Thai fishermen admit murdering British tourist

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The Independent Online

Two Thai fishermen arrested for the rape and premeditated murder of a British tourist earlier this month on the southern resort island of Koh Samui pleaded guilty on both charges today when charged in court.

Bualoi Posit, 23, and Wichai Somkhaoyai, 24, were charged by police with carrying out a brutal New Year's Day attack on Katherine Horton, a 21-year-old student from Cardiff, whose body was found floating in the Gulf of Thailand on January 2.

The two men nodded affirmatively in turn when asked by a judge on the provincial court of Surat Thani, 330 miles south-west of Bangkok, whether they were guilty of the charges.

Wichai's lawyer, Promphatchara Namuang, confirmed both men pleaded guilty, and said that a hearing to determine their punishment would begin tomorrow, and probably last just one day.

The murder charge carries a maximum sentence of death. However, Thai courts usually reduce such sentences to life imprisonment or less in cases where defendants plead guilty.

Their arrests on Monday followed an unusual public appeal last week by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to find the killers. He said that the murderers should face the "hardest punishment" as the killing hurt the country's image and could damage its tourism industry.

"This case is drawing a great deal of interest and having an adverse impact on the country's tourism. It is necessary to speed up the judicial process," said defence lawyer Promphatchara.

This morning, a memorial service was held for Horton near the spot where she was killed. Buddhist monks chanted prayers for her spirit, and friends read poems in her honour.

Police said earlier this week that under interrogation, the fishermen told them they spotted Horton while she was walking alone on a beach talking on her mobile phone.

Bualoi allegedly told police he grabbed Horton's arms, while Wichai allegedly admitted hitting her several times with a stick before they raped her and then threw her body into the sea.

Police also said that DNA testing showed that semen found on Horton's body belonged to the two men.

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