Two British medical students were stabbed to death yesterday in the Malaysian part of Borneo after a disagreement with locals at a cafe.
Neil Dalton and Aidan Brunger, both 22, were students at Newcastle University, which praised them as “excellent” and “committed”.
The university said they were on a six-week work placement at a hospital in the city of Kuching, “doing what thousands of medical students do every year”.
Police have launched a murder inquiry and have already detained four men.
Reports from Kuching, located in the west of the Malaysian part of Borneo, said that Mr Dalton, from Derbyshire, and Mr Brunger, believed to be from Gillingham, were attacked after getting into a disagreement with locals, who had been drinking.
The pair had gone into a cafe or bar in the Jalan Padungan area where they were approached by one of four young men who complained that they were being too loud, the reports said.
After an argument, the students left but the men followed them in a car. At some point one of the four locals got out of the vehicle, a Malaysian-made Perodua Viva, and attacked Mr Dalton and Mr Brunger. A restaurant worker who witnessed the attack apparently called the police at around 4am.
Video: Malaysia murders
Reports said the bodies of the students, both aged 22, were found lying in the street in the early hours. One had been stabbed in the chest, the other in the chest and the back, according to a report by Malaysia’s Bernama news agency.
“We were informed this morning of the very sad news that two of our fourth-year medical students working at a hospital in Kuching, Borneo, have been tragically killed,” Professor Tony Stevenson, the university’s acting vice-chancellor said in a statement.
He said two members of the university staff would be travelling to Kuching as soon as arrangements could be made. “This has come as a huge shock to us all and our thoughts are with their families and friends at this very difficult time,” he added.
The state’s deputy police chief, Datuk Chai Khin Chung, said the knife allegedly used in the attack and the suspects’ vehicle had also been seized. Forensic teams have examined the site of the attack.
“Technically, the case is solved with the recovery of the knife believed to have been used in the murder,” Mr Chai was quoted as saying.
Professor Jane Calvert, Dean of Undergraduate Studies for Newcastle University Medical School said “they were excellent students” who were “doing really well with their studies, they were highly committed and coming back next year to work as doctors.
“Aidan was aspiring to do some medical research on his return, Neil was going straight into his final year and it’s such a tragic thing to occur.”
Michael Smile, the Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Sarawak General Hospital, posted a message on social media, offering his condolences and warning other students to be careful.
“May I caution other students who might be venturing out late at night, particularly to night spots to be very careful,” he said. “I am not sure which area is unsafe; there will always be a few bad hats around.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was aware of the deaths of to British nations and was working to provide assistance to their families.
Malaysian police said the case was being investigated under Section 302 of the country’s penal code which carries the mandatory death sentence for anyone convicted.