BANGKOK — The son of a powerful local administrator on Koh Tao island initially sought by police has denied any involvement in the murder of two British tourists there two weeks ago.
Warot Tuvichian, 22, said at a press conference today that he was nowhere near Koh Tao island when David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were killed on 15 September.
Mr. Warot's lawyer, Attakorn Onart, presented reporters with a still photograph from CCTV footage that showed Mr. Warot at his university and residence in Bangkok on 13-15 September.
Mr. Warot also attended classes during that period of time, Mr. Attakorn said.
"There are university documents that confirmed his class attendance and examination," the lawyer told reporters.
Last week police identified Mr. Warot as a primary suspect, claiming that he fled the island shortly after the bodies of Mr. Miller and Ms. Witheridge were found.
The police later retracted their statement and said Mr. Warot was no longer a suspect because he was in Bangkok when the murder took place.
Mr. Warot's father, Woraphan Tuvichian, who is a village headman on Koh Tao island, was also considered a person of interest by the police. After questioning, the police cleared Mr. Woraphan of a connection to the murder.
Mr. Woraphan previously threatened to press libel charges against media agencies that attempted to link him or any of his family members to the killing of the two Britons.
At the press conference today, Mr. Warot's lawyer said news reports have "greatly damaged" his client.
"He wasn't unable to attend classes because people kept asking him if he was involved in the murder," Mr. Attakorn said. "So I want to ask for fairness for Mr. Warot."
Mr. Attakorn said his client never went into hiding and that police never questioned Mr. Warot about the murder. He added that Mr. Warot is willing to cooperate with police if he is ever summoned for questioning.
Mr. Warot then told reporters that he has become a target of hateful comments from people on social media who are convinced he was behind the murder.
"I want justice. Right now I am very fearful, and only my close friends understand me," Mr. Warot said.
Two weeks after the murder of Mr. Miller and Ms. Witheridge, Thai police have yet to arrest any suspect in the case. Police say that DNA samples collected from more than 100 potential suspects on the island did not match the DNA traces found on Ms. Witheridge's body.
Police have given conflicting statements about whether DNA samples of Mr. Warot and his father have been tested.