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Tonight, at 10pm GMT, Channel 4’s documentary “Murder in Paradise” is due to air in the UK. Created by Make Productions this is billed to be a less ‘watered down’ version than the one shown on Channel News Asia last month, but will non the less attempt to lift the lid on the murders of westerners, especially British, on the island of Koh Tao.
Being reported as the island that has become “The Worst Nightmare of every Backpacking Youngsters Parent” by the British press, Koh Tao, previously only known for diving, has been under the spotlight internationally since the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in 2014.
The program due to be aired in the UK tonight also covers the deaths of Christina Annesley, who died in January 2015 shortly after arriving on the island. It was said that the 23 year died of natural causes after mixing alcohol with anti-biotics for a chest infection, however her father said that toxicology tests were never carried out. He went on to say that he and his family do not know why or how she died. The Thai police failed to investigate if the medication mixed with the alcohol was enough to killer, they also failed to locate a man who was seen leaving her accommodation in Koh Tao hours before her death. The man, who could very
well have been the last person to see her alive, was not questioned by the police even though his name did appear in their investigation files. Mr Annesley did manage to track the man down himself via Facebook, but cannot believe the police in Koh Tao never made any contact with him.
Earlier in January 2015 a French man was found hanging on the balcony of his Koh Tao hut. 29 year old Dimitri Povse reportedly committed suicide leaving a note for his girlfriend. When photos emerged on the internet of the man many were confused to find that his hands were tied fast behind his back, the rope he used to seemed to be little more than a shoe lace, the way the lace was tied loosely around his neck posed many question as to how he did not fall out of it, there were no obvious marks around his neck and closer inspection of the balcony showed there was actually nothing for him to jump off to result in him dying in the position he did.
In January this year tragedy struck once again when Luke Miller was found dead in a swimming pool. Police were quick to surmise that the man had died from misadventure when he climbed onto the top of a DJ booth that was covered in barbed wire, then due to his intoxicated state jumped off into the pool and banged his head, this assumption made despite there being no eye witnesses and the CCTV in the area not working. One may suggest that many young backpackers indulge in high jinx especially where alcohol is involved and dare devil stunts such as jumping into a pool from a DJ booth many be a way of getting attention from the party crowed however in
this case there was no crowd, in fact there was nobody at all to witness his daring stunt and furthermore Luke was not a keen swimmer, in fact he rarely entered the water unless accompanied by his travel companion. His injuries were not conducive to having jumped head first into a pool, unless he had done it more than once and his travel companions wonder if the truth of what really happed that night will ever come out. In a strange twist of fate the island had claimed its 2nd Mr Miller.
On New Year’s Day 2014 the body of Nick Pearson from Derby was found near to the location Hannah and David were found. Mr Pearson had been enjoying a holiday with his family and the night before his father had seen him return to his apartment to go to bed. Police on the island put his death down to him falling 50 feet and then drowning however the man sustained no broken bones in is apparent fall and his mother says she would advise parents to forbid their children to visit the island.
Thai police told the documentary makers that they have investigated all of the cases. Major General of the Royal Thai police Suwat Jangvodsuk said that he was at a loss to explain why people did not believe the DNA evidence in the trial of Zaw Lin , 22, and Wai Phyo 22, who have been convicted of the murder and rape of Hannah Witheridge and the murder of David Miller and sentenced to death. He said “we are not the best police in the world, but we do try to do our best, we try to bring justice to the families”.
Justice for the families of Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo seems a long way off. The two men were living and working on Koh Tao in order to send money back to their impoverished families in Myanmar. The two men initially confessed to the crimes but later retracted their confessions saying they had been made under torture by the Thai police who threatened to burn them, cut off parts of their bodies, throw them in the ocean and suggested if they took the wrap for the crimes they would only spend a few years in jail. Their mothers now face an agonised wait for the region 8 appeal that has now been delayed for the fourth time by the men’s defence team and if that is lost the Supreme Court appeal.
Both men say they have no motive for the crime, they also wonder why anybody would believe had they committed such a crime they would have stayed put on the island, their arrests came over two weeks after the crime were committed and the initial investigation pointed towards the brother of the village headman. Eight Region Police Command Commissioner Pol Lt-Gen Panya Mamen who identified the suspect as Montriwat Tuwichian said evidence which the police collected and examined proved he was involved in the case, he went on to say that the son of the village headman, Nomsod was also implicated but when the arrest of Montriwat came, he had already left the island and returned to Bangkok where he was attending university. According to initial reports both men were captured on CCTV and the police had gathered enough
evidence to implicate both of them in the murders of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge and the Southern police chief assured the pubic that no scapegoats would be used in this case. According to a report in Thai PBS he also dismissed any suggestion of local mafias or influential people would twist the investigation with promise that local influence would post no obstacle to the police investigation, instead he said he would work to eradicate the island mafia. However after making that statement Pol Lt-Gen Panya Mamen was booted off the case and sent to work in another part of the country. Interestingly Montriwat Tuwichian is the owner of the resort Christina Annesley was staying in when she was found dead.
The two Burmese migrant workers have no previous criminal record, criminal psychologists have suggested that the likelihood of anybody starting their criminal careers with a murder of this brutality and magnitude is virtually unheard of. Questions have also been raised as two why two men, whose only motivation for being on the island was to provide money to their families would commit this crime when they lived their lives in fear of both the police and the so called mafia who control the very beach they are said to commit the crimes on.
Perhaps more damming than their utter lack of motive, the unfathomable reason anybody would stay on an island if they had committed such a crime and with a two week window to disappear, is the baffling and apparent normality of their behaviour after committing such heinous crimes. A Psychologist told the Samui Times it would be highly unlikely that two men who had previously never committed a crime would have the psychological capacity to simply carry on as normal after such an act. Furthermore with a blanket of silence on Koh Tao, court translators being too afraid to do their job during the trial, witnesses either disappearing or being too afraid to come forward during the investigation or the trial, the question has to be asked, if these two men did indeed commit these crimes, what is it about them that made everybody else to frightened to come forward.
In answer to why the world seems unwilling to trust the DNA evidnce Major General or the Royal Thai police Suwat Jangvodsuk said should have put the case to rest, well perhaps that has something to do with the fact that neither of the condemned mens DNA was found on the murder weapon!
When the Samui Times asked a resident of Koh Tao, who asked not to be named, what the feeling was on Koh Tao, he said, “We all know the Burmese did not commit the crimes, but we have to live here, there is nothing we can do even if we all know who did it, the truth will come out eventually”. The Samui Times asked if it was likely the truth would come out in time to save the Burmese men who have been sentenced to death, the reply “They won’t die, we all know they won’t die”. It is unclear as to how anybody could know the men’s death sentence would not in due course be carried out but sitting on death row in Thailand’s notorious Bankwang Central prison dubbed ‘The Bangkok Hilton’ and ‘The Big Tiger’, it’s hard to imagine that if the two men are indeed scapegoats and innocent of the crimes that part of them has not died already.