Koh Tao Murders: Defense Asks Court to Drop Charges

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo are guided through a 're-enactment' of the past September's double-murder on Koh Tao On October 3, 2014, file photo.

SURAT THANI — Lawyers representing two Myanmar migrant workers accused of killing two British tourists on Koh Tao murder called on the court today to drop all charges against the accused.

In a written closing statement submitted to the Koh Samui Court today, the volunteer legal team stressed the court should dismiss the charges against Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo due to the weakness of the evidence against them and procedural abuses at the time of their arrest.

“The prosecution’s case is marked by an absence of significant evidence needed to prove the guilt of the accused for the crimes they are charged with,” read the statement filed with the court today.

The two men have been accused of murder, rape and theft. They face the death penalty if convicted.

The legal team, provided by the Lawyers Council of Thailand, said the two men standing trial for the September 2014 murders were arrested illegally as they were denied legal representation and qualified translators. The statement also repeated key testimony to emerge during the trial including claims the suspects were tortured into confessing, a top forensic examiner concluding DNA collected from the alleged murder weapon did not match the accused.

Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found murdered Sept. 15, 2014, on Koh Tao, a resort island in the south of Thailand. Investigators later determined Witheridge was raped.

The investigation got off to an unimpressive start and was widely criticized as unprofessional.

Police subsequently arrested the two men who worked at a restaurant near to the crime scene. The prosecution’s case was largely based on forensic evidence collected from the scene and security camera footage.

Police quickly announced the two men, both 21 at the time, had confessed. On Oct. 14 the men retracted their confessions, and they were soon extended legal representation by the defense team. Myanmar officials and human rights group expressed concern the two migrants might have been used as scapegoats.

The trial ended one year later on Oct. 11. Thirty-four witnesses were called during its 21 days. The Koh Samui Court has summoned all involved parties to hear the verdict Dec. 24.

The statements went into depth on what it described were deficiencies in the handling and analysis of the DNA evidence.

It said results furnished by police showing a match with the accused should not be accepted, as the material was not collected following international standards, and many significant items were absent from the prosecution’s case, including details on how the autopsy and forensic examinations were conducted. Certain items which might have contained trace samples were never tested, it said.

In the final testimony delivered Oct. 10 and Oct. 11, the accused told the court they were both mentally and physically abused by police. Before they were led through a much-publicized “re-enactment” of the crime, the men said they were instructed on how to act and told to confess as they had no rights as illegal immigrants.

Police officials have repeatedly denied all allegations of abuse or scapegoating, saying their evidence and test results established the pair’s guilt.

 

Related stories:

Accused Detail Torture in Final Testimony of Koh Tao Murders Trial

Koh Tao Murders: DNA on Weapon ‘Does Not Match’ the Accused

Koh Tao Murders: More Forensic Evidence Available for Re-Test, Witness Reveals

Koh Tao Trial Resumes, Court Shown Footage of Victims’ Final Night

Lack of Evidence, Local Media Coverage Adds to Mystery of Koh Tao Murder

Year in Prison Has Been 'Torture,' Says Koh Tao Suspect

Timeline of Koh Tao Murder Investigation