Thai police say Myanmar men confess to murder of British tourists

3rd October 2014, Comments 0 comments

Thai police said Friday that two men from Myanmar had admitted to killing a pair of British holidaymakers whose battered bodies were found on a resort island last month.

"Two Myanmar suspects have confessed to killing the pair," Thai National police chief Somyot Poompanmoung told AFP, adding their DNA matched traces found at the crime scene on Koh Tao island where David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were found dead on September 15.

The grisly double-murder rocked the small, normally tranquil backpacker haven of Koh Tao and dented Thailand's image as a tourist paradise.

The two who have confessed were among three Myanmar nationals held since Thursday on suspicion of involvement in the crime, Somyot said.

"The third suspect said he left the crime scene before murder took place," Somyot, Thailand's top policeman said.

"DNA test results (from the two men) confirmed that same DNA was present that we found in body of the (female) victim," he said, without giving further details.

Police are waiting for a local court to issue a warrant so the men can be charged, he added.

The provincial police chief told AFP that the two men also admitted to raping Witheridge.

"Both raped the female victim," Kiattipong Khaosamang said, adding the pair were killed with wooden a stick and a garden hoe, which was found bloodied at the scene.

Thai authorities frequently accuse migrants from Myanmar and Cambodia of committing crimes in the kingdom, where they make up a vast, poorly-paid and low-status workforce.

But police have insisted they would not scapegoat anyone for the crime, despite coming under immense pressure to get a result.

Police have DNA tested scores of people in and around Koh Tao and Friday's apparent breakthrough will ease the scrutiny on the Thai force.

Critics -- especially among the British media -- have accused Thai authorities of bungling the investigation in the near three weeks since the murders by chasing the wrong leads and failing to lock down the island in the hours following the killings.

The killings delivered a fresh blow to Thailand's image as a tourist haven after months of political protests that ended in May's army coup.

Days after the murders Thailand's gruff junta chief was forced into an apology after he suggested tourists in bikinis could be more vulnerable to attack -- comments which caused an international outcry.

© 2014 AFP

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