KOH SAMUI (The Nation/Phuket Gazette): Police detained four men last night for questioning as part of their investigation into the murder of Welsh university student Katherine Horton on this popular resort island.
They also took DNA samples from the four, all employees of a resort close to the bungalow where Ms Horton, 21, was staying. Witnesses saw the men dining at a food stall nearby on the night of the murder, police said. No charges had been filed against the four as of last night.
A motorcycle owned by one of the men, whose identities were not immediately released by police, was seen parked outside Katherine’s bungalow at the New Hut resort on the evening of January 1. But the owner said he had earlier rented it to a foreign tourist, investigators said. The man produced a document to support his claim, they added.
Police yesterday questioned the four for several hours after taking them into custody at the Sea View Paradise resort on Lamai Beach. The resort is next to the one where Ms Horton, a third-year psychology student from Cardiff, was spending her New Year’s holiday with friends at the time she was killed.
Investigators took samples from the men for DNA analysis after questioning them yesterday and taking them to Samui Hospital for medical checks last night. They were later brought back to Samui police station for further questioning.
A source at the hospital said DNA sampling was carried out yesterday on seven foreigners and eight Thais, including the four men under detention, as part of the police investigation.
Ms Horton’s body was found on Monday in the sea off Thong Krok Beach, a few kilometers from the resort where she had been staying. Police said she had been hit several times on the head and body with a blunt instrument, before being thrown into the sea to drown.
A primary police investigation showed that Ms Horton was likely attacked while walking on the beach near her bungalow on the evening of January 1.
Ms Horton was talking to her mother, Elizabeth, on her mobile phone when the attack took place, and her mother reportedly heard her scream before the call was cut off.
Police at first said that an initial examination had shown no signs that Ms Horton was raped before she was murdered, but Pol Maj Gen Santhan Chayanont, Deputy Commissioner of Police Region 8, told the Gazette today, “After looking at much of the evidence we have concluded that Ms Horton was raped and murdered. A forensic examination discovered semen in her body.
“DNA samples are being taken from all suspects, and officers from the Police Forensic Science Office in Bangkok are checking these against evidence already found. We expect complete results of this analysis soon. It will be our main route of investigation.”
The results of the tests are expected today or tomorrow, he said.
Investigators also plan to check photographs from an automatic security camera installed near the spot where Ms Horton was believed to have been attacked, a police source said yesterday.
“At a resort nearby, there is a set of sensor-equipped cameras and lights that automatically snap pictures when something moves past at night. We hope to find some leads from the photo records,” the source said.
Police yesterday set up a field command centre on Koh Samui for the murder investigation. More than 100 police personnel from local and Bangkok-based units fanned out across the island in search of leads in the case.
Central Investigation Bureau deputy commissioner Pol Maj Gen Asavin Kwanmuang and Tourist Police commander Maj Gen Panya Mamen held a meeting with investigators to inquire about their progress.
“We have found some leads but cannot publicly discuss the details now. Some witnesses have been questioned and evidence gathered that leads to certain suspects,” Maj Gen Panya said.
“I am a father with daughters too, and so are many other officers who are racing against time to solve the case here with the heart of a father,” said Surat Thani Provincial Police Chief, Pol Maj Gen Voravate Vinitnatyanon.
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