Tourists heard dying cries of backpacker, court told

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The Independent Online

The trial of two fisherman accused of murdering the backpacker Katherine Horton yesterday heard from a British tourist who said he heard her cry, "I'm sinking. I'm sinking".

Testimony on the events of New Year's Day came from Christopher Burrows, who discovered Ms Horton's phone on the beach on the island of Koh Samui.

The judge adjourned the trial until Wednesday when Bualoi Posit, 23, and Wichai Somkhaoyai, 24, who admitted rape and murder, face the death penalty. They defendants were shackled on the wrists and ankles and barefoot as they were led in to the dock.

The court was told that Ms Horton, 21, from Cardiff, was beaten with a parasol pole then dragged out to sea off Koh Samui where she drowned.

The one-day trial in Surat Thani heard that the men had been watching pornographic films and drinking on their boat on the evening of 1 January. They swam ashore using plastic petrol cans as buoyancy and attacked Ms Horton on the beach as she talked to her mother on her mobile phone. The men hit her head and shoulders with the pole and took turns to rape her while the other held her down, the trial heard.

After that they dragged her out to sea to a boat and used that to tow her further out, where the Reading University student died.

The discovery by Mr Burrows of the mobile phone on the beach led police to investigate fishing boats moored offshore. Officers boarded the boats posing as fish traders then told those on board that DNA tests would be done.

The court heard that when told this was what would happen, the two men on trial admitted they committed the murder. They attacked her at 9pm local time, close to where Ms Horton was staying, on Lamai Beach on Koh Samui.

Her body was washed up the next morning on a remote beach two miles away and found by a jet-skier. The court heard from eight witnesses, including police officers, forensic doctors and fishermen. The two accused did not address the court directly, but confirmed their earlier statements admitting guilt. No defence witnesses were called.

Judge Chamnong Sutch-aimai said all testimony in the hearing had been concluded, and he would make a decision on Wednesday. The charge carries a maximum penalty of death, and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made an unusual public appeal this week for the killers to suffer the "hardest punishment" possible, saying that the murder harmed Thailand's image and could damage its tourism industry.

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