The families of two Britons murdered on Koh Tao said evidence against two Myanmar migrants accused of the crime is convincing, in statements supportive of a much-criticised police investigation on Friday.
Migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun are accused of murdering 24-year-old David Miller and raping and murdering Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the Thai diving resort of Koh Tao in September.
The defendants, both 21, are due to enter a plea in the trial today, according to prosecutors on the island of Koh Samui where the case will be heard.
In statements released through Britain’s Foreign Office, the victims’ families said they had seen strong evidence against the suspects and expressed confidence in the case.
“There is a great deal of detail and vast areas of investigative work which has been shared with us,” Witheridge’s family said in a statement. “We would like to stress that as a family we are confident in the work that has been carried out into these atrocious crimes.”
British detectives traveled to Thailand to review the police investigation into the murders after widespread criticism of blunders such as allowing reporters to trample over the crime scene.
Rights groups also raised concerns over the case after the two suspects retracted confessions they had made to the crime, and said they had been tortured.
On Friday the family of Miller criticised “increasing sensationalism of this story” and said that “speculation” should be suspended until all evidence is made public.
“The support for the Myanmar suspects has been strong and vocal, but please do not jump to conclusions until you have considered the evidence from both sides in full,” Miller’s family said.
“From what we have seen, the suspects have a difficult case to answer. The evidence against them appears to be powerful and convincing.”
The suspects’ families and legal team say they are innocent and have been made scapegoats of a crime by police keen to find a quick resolution.
The events have further damaged Thailand’s image as a tourist haven after months of political protests led to an army coup in May and the imposition of martial law.
On Thursday a lawyer for the accused said key witnesses are too afraid to come forward, hampering his clients’ defense.
“The court will ask the defendants whether they confess or deny the charges,” chief prosecutor Paiboon Archavanuntakun told AFP. The pair – who did not appear in court on Thursday – are also accused of battery and illegal entry to Thailand, among other charges, he added. They were arrested in October after police said they had found the men’s DNA on Witheridge’s body and that they had admitted to the crimes. But Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun later retracted their confessions, alleging they were obtained under duress.
Their families and legal team have also protested their innocence, saying the men have been made scapegoats by a police force desperate for a quick conclusion to a crime which raised fears over tourist safety in the kingdom. One of the two men’s lawyers told AFP his clients vulnerable immigrant status meant witnesses were scared of testifying or willing to come to his defence.