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DNA in Thai backpacker deaths case can be retested

Published 23/07/2015

Britons Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were found dead on a beach in Thailand last year (Foreign and Commonwealth Office/PA Wire)
Britons Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were found dead on a beach in Thailand last year (Foreign and Commonwealth Office/PA Wire)

A lawyer for two migrant workers on trial in Thailand for murdering British backpackers David Miller and Hannah Witheridge has said DNA evidence the defence had sought for retesting has become available despite earlier doubts it could be used.

Nakorn Chompuchat, defence lawyer in the trial for the 2014 killings on Koh Tao island, said a forensic police officer told judges in court that some evidence, including blood-stained sand, had enough DNA to be retested.

Police had last week indicated the samples had been exhausted, making retesting impossible.

The defence team of the accused men, Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, say Thai police analysis of the DNA is the only evidence linking them to the crime, so retesting is crucial. They say the DNA reports compiled by Thai police and British coroners had discrepancies.

Mr Nakorn said the forensic expert testified that although the original DNA swabs obtained at the crime scene had been exhausted, they had been duplicated through a laboratory process so samples are still available. He said the court had asked him to submit a request detailing which samples they want to be retested.

The bodies of Mr Miller, 24, of Jersey, and Ms Witheridge, 23, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, were found on September 15 on the rocky shores of Koh Tao. Post-mortem examinations showed both had suffered severe head wounds and Ms Witheridge had been raped.

Under intense pressure to catch the murderers, police carried out DNA tests on more than 200 people on the island before arresting the two suspects in early October.

The men, both 22, retracted initial confessions, saying they were extracted through beatings and threats, which police deny.

From the start, investigators faced a variety of criticisms, including for failing to secure the crime scene and for releasing names and pictures of suspects who turned out to be innocent.

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