"Shambolic" Kirsty murder hunt clears Britons

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The Independent Online

Five foreign nationals have been cleared by DNA tests of any involvement in the rape and murder of British backpacker Kirsty Jones, Thai police have said.

Five foreign nationals have been cleared by DNA tests of any involvement in the rape and murder of British backpacker Kirsty Jones, Thai police have said.

The five include three Britons. they had given samples after the 23-year-old university student was found dead 10 days ago in her room at the Aree guesthouse in Chiang Mai.

General Aram Chanpen, the region's police chief, told a news conference today that as a result of the tests police have now eliminated guesthouse owner Andrew Gill, 32, Steven Trigg, 27, from Lowestoft, Briton/Australian Nathan Foley, 26, Australian Stuart Crichton, 28, and Frenchman Jacquel Wilfried.

But the police chief insisted Surin Chanpranet, 47, the manager of the guesthouse and Mr Abraham Narong 34, the tour guide who took Miss Jones on a trek in the days leading up to her murder, remain "prime suspects".

This is despite DNA tests on the pair so far failing to prove any link with the killing of Miss Jones. Further tests on their samples are underway.

As the news conference was taking place, Mr Narong marched into the police chief's office and complained he had been abducted and tortured in an attempt to force a confessession.

He accused police of beating him, stripping him naked and standing on his chest.

The allegations of brutality came as Thai police found themselves facing accusations that their investigation was "bungling" and "shambolic".

Mr Narong said officers were clearly desperate to pin the murder on someone.

He claimed that three days ago, at the guesthouse where he works, a snatch squad of four men he believes were police officers arrived and grabbed him.

The general told him he had not heard the allegations before but promised to look into them "fairly".

He insisted the investigation was going well and revealed that police have two new witnesses - Thai students who had been staying near the Aree guesthouse and had heard Miss Jones's cries for help.

Mr Chanpen also said the search was on for the driver of a Tuk-Tuk - a motorised rickshaw - who is believed to be the last person to have seen Miss Jones alive after bringing her home from the night market.

But criticism of the police operation was mounting today, with a Thai newspaper, The Nation, quoting an unnamed senior official at the British Embassy in Bangkok as saying: "The investigation has been a shambles."

The paper described the police as bungling and said the investigation had been characterised by sloppy evidence gathering, conflicting forensic tests and rash and inaccurate statements by detectives.

A few days ago, the police came under fire from Miss Jones's family for saying their daughter had consented to sex with a man who had then "accidentally" killed her.

Senior officers later tried to play down the pronouncement by saying it was only "possible" that she had consented and that the case was still very much being treated as murder.

Mr Chanpen said today he could understand that people were becoming impatient with the investigation but insisted that everything possible was being done.

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