The final appeal of two Myanmar migrant workers sentenced to death for the murder of two British backpackers on a Thai holiday island was today rejected by Thailand’s Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court upholds the verdict from the first court and the appeal court,” a judge told Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun, found guilty in December 2015 of the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and the killing of David Miller, 24.
The British national’s battered bodies were found on a beach on the southern diving resort of Koh Tao in September 2014.
Prosecutors insisted the evidence against the men from Myanmar’s impoverished Rakhine state was clear, and a lower court upheld their conviction in 2017.
But during the proceedings, the defense said authorities mishandled the investigation and DNA evidence, not allowing independent analysis of samples and using confessions the pair said were coerced.
Police were accused of buckling to pressure to solve a crime that made global headlines and threatened to damage a tourism sector that accounts for a fifth of Thailand’s economy.
Andy Hall, an international adviser to the defence, said the evidence was “unreliable.”
“The death penalty sentence against the two accused and their conviction should be reversed and quashed.”
BREAKING NEWS – official legal defence team source at the court: Thailand’s Supreme Court has upheld the ‘guilty’ death sentence and conviction of Koh Tao murder case accused Rakhine migrant workers Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo – more detailed information to follow pic.twitter.com/krZF0vLsxI
— Andy Hall (@Atomicalandy) August 29, 2019
Thailand’s legal system is notoriously opaque, with some cases flying through the courts while others take years.
The 2017 appeal decision was presented to the two men with no translator and without lawyers present, according to the defense.
If the Supreme Court’s verdict on Thursday upholds the ruling their last hope is the possibility of a royal pardon.
Last year Thailand carried out its first execution since 2009, a sudden resumption of the death penalty that was condemned by rights groups who hoped the country was moving towards abolishing the practice.
The verdicts on the 2014 double killing divided relatives.
Miller’s parents backed the court’s conviction, but Witheridge’s family were more cautious in drawing conclusions while her sister Laura later called the investigation “bungled.”