Forensic evidence not 'lost' in Koh Tao murders: Police

Forensic evidence not 'lost' in Koh Tao murders: Police
PHOTO: AFP

The trial on the murder of two British backpackers on Koh Tao entered its third day yesterday, with witnesses testifying that the Samui provincial court was not able to rule on the defence team's request for a re-examination of forensic evidence.

Chief prosecutor Thawatchai Siengjaew said the cross-examination of the witnesses would take time, but should be completed by the end of this month.

The defence team has asked the court to get the forensic and DNA evidence re-examined by the Justice Ministry's Central Institute of Forensic Science. It had initially been collected and examined by the Police Forensic Science Institute.

The trial of the two Myanmar migrants - Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun - for allegedly murdering David Miller and Hannah Witheridge has caught the attention of both local and international media as it is widely believed that they have been made scapegoats for the crime.

Miller and Witheridge were murdered in September last year on Koh Tao off Surat Thani province.

Meanwhile, national police chief Pol General Somyot Poompunmuang dismissed reports that the DNA evidence in the case could not be re-tested as some of it had either been "used up" or lost.

He said this "miscommunication" may have resulted from a misinterpretation of the police investigator's remark.

On Thursday, BBC News reported on its website that crucial DNA evidence in the case could not be re-tested because it no longer exists. It quoted Pol Lt-Colonel Somsak Noorod, who led the original investigation, as saying that some of the original DNA samples had been "used up", while the hair sample found in Witheridge's hand was among samples that was lost.

"There's nothing left. It was all used up when we tested the first time," he was quoted as saying.

However, Somyot referred to Provincial Bureau 8 chief Pol Lt-General Decha Butrnampetch, who oversees the area, as saying that the evidence was not lost.

"This report may have resulted from a mistranslation of the officer's statement," Somyot said, adding that maybe the officer wanted to say that the evidence had been handed over to the Institute of Forensic Medicine after the investigation finished.

"So when the defence lawyer asked him in the court about the DNA samples and evidence, he said he did not have them. This may have made people misunderstand that the evidence no longer exists or was lost," the police chief said.

Thawatchai agreed, saying the BBC had misunderstood the officer and that the evidence had not been lost. However, he said, some DNA samples may have been used up in accordance with the examination process.

"We still have specific DNA samples from the hoe," he said, without elaborating. Police had collected a hoe from a garden near the crime scene where the bodies were found and it was believed to be a murder weapon.

British daily, The Telegraph, quoted lead defence lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat as saying, "We have received information from British authorities that shows inconsistencies in the prosecution case. This is significant evidence."

However, the lawyer said the evidence was not provided by British police or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is believed it came from examination of the victims' bodies in the UK and is tied to DNA found on Witheridge's corpse.

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