Burmese migrants cleared as search goes on for Koh Tao killer

Burmese migrants cleared as search goes on for Koh Tao killer

DNA tests have failed to provide a match and police are still working to identify the brutal beach killer of two British tourists on Koh Tao, southern Thailand, early Monday.  

Police had initially detained and questioned three male migrant workers from Burma, but DNA tests and other evidence have ruled them out of the investigation.

Investigators confirmed on Wednesday they are now questioning the roommate of the male victim for possible involvement in the savage murders which left the victims mutilated.

Police sources said Christopher Alan Ware, 25, was stopped as he was about to leave Suvarnabhumi airport on Tuesday and placed under police questioning after police found what they thought was a pair of his bloodstained trousers in the luggage of the male victim David William Miller, 24. 

Miller and Hannah Victoria Witheridge, 23, were found battered to death on a rocky beach on the island early on Monday morning following a party at a nearby resort.

Investigators who searched Miller’s room found a pair of cream-coloured trousers with what they believed were bloodstains on both legs stuffed in Miller’s luggage, one of the sources said. 

Several witnesses confirmed that Ware, who left the island for Bangkok on Monday evening, was wearing the trousers the night the two victims were murdered, the same source said. 

Miller and Witheridge were seen partying on the beach with a group of about six people the night they were murdered, the source said. 

The stained garment was immediately sent for analysis by the Institute of Forensic Medicine (IFM) at the Police General Hospital in Bangkok, the source said. 

Ware was staying in the same room as Miller while on Koh Tao. Witheridge shared a bungalow with a female friend. 

Following the deaths of Miller and Witheridge, police ordered Ware to undergo a physical examination after they found some bruises on his body and cuts on the back of his hands. The check, however, suggested the bruises and cuts probably occurred long before the murders.

Ware has been questioned since his detention at the airport on Tuesday, the same police source said. 

A DNA test was being conducted to compare his DNA with that taken from a lock of hair found in one of Witheridge’s hands, the source said. 

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Ware had the same colour hair as that in Witheridge’s hand, the source said. 

Royal Thai Police adviser Jarumporn Suramanee said on Wednesday that the DNA of 12 people had been tested, including nine samples from Burmese migrant workers and one from Ware. 

The tests found none of the DNA matched that collected from semen found in the female victim’s body, he said. 

However, the tests found that DNA from a cigarette near the scene matched the semen. 

He said the stain found on the trousers was unlikely to be blood but a chemical substance. 

A police officer who asked not to be named said as police investigators were trying to piece together the murders based on the evidence found and the findings from an initial inspection of the victims’ bodies, they believed Miller was attacked from behind.

The victim was also believed to have engaged in a struggle with his assailant.

Witheridge, meanwhile, was dragged away from the first attack spot, said the same police officer. 

The officer said Witheridge did manage to run for some distance but was hit repeatedly in the face with a hoe which suggested whoever attacked her could have held a personal grudge against her. 

Pol-Col Prachum Ruangthong, chief of Koh Phangan police station, said police were still looking at all possible scenarios for the murder, including a theory that the killing might have been committed by a man of Asian appearance captured on a security camera at the crime scene.

Pol-Lt-Gen Panya Mamen, chief of Provincial Police Region 8, said later on Wednesday that the Asian-looking man in question had already been detained and was being questioned. He did not elaborate on the man’s identity, however.

Pol-Maj-Gen Pornchai Suthirakhun, chief of the IFM, meanwhile, told reporters that forensic experts who performed post postmortems on the bodies of the victims have confirmed that they had found semen inside Witheridge’s body.

The IFM was working to find out if the semen belonged to one or more men, he said.

The IFM would also next compare the DNA from semen with DNA samples of the people considered as suspects in this case, Pol-Maj-Gen Pornchai said. 

The IFM chief said the wounds to Miller’s hands and bruises on his back suggested he probably fought with his attacker before being dragged to the ground. 

Witheridge was found to have died from head injuries. Miller appeared to have also died from head injuries. Water was also found in his lungs, Pol-Maj-Gen Pornchai said. 

There were no signs that Miller had been sexually assaulted, he added. 

“From the wounds [to both victims’ heads] it cannot be certain what exact type of weapons the attacker used on their victims. The only fact known here is the weapons were blunt objects,” he said. 

The autopsies were completed and the bodies could now be released to their families, he said. 

Pol-Maj-Gen Pornchai said the families of both victims were on their way to Thailand. 

Pol-Lt-Gen Panya said that six migrant workers and several Thai nationals had already been questioned. In response to media reports that some British tourists associated with the two murdered Britons had already returned home in the UK, he said that only three females who were friends of Witheridge had already left Thailand.


This article was first published in the Bangkok Post on 17 September 2014.

 

 

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