Hannah Witheridge and David Miller murders: Thai court charges pair

Hannah Witheridge and David Miller Image copyright Family photos
Image caption The bodies of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were found on a Thai beach on 15 September

A court has charged two Burmese men with the murder of two British tourists in Thailand earlier this year.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, are accused of killing Hannah Witheridge and David Miller on the island of Koh Tao in September.

In October the two men retracted confessions initially made to police. They deny killing the tourists.

The suspects, both migrant workers, could be executed if found guilty.

According to the Associated Press, a statement from the attorney general's office in Thailand said both had been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, rape, criminal cover-up, illegally entering Thailand and staying in the country without permission.

Zaw Lin was also charged with theft, the statement said.

The investigation has been marred by allegations of both police incompetence and of confessions extracted by torture.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Win Zaw Htun (L) and Zaw Lin were arrested in early October

BBC Southeast Asia correspondent Jonathan Head said Thursday's indictment was unexpectedly brought forward by three hours, meaning the suspects did not have time to be brought from prison to hear the charges.

They were arrested two months ago and this week a lawyer for the suspects urged friends of the victims to come forward with information.

Nakhon Chompuchat said the victims' friends "should know many things" about what happened and could "prove the true situation".

The public prosecutor has sent the police dossier back three times asking for better evidence, but now says the case against the accused is solid.

Thai police have been criticised for their handling of the case, and Mr Zaw's mother has said her son is being made a "scapegoat".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Zaw and Mr Win took part in a police re-enactment of the killings in October

As well as the alleged murders and rape, Mr Zaw and Mr Win are also accused of conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to rape and robbery.

The suspects - from Myanmar, also known as Burma - confessed to the murders, which they later retracted, claiming they had been tortured.

The bodies of Miss Witheridge, 23, from Hemsby in Norfolk, and Mr Miller, 24, from Jersey, were found on a beach in the popular tourist destination on 15 September.

Post-mortem examinations found Mr Miller died from drowning and a blow to the head, while Miss Witheridge died from head wounds.

Koh Tao

  • Small island covering 21 sq km north of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan in Gulf of Thailand
  • Population of about 2,100 and visited by between 400,000 and 500,000 travellers per year
  • Popular with backpackers and divers
  • Quieter and less developed than neighbouring islands which are known for nightlife and beach parties

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