Backpacker's friend tells of 'huge void' left by murder

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The Independent Online

The travelling companion of the murdered British backpacker Katherine Horton told last night of the "huge void" left in her life by the death of her best friend in Thailand.

Ruth Adams, from Bromley, Kent, said she was "encouraged" by the swift progress of the police investigation after two fishermen were charged yesterdaywith raping and killing Ms Horton, 21. DNA tests were said to have linked them to the attack.

"I am hoping that this recent development will allow Kath's family space to mourn for their daughter who loved them all very much. I would like to send my love to all of them," Ms Adams said.

Showing a photograph taken on the final day she spent with her friend as they relaxed on a beach in Koh Samui beach, she said: "We spent New Year's Day together, snorkelling and splashing around in the sea, sunbathing and chatting.

"Now all of that has gone for ever and there is a huge void in my life."

Ms Horton's father, Ian, and her brother Christopher are understood to have returned to Britain at the weekend with her body.

A police statement issued after the arrest of the two fishermen said that "Bualoi [Posit] wrestled the victim from behind, while Wichai [Somkhaoyai] used a stick to hit her repeatedly. They then dragged her to a secluded location to rape her."

General Phrewphan Damaphong, deputy chief of the national police, said Posit, 23, admitted he assaulted and raped Miss Horton, while Somkhaoyai, 24, denied raping her but confessed to being an accomplice to her murder.

He added: "The doctor confirmed that the semen found on the body of Katherine Horton belongs to Bualoi and Wichai and the court has issued an arrest warrant."

Ms Adams said she became, "instant friends" with Ms Horton when they met at Reading University, where they both studied psychology and shared a house. She said: "Kath and I often travelled together. Last year we enjoyed backpacking through Croatia - when we discussed travelling further afield after we had graduated. We discussed this again on what was to turn out to be the last meal we ever shared on Koh Samui on New Year's Day.

"My words cannot express the loss and devastation that I feel knowing I have lost my best friend in the most brutal, evil and permanent way imaginable.

"Kath and I were inseparable. We knew each other inside out. I cannot understand how something so evil could happen to someone so innocent, beautiful, passionate and selfless."

She thanked the Thai police, "who worked relentlessly to bring the perpetrators to justice", and Callum MacDonald, a traveller who befriended the pair in the days before Ms Horton's death.

Ms Adams offered her thanks to "five other travellers for their strength and constant support" and an English family who cared for her on Koh Samui.

Ms Horton's mother, Elizabeth, said she felt "numb" following the arrests, the BBC's Good Evening Wales reported last night.

A spokesman at the British embassy said warrants detailing the men's offences as co-conspiracy to rape and deliberated murder with cruelty had been issued by the Thai courts.

"That effectively means that they have been charged and they will appear in court probably within the next 12 days," he explained.

If convicted the men could face the death penalty.

The Thai authorities have been concerned that the murder and international publicity surrounding it could damage the country's reputation. The Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has personally intervened in the investigation, urging officers to catch the killers as soon as possible.

Post-mortem tests have shown that Ms Horton was raped, beaten and then drowned. A second post-mortem examination is due to be performed in the UK.

The Cardiff coroner said a date had yet to be set for an inquest into the death.