back to top

Burmese Migrant Workers Sentenced To Death For British Backpacker Murders

A Thai court found Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo guilty of rape and murder.

Posted on

Two Burmese men have been found guilty and sentenced to death for murdering two British backpackers on the popular island of Koh Tao in Thailand last year.

SWNS

Judges in Thailand said that Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo killed Hannah Witheridge, 23, from Norfolk, and David Miller, 24, from Jersey.

An autopsy report found that both victims experienced trauma and blows to the head, while Miller had also died by drowning.

Witheridge's family said they needed time "to digest the outcome of the trial verdict", while the defendants' lawyers said that an appeal would be lodged.

Michael Miller, flanked by his parents Ian and Sue, speaks outside Koh Samui provincial court after two men were sentenced to death for the murder of his brother, David, and Hannah Witheridge in Koh Tao, Thailand, in September last year.
David Mercer / PA WIRE

Michael Miller, flanked by his parents Ian and Sue, speaks outside Koh Samui provincial court after two men were sentenced to death for the murder of his brother, David, and Hannah Witheridge in Koh Tao, Thailand, in September last year.

The men have always claimed that the police investigation was flawed, but now face death by lethal injection.

U Tun Tun Htike, father of Burmese migrant worker Wai Phyo, who was charged with murder, reacts while speaking to the media at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok on 22 October 2014.
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul / AFP / Getty Images

U Tun Tun Htike, father of Burmese migrant worker Wai Phyo, who was charged with murder, reacts while speaking to the media at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok on 22 October 2014.

Advertisement

The men's mothers sat behind them, sobbing during the judgment, before bursting into tears as the verdict was announced.

Miller's brother said: "We believe the result today was justice for David and Hannah. David always stood up for justice and justice is what was delivered today.

"We didn't know what to believe. It was easy to conclude they might be scapegoats. We heard the evidence and a group of activists has promoted their cause to the media.

"They had seven top lawyers and ultimately they obtained the best possible representation in court. We have attended the trial and gained respect for the court. We came to realise the police investigation was not the shambles it was made out to be."

However, human rights activists have previously noted that workers from Burma, of whom there are over 2 million in Thailand, have been wrongly accused of crimes in the past.

Burmese national Zaw Lin (right) arrives in a prison transport van outside Koh Samui courthouse as fellow Burmese national Wai Phyo (centre) follows on the Thai resort island of Koh Samui on 9 July 2015.
Jerome Taylor / AFP / Getty Images

Burmese national Zaw Lin (right) arrives in a prison transport van outside Koh Samui courthouse as fellow Burmese national Wai Phyo (centre) follows on the Thai resort island of Koh Samui on 9 July 2015.

One activist told the Guardian that he was "shocked by the strength of the verdict", and Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights charity Reprieve, told the paper: "There are credible allegations that these two young men were tortured into confessing, and we know that they have been subjected to numerous unfair trial practices."

Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alan White at alan.white@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.