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Men who killed British tourists get the death penalty

By David Mercer

The family of one of the British backpackers brutally murdered on a beach in Thailand has said "justice" has been delivered after two Burmese migrants were sentenced to death for the killings.

The battered bodies of Hannah Witheridge (23) and David Miller (24) were discovered on the idyllic holiday island of Koh Tao on September 15 last year.

Miss Witheridge, from Hemsby in Norfolk, had been raped before she was killed, while Mr Miller, from Jersey, had been hit over the head before drowning in the sea.

Bar workers Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, also known as Win Zaw Htun, initially confessed to the murders but later retracted their statements, claiming they had been tortured by police.

The long-awaited verdicts in their trial were delivered at a court on the island of Koh Samui as both men were found guilty of murder and rape and issued with the death penalty.

Mr Miller's brother Michael, flanked by parents Ian and Sue, said outside court that the "correct decision" had been reached.

"David was hacked down from behind, dragged into the sea, and left to die. That will live with us for ever," he said.

"What happened to Hannah Witheridge is unspeakable.

"We believe the result today represents justice for David and Hannah."

Miss Witheridge's family, who did not travel to Thailand for the verdicts, said the last year had been an "unimaginably impossible time" and they would now "digest the outcome of the trial".

The University of Essex student and Mr Miller, who had just completed a civil and structural engineering degree at the University of Leeds, met on Koh Tao while staying at the same hotel.

Post-mortem examinations showed that both had suffered severe head wounds.

Prosecutors said DNA evidence collected from cigarette butts, a condom and the bodies of the victims linked Lin and Phyo to the killings.

But lawyers representing the pair, both 22, said DNA samples from the alleged murder weapon - a garden hoe - did not match that of the two men and their confessions were a result of torture in the context of "systematic abuse" of migrants on Koh Tao.

A re-enactment of the murders in which the defendants were paraded in front of the media was also "staged under threat of violence", the lawyers added.

Mr Miller's family said the widespread interest in the case had ensured the defendants received the "best possible representation in court by a team of seven top lawyers".

"It is our opinion that the evidence against Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin is absolutely overwhelming," said Michael Miller.

"They raped to satisfy their selfish desires and murdered to cover up that fact. They have shown no remorse during the trial."

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