Students' killer sentenced to death
A fishmonger has been sentenced to death for murdering two "exceptional young" British medical students who had been working in a Malaysian hospital.
Newcastle University students Aidan Brunger, from Kent, and Neil Dalton, from Ambergate in Derbyshire, were killed in the unprovoked attack in Sarawak on the island of Borneo in August last year.
The country's high court heard during the trial that, before killing the two men, Zulkipli Abdullah, 23, had said he wanted to "test his strength" against bigger and taller foreigners.
The prosecutor also said that, after he stabbed the pair, he sniffed the blood on his hands and claimed it smelled nice.
Zulkipli had denied stabbing them but the court ruled that his defence was merely an afterthought, with the attack outside a cafe in the early hours being entirely unprovoked.
The victims, who were both 22, had been working at a local hospital in Kuching - an area popular with backpackers.
Following the verdict, their parents put out a joint statement paying tribute to their sons and spoke of the devastation they have felt since their deaths.
They said: "Since Aidan and Neil were killed on 6 August 2014, our lives have been shattered.
"They were two exceptional young men with such promise - kind, funny and full of life. Their deaths have left their families and many good friends utterly devastated.
"Neil and Aidan were having a wonderful time in Borneo, working in Sarawak Hospital and also travelling around, seeing as much of the beautiful country as they could. Both boys said how very welcoming and friendly the people were.
"Our sons would soon have qualified as doctors. Their unprovoked and senseless murders as they were walking home after a night out with other medical students mean that Aidan and Neil will never have the chance to spend their lives caring for and helping others.
"They would have given so much to the world. We are so very proud of both of them and in what they achieved in their all too short lives.
"Although we are pleased that the man responsible for their murders has been held accountable, the guilty verdict does not bring our sons back.
"We would like to thank our families, friends and everyone who has helped us through these distressing times. We would ask that we are now left to grieve for Neil and Aidan in peace."
Professor Jane Calvert, Dean of Undergraduate Studies for Newcastle University Medical School, said the two students had been awarded honorary medical degrees by the university.
"They were very bright boys who had a great career ahead of them and this was just such a tragedy," she said.
"What we have to recognise is that this was the sort of incident that is very difficult to guard against and it's the sort of thing that could happen anywhere in this country.
"The two students have been awarded an honorary medical degree by the university and the medical students organised a memorial service which was attended by about 500 of their friends and family.
"It was a wonderful occasion where their friends paid tribute to them in readings and songs that they had written themselves."
The families' British lawyer, Kieran Mitchell, from Slater and Gordon, said: "This was a savage and unprovoked attack which lead to the death of two young men who had travelled to Borneo with the sole aim of using their medical skills to help people.
"Since that day the families have put their faith in the Borneo justice system, which is very different to our own, adding further strain and difficulty during this devastating ordeal.
"After a long and complicated trial they are relieved that justice has been done."
The death penalty is mandatory for murder in Malaysia.