Thailand beach murders: Police identify two suspects over deaths of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller

Senior southern police commander said the suspects were related to the village leader on the island of Koh Tao

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The Independent Online

Police in Thailand said today they had identified two men they wanted to speak to as part of the inquiry into the murder of two British tourists. One of the suspects had been questioned while the other had left the island where the killings took place.

In the latest in a series of claims from the police investigating the murder of 23-year-old Hannah Witheridge and 24-year-old David Miller, Lt Gen Panya Mamen, a senior southern police commander, said the suspects were related to the village leader on the island of Koh Tao.

“There is more than one,” said the police chief, according to the Thailand Public Broadcasting Service.

Reports said one of the men had been detained and questioned before being released, while the other had gone to Bangkok. The police chief said they were liaising with officers in the capital to try and detain the second man.

The questioning of the possible suspect came after police said forensic tests had revealed DNA samples recovered from Ms Witheridge’s body belonged to two different Asian men and that these people were now their main line of inquiry.

Post-mortem tests carried out on Ms Witheridge and Mr Miller showed the young woman died from severe head wounds while the man had suffered head injuries and then drowned in the ocean after being attacked in the early hours of 15 September.

Their bodies were found less than 100 metres from the location of where a beach party had been held the night before. Police said a blood-stained hoe was found near the bodies and officers suspect it was the murder weapon.

Thai police have been criticised for the swerving nature of their investigation. Initially, migrant workers from neighbouring Burma were said to be the most likely suspects before police said they believed other British tourists may have been involved. They now again believe the killer, or killers, were almost certainly Asian.

Police said they were also looking at evidence that may suggest the killings were carried out as a result of “sexual jealousy”. Police said they looking into claims Ms Witheridge and Mr Miller had argued with a Thai man in a bar before they were killed.

News of the arrest came as a British man living on Koh Tao revealed he had been forced to flee the island after being threatened by local mafia.

Sean McAnna, 25, who comes from near Glasgow, was a friend of Mr Miller. In a series of posts on social media he claimed local thugs he believed were responsible for the killing of the tourists had threatened to hang him.

“I genuinely thought that was the day I was going to die,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “I genuinely thought that this was me dead. That I was gone.”

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Thai police denied the existence of a mafia on Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand that is known as a diving resort.