Borneo stab death students: Suspects 'on crystal meth'

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Media captionThe BBC's Sharanjit Leyl visited the street where the pair died

Three of four men suspected of killing two Newcastle University medical students in Borneo had taken the drug crystal meth, according to police.

Neil Dalton, from Derbyshire and Aidan Brunger, from Kent, both 22, were killed early on Wednesday.

The bodies of the pair have been released following post-mortem examinations, the results of which are due later.

Four other students will land in the UK on Saturday. A fifth is staying abroad.

BBC World News correspondent Sharanjit Leyl said police reports showed the three had tested positive for methamphetamine - also called crystal meth.

Candle-lit vigils have been held for Mr Dalton and Mr Brunger in the street in the Jalan Padungan area of Kuching, where their bodies were found.

Staff at Sarawak General Hospital, where they were working, have also expressed their condolences at the deaths. The men were in the last week of a work placement at the hospital.

Ms Leyl said the post-mortem results were likely to confirm one of the men suffered multiple stab wounds to his back, while the other had a single chest injury.

Image caption Staff at Sarawak General Hospital have expressed their condolences at the deaths.

She added: "The latest we have learned is that police reports show three of the suspects tested positive for the drug methamphetamine - otherwise known as crystal meth.

"It's a very serious charge here, being on drugs as well as committing this hideous act, means they face the death penalty basically."

Prof Jane Calvert, dean of undergraduate studies for Newcastle University Medical School, said Mr Dalton, of Ambergate, Belper, and Mr Brunger, from Hempstead, Gillingham, were in their fourth year of studies and "highly committed".

She said staff and fellow students were still in a "state of shock".

Prof Reg Jordan, who is one of two members of Newcastle University staff currently in Kuching, said: "Our priority is supporting the families and our students who are still here.

"We are giving whatever help we can in these tragic circumstances."

Image caption Candles have been lit for the students in the street where they died

An expert's view

Kuching is generally one of the safest cities in Malaysia - the murder of travellers there is almost unprecedented.

Friendly locals often warn visitors to be careful of motorbike-borne bag-snatchers but, in fact, such incidents are quite rare, happening possibly once or twice a month, according to various local sources I've talked to over the years.

In Sarawak's second city, Miri, the Lonely Planet guide warns visitors to an area called Pelita to "steer clear of the local toughs" but over the past five years we have not received any reports of tensions or confrontations between locals and foreigners in Kuching.

Parts of the area between Jalan Abell and the river play host to dodgy bars and massage parlours, but there are also plenty of perfectly reputable restaurants and nightspots.

Daniel Robinson, co-ordinating author, Lonely Planet's Borneo guide

Deputy police commissioner Chai Khin Chung said officers had completed their inquiry and they would now be passing on their evidence for prosecution.

He said: "We are waiting for the hospital mortuary to have the post-mortem carried out. We have all the major evidence in our hands which we will send to the prosecution."

He said the two students had got into an argument with men on the table next to them in a bar and after leaving on foot, were followed by car and then attacked from behind.

The main suspect is a 23-year-old fishmonger, while the others are a 29-year-old mechanic and two unemployed men aged 19 and 35.

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