BANGKOK — The family of a 23-year-old British tourist who was hacked to death on the southern island of Koh Tao last year is raising money to attend the trial of her alleged murderers in July.
The battered bodies of Hannah Witheridge and another British tourist, 24-year-old David Miller, were found on one of the island's idyllic beaches last September. A bloodied garden hoe, believed to be the murder weapon, was found nearby.
Two 21-year-old Burmese migrant workers on the island were arrested in October and charged with raping and murdering Witheridge, and murdering Miller.
Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, whose trial is set to begin in July, initially confessed to the crimes but later recanted, saying they were tortured by police into confessing.
Last week, Witheridge’s sister set up an online fund to help her family travel to Thailand for the trial.
“We are extremely keen to travel out to Thailand to represent Hannah and to, hopefully, see justice done,” Witheridge’s sister Laura wrote on the fundraising page.
In less than a week, at least £3,784 out of a £10,o00 goal has been raised. According to Witheridge’s sister, the money will be used to fund two flights to Thailand, one to see the beginning of the trial and one to attend the verdict.
“We are a family of 5 so the cost of flights and accommodation alone are going to be steep,” Laura Witheridge wrote, adding that the family also plans to hire an interpreter to cover the entire trial.
“An interpreter is the only way we can stay connected to the process and know what is going on, rather than having to hear about it in the World's media,” she wrote.
The investigation into the murder of Witheridge and Miller became a subject of media attention for weeks, with numerous rights groups expressing concern that Thai police turned to Zaw and Wai as scapegoats after their investigation appeared to reach a dead-end.
Doubts about Thai police’s handling of the case eventually prompted the United Kingdom to send its own delegation of police to Thailand to oversee the investigation.
After being briefed by the UK team, Witheridge’s family expressed confidence in the investigation.
“We are confident in the work that has been carried out into these atrocious crimes and want to remind both press and public that they do not have the full facts to report and make comment on at this stage,” Witheridge’s family said in a statement.