KOH SAMUI, Thailand (AFP) - Two Myanmar nationals accused of killing a pair of British holidaymakers in Thailand were seen on CCTV playing guitar near the crime scene, a court heard Wednesday, as their lawyer decried a lack of retestable DNA evidence to bolster the defence case.
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 and face the death penalty if convicted over a case which damaged Thailand’s reputation as a tourist haven and saw the police accused of bungling the investigation.
Prosecutors say DNA evidence points towards the two 22-year-old suspects, but the defence alleges that the men have been scapegoated by an under pressure police force and coerced confessions from the pair.
CCTV images of the British backpackers’ final hours were played to a court on the neighbouring island of Koh Samui where the trial is being heard in stages over the next two months.
Reporters are not allowed to take notes during the trial. Footage from 17 cameras on the island showed the young holidaymakers enjoying a night out with friends.
The prosecution said Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun emerged as potential suspects after they were spotted on CCTV that night playing guitar, smoking and chatting with friends on the same beach where the murders took place.
Witheridge and Miller’s corpses were found on the morning of September 15 amongst rocks nearby.
Police say Miller had been struck by a single blow and left to drown in shallow surf while Witheridge had been raped and then beaten to death with a garden hoe.
Much of the defence’s case has revolved around a bid to retest crucial forensic evidence, including DNA samples taken from the bodies of the victims as well as a condom and cigarettes found at the crime scene.
But Thai police have said there are no more useable samples left to test from those items.
Before Wednesday’s hearing defence lawyer Nakhon Chomphuchat said the lack of forensic evidence undermined his case which would instead be forced to rely on calling a larger number of witnesses to the stand.
“But it takes time. I think there is not enough time for all the witnesses to (be) presented,” he told AFP.
The defence have been given six days to lay out their evidence compared to the prosecution’s 12 days.
Members of the victims’ families, who had attended the opening days of the trial two weeks ago, were not present for the latest hearings.
But the mothers of the two defendants, who hail from Myanmar’s impoverished Rakhine state, were in court for the first time Tuesday, bursting into tears as their sons were led into the courtroom.