Koh Samui Provincial Court in Thailand has ordered that the remaining forensic evidence in the Koh Tao tourist murders case be sent for re-examination at the Justice Ministry’s Central Institute of Forensic Science in line with a defence request.
The court yesterday ordered public prosecutors to work with investigators to send all remaining forensic evidence found at the crime scene, including a shovel, for forensic retesting.
A legal team sent by the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand is defending Burmese migrants, Zaw Lin, 22, and Win Zaw Htun, 21, charged with the rape and murder of British nationals, Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, in September last year.
The defence team said it has received forensic and autopsy reports from UK authorities that were “not consistent” with findings obtained from Thai authorities. Meanwhile, some media reports emerged yesterday saying certain evidence was no longer available.
Chief defence lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat said cross-examination of a police pathologist had been difficult as police maintained they were an authority on the issue. Examination of other key evidence, such as DNA, will have to wait for lab scientists to testify in court later, Mr Nakhon said.
Asked about the missing evidence claims, Thai national police chief Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang said foreign reporters not proficient in the language might not fully understand police when they communicate in Thai.
Evidence requiring DNA testing is normally sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine (IFM) and when the tests are finished, the results are recorded and a copy sent to police, he said.
This explained why police no longer needed to keep the DNA samples with them, he said.
The misunderstanding about possible missing evidence occurred when the defence lawyers asked to have DNA evidence re-examined by a different organisation and the police responded by saying they no longer had the evidence, he said.
“Any investigator would give a similar reply because the evidence is with the IFM,” Pol Gen Somyot said.
The BBC reported on its website yesterday that the court is expected to hear what happened to vital DNA evidence that links the two Burmese defendants to the body of one of the victims.
Thai police had previously told the BBC how some crucial DNA evidence in the case cannot be retested because it no longer exists, said the report.
Pol Col Somkiat Kaewmook, deputy chief of Suratthani provincial police, said, “Some forensic materials were used up in the testing process, which means they do not exist.
“But those remaining that are solid, sizeable, and returnable will be there and we will send them to the court.”
Pol Gen Somyot said re-examination of the DNA evidence in the case is still possible.
The bodies of Miller and Witheridge were found on a beach on Koh Tao last September, sparking a major police investigation and intense local and international pressure to find those responsible. Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were arrested several weeks later.
They initially confessed to the crime but later retracted their statements.
This article was originally published in the Bangkok Post on 11 July 2015.