Death Penalty Upholds For Koh Tao Murders

The Appeals Court on Wednesday announced its decision to uphold the death sentences for the two Burmese migrant workers, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, convicted of murdering Hannah Witheridge (23) and David Miller (24) on Koh Tao in September 2014.

Koh Tao-sentenced-to-death

In its ruling, made secretly on February 23, the Koh Samui court said evidence presented by the state in the original trial was adequate and reliable, and therefore declined to overturn the December 2015 verdict condemning two Myanmar men to die for the deaths of the two British tourists.

The defense lawyers said they had no knowledge the court made a ruling last week – it came as a complete surprise. “We will definitely petition the Supreme Court,” defense lawyer Nakhon Chompuchart said Wednesday afternoon. He could not comment further because he had not yet seen the decision.

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo were convicted largely on the basis of DNA traces police said were recovered from the crime scene. The defense was never allowed to independently test the evidence on its own. No other physical evidence or witness testimony directly linked them to the crime.

The trial came following accusations Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, who were migrant workers on the island, were being used as scapegoats by desperate investigators.

The pair were forced to re-enact the murders after confessing.

Later on in the case, a top forensic scientist testified to the court that DNA traces found on a garden hoe reportedly used in the murder did not match the two defendants.

Police have consistently denied misconduct in their handling of the evidence and rejected accusations that torture was used to extract the initial confessions by the two Burmese in the case.

The Appeals Court said it believed in the prosecutor’s evidence by considering all the evidence presented which are substantiated and convinced it to believe that the two defendants committed the offence without any doubt. The court also dismissed the contention of the defendants that the evidence was incomplete, citing the absence of some documents and photos of some events.

The defense will now appeal to the Surpreme Court.