Defense lawyer: DNA available in British tourist murder case

AP News
|
Posted: Jul 23, 2015 11:50 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — A lawyer for two migrant Myanmar workers on trial for murdering British backpackers David Miller and Hannah Witheridge said Thursday that DNA evidence the defense had sought for retesting has become available despite earlier doubts it could be used.

Nakorn Chompuchat, defense lawyer in the trial for the 2014 killings on Koh Tao island, said a forensic police officer told judges in court that some evidence, including blood-stained sand and a condom, had enough DNA to be retested. Police last week had indicated that the samples had been used up, making retesting impossible.

Defenders of the accused men, Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, say the Thai police analyses of the DNA are the only evidence linking them to the crime, so retesting is crucial. Defense lawyers said the DNA reports compiled by Thai police and British coroners had discrepancies.

Nakorn said the forensic expert testified that although the original DNA swabs obtained at the crime scene had been exhausted, they had been duplicated through a laboratory process, so samples were still available. He said the court had asked him to submit a request detailing which samples they wanted to be retested.

The bodies of Miller, 24, and Witheridge, 23, were found Sept. 15 on the rocky shores of Koh Tao. Autopsies showed that both had suffered severe head wounds and that Witheridge had been raped.

Under intense pressure to catch the murderers, police carried out DNA tests on more than 200 people on the island before arresting the two suspects in early October.

The men, both 22 years old, retracted initial confessions, saying they were extracted through beatings and threats, which police deny. From the start, investigators faced a variety of criticisms, including for failing to secure the crime scene and for releasing names and pictures of suspects who turned out to be innocent.