“We remain confident that this is the correct decision. We hope that the Thai authorities will show leniency in relation to the death sentence,” the family of David Miller said in a statement seen today (Mar 2) by Andy Hall, a migrant rights activists and member of the defence team.
The Appeals Court yesterday upheld the death sentence on Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, aka Wai Phyo, both 24, for the murder of the Briton and for the rape and murder of compatriot Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the island of Koh Tao on Sept 15, 2014.
“We have always said that we did not want innocent men sentenced nor guilty parties acquitted on a technicality. In the end, the evidence is overwhelming and we feel that justice has been done,” wrote the parents, who said they had attended most of the court proceedings and learnt first-hand the facts of the case through unbiased translation by friends in Thailand.
They were referring to the evidence found in Witherdige’s body.
“During autopsy, semen in Hannah's body had been found and this was analysed in the accredited Institute of Forensic Medicine and Pathology in Bangkok well before the two guilty men were detained,” it said.
This find triggered an extensive DNA testing of all workers and inhabitants around the crime scene, eventually leading the police to the link they sought and to Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, they said.
“Their DNA was retested in court and found to match the results from samples taken at the autopsy. The defence team was then given the opportunity to retest the autopsy samples and they declined, despite our requests to do so. That moment was telling,” the statement said.
Apart from the forensic tests, circumstantial evidence also pointed to the same direction, the family continued.
“Both Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo admitted in court to being at the crime scene that night, just feet from where the murder weapon was kept (and replaced) and metres from where the murders took place. The claim they saw and heard nothing in the moonlight. Our own visits to the beach on Koh Tao under a similar moon make this claim impossible for us to believe.
“Wai Phyo admitted in court to returning to the beach during the night and to having our son’s mobile phone in his possession the next day. His friends had given evidence that he tried to sell it to them before attempting to destroy it. We were able to confirm the identity of David’s phone via its IMEI number and this number was matched to that of the recovered phone in court.”
The family also ruled out the defendants’ claims of being tortured into confession.
“Upon detention by the police, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo were held and initially interrogated in separate locations with multiple witnesses testifying that they saw no mishandling nor evidenced any signs of torture. Their claims of torture were never corroborated and Zaw Lin’s explanation in court of why he had no marks of the beating he described was extraordinary. He claimed that these marks were removed by a police medication, rubbed on him after the torture was finished.”
The family believes it was the publicity following the crime that led the defendants to recant.
“In court, we also heard from them that they had told their first lawyers, appointed by the Solicitors Council of Thailand, and anyone else that asked, that they were guilty. This included fellow prisoners, doctors, interpreters and the police.
“We now believe that it was simply press and internet attention in the week following the crime reconstruction that induced this guilty pair to change their admissions of guilt to pleas of not-guilty. The claims of torture being merely to explain the change of plea.”
“Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo will now have time in jail to reflect on their horrific crimes.”
However, the defence lawyers have argued the evidence is circumstantial, and that police forensic testing procedures were unreliable and poorly documented.
After the bodies were found, the local police failed to seal off the crime scene. The body of Witheridge was moved before any DNA tests had taken place.
A forensic pathologist also cast doubt over the competence and credibility on the police investigation in collecting DNA evidence. She pointed out that the police at the crime scene had not tested for DNA pools of blood on the beach, nor had they tested the murder weapon, a garden hoe, for the DNA of the accused.
In the case of Witheridge, the semen samples that allegedly matched the DNA of the Myanmar migrants were not made available to the defence experts. The police claimed that it was used up or unavailable for re-testing.
Read original story here.