimidation and abuse of witnesses. These claims have been denied by the Thai police. Human rights groups including Amnesty International have become involved in the trial, noting that Burmese migrant workers, of whom there are about 2.5 million in Thailand, have previously been wrongly accused of crimes by Thai police.

The trial is set to take up to three months, so a verdict is not expected until October.

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