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According to an article written by a key member of the defence team of Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, the 22 year old Burmese migrant workers convicted of the murders of Hanna Witheridge and David Miller in September 2014, lacerations to the female victim were caused by the Thai autopsy and not rape. This revelation came to light when the article, written by Nad Bergman, was published by the Thai Justice website. It says “The incision discovered inside the victims vagina, was determined by the British autopsy to have been caused by the Thai autopsy, not as a result of sexual assault”.
The trial for the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David miller and the rape of Hannah Witheridge gained much public interest and was dogged by criticism of both the investigation and the prosecution. The handling and lack of chain of custody of the DNA samples was widely criticized, the missing wine bottle and cigarette butts as well as the female victims clothes, all said to have carried vital DNA evidence, were missing entirely from the trial. Allegations of the torture of the two accused, who initially confessed to the crimes but later retracted their confessions, has been causing grave concerns among human rights activists, the friends and family of the accused and their supporters around the globe. Reports of the local mafia intimidating the court translators made the news early on in the trial, the lack of CCTV footage of the crimes linking the two men to anywhere other than the crowded beach has caused grave concern and of course without a single piece of CCTV footage, or a single witness to the actual crime, it is hard to believe that any court could find the two men guilty without reasonable doubt and sentence them to death.
The two men who have no previous criminal history, motive for the rape and murders, and whose DNA was never found on the murder weapon now face yet another year on death row as they wait for their appeal to be considered by the same Region 8 team who handed them both the death penalty for rape and double murder to consider the 198 page appeal document submitted a few days ago by the defence team.
According to the newly published report the appeal questions why the police claimed that DNA samples from the crime scene were sent to Singapore where it was determined the suspects were Asian but later stated this had been revealed in a Thai lab and the samples had in fact never been sent to Singapore.
It goes on to question why –
The suspects were arrested on unrelated charges before being questioned about the murders without an attorney present and their statements were entered as part of the prosecution’s evidence. This is a violation of Thai law and grounds for dismissal of the case.
Both DNA samples taken from the defendants were done without consent and before they were informed of the murder charges.
During the interrogation a hostile interpreter was appointed by the police who cannot read written Thai. The defendants were never properly advised of the murder charges nor their rights under Thai law.
Both accused testified they were stripped naked during the interrogation and physically assaulted including, but not limited to, being punched, genital torture, being kicked and having bags placed over their head. Wounds and bruises from these accusations were present and confirmed by no less than three doctors with regards to one of the defendants.
Fingerprints from the accused on the mobile phone that belonged to one of the victims were never produced, this raises the question of who they actually belonged to. There was absolutely no forensic evidence presented by the prosecution connecting the mobile phone to the accused.
The prosecution speculated that the motive for the attack was the accused being aroused by both victims having sexual intercourse on the beach. There is no evidence to suggest this ever took place and the small abrasion found in the victims vagina could easily have been a result of consensual sex with a third party.
The autopsy was unable to determine if intercourse had taken place before or after death. It is impossible for the prosecution to determine if any rape had taken place.
The Thai autopsy was no more than a four page summary by the doctor. The legally required autopsy file documenting the procedure with step-by-step photos and point to point analysis was never presented. The British autopsy however was.
DNA files presented had the accused names on them, rather than a proper file reference number. This is not possible without pre-knowledge of whose DNA the sample being tested belonged to.
The DNA on the murder weapon matched neither of the accused. The police originally claimed the murder weapon had no DNA evidence.
The DNA tests presented by the prosecution were not provided with the necessary supportive documents showing multiple procedures required to meet ISO 17025 standards required in DNA testing. Including the chain of custody, method of testing, graph generation and analysis report.
The police claimed a 100% DNA match with the accused from samples taken from the victim’s body this is scientifically impossible in any forensic lab anywhere in the world.
Other questionable evidence not raised by the appeal includes CCTV footage of the only pier with boats leaving the island immediately after the murders not being examined and blonde hairs found in the victim’s hand not being examined.
The defence team believe that the prosecutions requirement to prove guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt has clearly not been met.
While the families, friends and supporters of the now convicted men have always questioned how it was possible, with the evidence presented in court, to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the men were guilty of the crimes. The appeal documents now makes it abundantly clear that not only was it not proved beyond reasonable doubt, vital evidence that would normally lead to a conviction was missing entirely. With this in mind the guilty verdict and subsequent death penalty is unfathomable. There is no evidence to suggest the female victim was raped, or that either men caused the death of both Hannah and David, let alone both managing to kill them and both being convicted of the same murders. The newly available information from the appeal also brings into question how it was possible, in light of the new revelations, to lose the trial in the first place.
With such lack of evidence, compliance with DNA testing standards, police investigation procedures and even Thai law, one must also question why, on the day of the verdict Mr Michael Miller, brother of the victim, very publicly announced that having listened very carefully to the evidence he and his family were satisfied that the right men had been convicted. It seems that the Miller family are one of only a handful of people who are convinced. Mr Miller, in his post-verdict statement went on to comment that both men had showed no remorse. Perhaps this was due to neither men feeling remorse for a crime they did not commit and who stood to lose their lives because of it. Both of the now convicted men have relayed their sorrow for the victims and their families and Zaw Lin has vowed that should he be released he would like to support the families of the victims of the crimes he is also a victim of. Mr Michael Miller also asked the boys supporters to accept the verdict of the court. In light of the newly published appeal evidence, it has become very obvious as to why they were insulted by his request. One has to also question that why the Miller family are not as determined to ensure that true justice is found for David, when so much doubt surrounds this conviction. “Wrongful convictions and scapegoating are common place in this part of the world” said one supporter, who asked to remain anonymous, “perhaps the Millers are unaware this is not the UK and you cannot trust the verdict of the courts, this is a 3rd world country where mistakes are made far more often than in the west. Corruption is rife here” she went on to say “I am not sure which trial they were listening carefully too, but I was present during the Koh Tao murder trial and I was far more confused when I left on the last day than I was went I went in on day one”.
Supporters of the two convicted men around the world continue to fight for the truth, a new and fair trial, and some answer to the question of who did commit these crimes. Would finding the truth prevent another family having to cope with such an unimaginable tragedy and were the other 6 suspicious deaths of foreigners on Koh Tao in some way connected and were the other 5 of Asians part of some macabre dark secret kept by the residents of Koh Tao.
There will always be speculation over the convictions of Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, two young men whose only dream in life was being able to provide for their families. These new revelations will do nothing but fuel the fire of unfair trials, corruption, mafia activity on the islands, cover-ups and scapegoating. Should the boys win the appeal and be freed, questions will then be raised over the investigations, trials and convictions of others who profess their innocence and the shadow of international suspicion will continue to fall on a small island in the gulf of Thailand that has proved itself in the light of the international media to be far darker than it appears!