Thailand beach murders: Hannah Witheridge family 'broken' by tragedy as her body is returned home

Thai police claim to have new evidence that indicates the murders were caused by 'sexual jealousy'

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The Independent Online

The body of Hannah Witheridge, the British backpacker who was brutally murdered in Thailand along with a fellow traveller, has been returned to the UK, her family has said.

Ms Witheridge, 23, was found dead next to David Miller, 24, on a beach on the island of Koh Tao on Monday.

In a statement, her family said they had brought her back to her hometown of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

“We can confirm that we have now returned to the UK with our beautiful Hannah. As a family we feel enormous relief to have Hannah back at home where she belongs.

"We continue to work closely with officers to assist in the investigation and bring those responsible to justice. Our family is broken and require time to grieve in private – as do Hannah’s many friends.

Meanwhile, police in Thailand said they are looking into fresh evidence that indicates the murders may have been motivated by "sexual jealousy".

The Royal Thai Police said that they are looking into claims that the Ms Witheridge and Mr Miller had argued with a Thai man in a bar before they were killed.

Police Colonel Kissana Phathanacharoen said: "We have discovered fresh evidence which could lead to a new suspect who may have had a relationship or one night stand with Hannah or one of her friends or David the night before they were killed.

"We have asked the Metropolitan Police to go back and make enquiries of Hannah's friends on this matter. The liaison officer here in Bangkok is working on getting that statement. The faster we get it, the faster we may be able to get the bad guy.

"No lines of inquiry can be ruled out and we believe these crimes could have been motivated by sexual jealousy. Police have been made aware of reports that Hannah and David had a fight in a bar with a Thai man before they were killed, but cannot confirm if they are true."

Both Britons died from head wounds, according to post-mortems examinations, and it is believed that a bloodstained hoe found near their bodies was the murder weapon.

A reward of £4,000 for important information pertaining to the case is being offered by Thai authorities, who have also deployed 150 officers.

Police said yesterday that they were looking for more than one suspect following unconfirmed reports that the DNA of two Asian men had been found on Ms Witheridge's body.

Among the suspects no longer considered were two British brothers, friends of Mr Miller, and also a group of Burmese migrants who had bloodstains on their clothing.

No matches were found between them and DNA found at the scene.

Police had previously said they were looking for three Westerners who were seen playing a guitar near the scene on Koh Tao's main Sairee beach.

These murders have proven to be a disaster for Thailand’s reputation as a tourist destination, exacerbated by controversial comments made by Thailand’s military ruler.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha had said that attractive female tourists may be unsafe wearing bikinis. Intense criticism later forced him to apologise for his remark.

"I apologise that I have spoken too harshly. I didn't mean to criticise or look down on anyone. Today I can guarantee that Thailand is still safe. I wanted to warn [tourists] to be careful," he said.

Additional Reporting from Press Association