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On Friday the 3rd of October the two Burmese men accused of the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge and the murder of David Miler were taken back to Koh Tao to stage a reconstruction of the killings, the event that was televised around the world largely met with confusion from the international community.
Social media speculation has gone wild during the last few days, with opinions of the case differing vastly among different communities. Comments on the UK’s leading news websites conveyed a feeling of disbelieve that two men would come back to reconstruct the crime, many outside Thailand do not understand that crime reconstruction is a normal procedure in Thai crime investigations and found the video footage both disturbing and baffling as well as being very hard to watch. Some commented that watching a man in handcuffs, a flat jacket and a motorbike helmet wielding a dustpan over an actor was beyond comprehension. They also found a TV crew member playing the part of Hannah very distasteful.
Through international media the eyes of the world have been watching the case progress in Koh Tao since the gruesome murders took place and this has put the police under added pressure to solve the case quickly and efficiently. Bizarre press statements have lead many, globally, to question the police investigation and the competency of the police carrying out the investigation.
It was announced on Thursday that three men Burmese men had been apprehended in Koh Tao and taken into custody, however it was later announced they had been detained on charges of illegal entry to Koh Tao rather than in direct connection with the murder at that time.
Reports then emerged that the police said that the DNA from the suspects matched that found on the female victim and cigarette butts found at the scene, then further stated that Hannah’s mobile phone had been found in some bushes behind the men’s accommodation. Posts on social media site CSA LA speculated that this could not be possible and photographs soon emerged of Hannah’s in a bar just hours before her murder with her mobile phone, the same phone then appears to be on the police desk the following morning, it was reportedly handed in by one of Hannah’s friends. It was also reported on another social media site that the friend had given the phone to the police with the pass code before returning to the UK. It was in her possession because Hannah had gone out without a handbag and asked her to look after it the posts read.
There has been much speculation about Sean McAnna , who lived in Koh Tao and who put a message on his social media page suggesting that his life was in danger from local residents, he left the island the following day and gave an interview to the press. A CSI LA post then showed photographs of what appeared to be knife marks on David’s body that matched what appears to be a knife mark on Sean’s arm leading to social media speculation that Sean had been involved in the attack and had been an eye witness to it, giving him a clear motive to fear for his life. However Sean posted on his social media site that he had not seen David that night as he had fallen asleep and regretted that he did not catch up with his friend, he met in the UK years before.
Reports then emerged from the Burmese community that nine Burmese had been playing a ball game when they were approached by police, one member told reporters that the three suspects, who were working and residing illegally in the country should flea, which they did. The remaining six were apprehended , one went on to say that the police tortured them with boiling water, before apprehending the three that fled. Two of those three Saw and Wyn were the two Burmese who took part in the reconstruction and whose DNA has been said to match that at the crime scene, it has also been reported that the two confessed. The third man, Mau, is apparently still in custody but has denied any involvement in the case. Burmese community leaders have insisted the suspects are innocent statements that have been backed up by Aung Kyaw, the president of the Myanmar Migrant Labor Association in Thailand who said “we do not believe they did it”. He went on to say that “Ethnic migrant workers living and working on Koh Tao without documents were accosted by a group of Thai police officers who tried to catch them while they were playing ball, six out of the nine were accosted, the other three ran away to escape arrest. Three of the six migrants caught were physically beaten and their bodies scalded with hot water as a means to get them to divulge the ware bouts of the other three.
The tourist industry in Koh Tao has been badly affected since the murders and many concerns have been aired on social media sites that a quick resolution to the case has come about only to restore a thriving tourist industry during the up a coming high season. Many of the comments from members of the Tourism department and the police that emerged in the international press calling for a swift resolution to the case to restore thriving tourism have been met with anger by those who feel the case should be solved to give justice to the victims family rather than to resurrect the now flagging tourist dollar.
While some are relieved that the perpetrators of the heinous crime have been arrested and will be brought to justice, many have expressed their belief on social media sites that the two Burmese men are simply being used as scapegoats to draw a line under the case and take the spotlight off the small diving island in the gulf of Thailand. Many felt the two looked dazed and confused during the reconstruction, some commented that they showed no remorse, while others felt they simply did not know what was happening because they believe the two men have nothing to do with the case.
During the confessions it was reported that the two men said they were playing guitar when they spotted Hannah and David in a romantic liaison on the beach which they found arousing, one picked up a garden how and went to investigate and later raped and killed Hannah and killed David. Comments on the social media sites suggest that it would be impossible to see the couple at that time of night from where the men were sitting and others commented that it had been earlier reported that the two victims had not been romantically involved, raising more speculation as to whether the confession was indeed genuine. The men’s small stature has also been commented on with speculation that it would not be possible for such small men to overcome both David and Hannah, or for such a violent crime to result from simply finding a couple together being arousing.
Social media criminal investigations continue to buzz with speculation, photographs and conflicting reports, the general feeling on Koh Samui is one of disbelief and many are demanding independent DNA testing from another country to put this case to rest.
The bizarre reports of the investigation in the international press lead many around the globe to believe the case was bungled from the start, those same people have commented that they were horrified that British Ambassador Mark Kent had congratulated the police on their speed and proficiency in solving the case as well as the remark from the Thai prime minister that he would be rewarding the police for their diligence, when they believe it was a farce.
Whether the case was bungled, or whether it was the media that turned it into a circus, it seems that globally nobody really seems quite sure what is going on, and certainly in Koh Samui many feel there are many questions left to answer before any kind of justice, in their eyes, can be served, the press involvement in the case has also been called into question as many of the reports have been considered highly damaging to a small island that relies on the tourist industry.