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Supreme Court of Thailand upholds death sentence in the Koh Tao murders

Samui Times Editor

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Supreme Court of Thailand upholds death sentence in the Koh Tao murders | Samui Times

Thailand’s Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty handed down to Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo for the murders of British backpackers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in 2014 on the island of Koh Tao.  

Supreme Court of Thailand upholds death sentence in the Koh Tao murders | News by Samui Times

The high profile murders hit headlines around the world and after the islands headman’s brother and son were implicated, and subsequently cleared of any involvement, Burmese migrant workers Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo were arrested. The pair initially pleaded guilty to the charges of rape and murder but later withdrew their confessions stating they were the result of torture at the hands of the police.

They were found guilty of rape and murder on December the 24th 2015 as well as the theft of a phone and immigration violations and sentenced to death.

Despite being found guilty the Burmese men’s supporters around the globe continue to believe they are being used as scapegoats to cover up for influential figures on Koh Tao.

The police in this case have faced widespread domestic and international criticism for their handling of the case and the evidence.

The pro-bono legal defence team say that the evidence collected by the police was unreliable and not collected, transported, stored or tested in accordance with internationally accepted standards and should never have been used as evidence to convict the two men. There was no DNA from the now condemned men found on the murder weapon.

In an interview with abc.net.au Australia’s independent forensic expert and consultant Jane Taupin, who was asked to review the evidence in 2015, said she was ‘alarmed’ at the state of a court document relating to the DNA evidence. She sighted hand written alterations and cross-outs on the document, something she said she had never seen before. ‘The issue with the document is its quality’ she explained to the news publication, ‘when a document that is tended to the court has handwritten alterations on it, it indicates that there has been a gap between the issue by the laboratory report and the tendering of that document to the court’. In addition to the alterations there was no stamp on the document to indicate whether the laboratory that completed the test was accredited to an international standard. She also mentioned that she was not given access to the case file that would have assisted her understanding, including DNA results that she said went against the basic rules of science. Jane states that she was alarmed that there were comments in the report that said the DNA profile of the mixture matched the DNA profile of a person, but a mixture DNA profile of two or more people cannot match by definition, that is basic science.

The defence team will now look to request a Royal pardon that must be submitted within 60 days of the hearing.

The Burmese men are said to be devastated by the outcome. They had great faith they would be found innocent by the Supreme Court. At the end of the hearing Zaw Lin asked the two judges if they would be killed by injection, his question went unanswered as the judges simply walked away.

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