Koh Tao Murders: Mass DNA tests fail to identify suspects


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Koh Tao Murders: Mass DNA tests fail to identify suspects
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Police hunting the killers of two British tourists on Koh Tao failed again yesterday to link suspects to the crimes, as DNA tests on 30 out of 64 samples collected mostly from migrants on the island did not match any found on the victims’ bodies.

Yesterday was the eighth day since the murders but police have yet to reveal solid clues or the likely motive. The officials were waiting for results of DNA tests of three ‘new’ suspects: two Thais and a migrant who looks like a man seen on a close-circuit television camera.

However they have confirmed that two weapons we used to kill the pair – which led them to believe they are hunting at least two people.

The body of Hannah Witheridge, the young female backpacker slain on the island, meanwhile, left Bangkok for her home country. Her family said in a statement: “We can confirm that we have now returned to the UK with our beautiful Hannah. As a family we feel enormous relief to have Hannah back at home where she belongs.”

Her body was found next to David Miller, also 24, on the beach of the resort island on Monday morning. Both were bludgeoned to death.

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Somyot Pumpanmuang said yesterday that officers would have to widen the search to be beyond the island.

“We have now confirmed that the killing weapon is not only a hoe found stained with blood, but also a wooden club. This made us believe that there are at least two attackers,” he said.

Somyot said police had a theory that the killers may come and left the island on the same night. “Koh Tao is an area where people, Thais, migrant workers as well as foreign tourists come and go all the time,” he said.

Police have held one man, however, identified as Lerpong Suksomboon, an attendant on a speedboat for tourists between Koh Samui and Koh Tao. He was detained after residents alerted police that he was hiding in a cave on Koh Samui – and came out from time to time and asked for food.

Under influence of drugs

Police on Sunday night questioned Lerpong but he appeared to be under the influence of drugs. He reportedly kept saying he did not beat to death the tourists. Police collected samples of his hair and fingernails for DNA tests at the Institute of Forensic Medicine of Police General Hospital.

Police yesterday took two of his friends into custody; one was also high on drugs and the other, identified as Jom, is the driver of a long-tail boat. Police learnt that they had been on Koh Tao on the day of the murder.

Some fishermen fishing off Kanom district in Nakhon Si Thammarat province alerted police that they found a Thai man on a speedboat named “Little Duck” speeding south from Koh Pha Ngan. The man stopped by and asked for directions to Naiprao Island in the district. But he changed direction to Pakpanang district in the same province after his boat encountered a marine police boat on Naiprao beach.

Meanwhile, Pol Maj Gen Kittipong Kaosam-ang, a Surat Thani police commander, asked the media not to report in-depth investigation results, saying it may give some clues to the culprits. But he revealed that Thais may have been involved in the murders and had tried to destroy evidence linking them to the attacks. Some people on Koh Tao had given false information to police in a bid to divert attention.

Somyot told reporters that Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and his deputy Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, telephoned him every day to know the latest developments in the case.

Police have worked closely with officials from the British Embassy and they are still confident that they will eventually arrest the culprits. It was not necessary to send investigators to Thailand to help, they said.

Government spokesman Yongyuth Maiyalarp said the PM ordered police to quickly bring the culprits to justice. Officials at the island, plus business owners and have been told to help provide advice on safety issues to tourists.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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