Police Clarify Koh Tao Victim's Cellphone 'Planting'

Photos passed around on social media of Witheridge with her phone prior to the murder, and Witheridge’s friends giving the same phone to police the next day.

BANGKOK — Thai police have dismissed the accusation that they planted evidence on the Burmese men accused of murdering two British backpackers in southern Thailand three weeks ago.

Commentators on social media accused the police of falsely implicating the two Burmese workers, named Saw and Win, as "scapegoats" in the killing of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge on Koh Tao island on 15 September. 

Last week, Thai police chief Somyot Pumphanmuang said officers found Witheridge’s phone during a raid of one of the suspect’s homes. However, internet skeptics started passing around a photo of Witheridge with her phone prior to the murder, and another one of Witheridge’s friends giving the same phone to police.

Pol.Col. Prachum Ruengthong, a top officer in charge of Koh Tao, explained yesterday that there was a misunderstanding.

According to Pol.Col. Prachum, the phone uncovered by police at the suspect's residence belonged to Miller, not Witheridge. 

As for Witheridge's cellphone, police returned it along with her iPad and digital camera to her family on 18 September, said Pol.Col. Prachum said.

"An official from the UK embassy witnessed the transfer and signed a document as evidence at a police substation on Koh Tao," the officer said. 

Saw and Win, the Burmese suspects, have been charged with premeditated murder, sexual assault of Witheridge, and nighttime theft for stealing Miller's phone. 

The two suspects are currently imprisoned at Koh Samui Provincial Court and awaiting their trials, Pol.Col. Prachum said. 

 

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