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Key DNA evidence ‘finished’ at Brit tourists murder trial: police


The defence team for two Myanmar nationals accused of killing two British backpackers in Thailand last year were dealt a blow Thursday when it emerged that some crucial DNA evidence would not be retested.

Migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun are on trial for the murder of 24-year-old David Miller and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, on Koh Tao island in September. Both have pleaded not guilty. 

Thai police and prosecutors say DNA evidence points towards the two 22-year-old suspects, but the defence claims the men have been scapegoated by an under pressure police force who bungled their investigation and coerced confessions from the pair. 

Much of the defence’s case revolves around a bid to retest key forensic evidence, including DNA on cigarettes and a condom found near the crime scene as well as DNA swabs taken from the victims' bodies. 

"The DNA on the cigarettes is all finished," the head of police on the nearby island of Koh Pha Ngan told the defence team outside the courtroom on Koh Samui Thursday. 

"The DNA samples taken from the bodies are not my responsibility. They are in Bangkok," Police Lieutenant Colonel Somsak Nurod added. 

The court is due to rule Friday on whether the swabs held at Thailand’s Central Institute of Forensic Science in Bangkok may be retested, the defence team told AFP. 

"If they say (the DNA) is finished, it’s finished. Maybe our (forensic) expert will discuss on the stand whether it can be used or not. I don’t know," Lead defence lawyer Nakhon Chomphuchart said. 

The British pair’s bludgeoned bodies were found on Koh Tao’s main beach just as Thailand's vital tourism industry was beginning to recover from months of violent street protests that culminated in a May 2014 military coup. 

The grim case shone a light on Thailand's many underpaid and often exploited Myanmar migrants who work in the lucrative tourist sector as well as the country's judicial system, which many Thais complain is weighted in favour of the wealthy or influential. 

The opening day of the trial on Wednesday saw the defence attack the police for failing to cordon off the crime scene quick enough. Police deny mishandling their investigation and say their evidence will show the two Myanmar nationals are guilty. 

Relatives of Witheridge and Miller have travelled to Koh Samui for the trial, which is expected to take place over 18 staggered days between now and September with a verdict due in October. 

The victims' families have also previously said they have confidence in the case, after British investigators reported back to them following a visit to Thailand late last year. 

© AFP

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