Teenagers murdered women in crocodile river, court is told

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The Independent Online

Two Australian teenagers confessed to murdering two Thai-born prostitutes by tying them up and throwing them into a crocodile-infested river, a court heard yesterday.

Two Australian teenagers confessed to murdering two Thai-born prostitutes by tying them up and throwing them into a crocodile-infested river, a court heard yesterday.

A post-mortem examination showed that Phuangsri Kroksamrang, 58, and Somjai Insamnan, 27, drowned in the Adelaide river, south of Darwin, last March. Their floating bodies were discovered by a tour group being taken on a crocodile-spotting cruise.

Rex Wild, the Northern Territory's director of public prosecutions, told a committal hearing that Ben McLean and Phu Trinh, both 18, had confessed to murdering the women in police interviews.

Mr Trinh claimed he carried out the killings by himself, strangling the women in the back of a car and then throwing them off a bridge into the river. But Mr McLean admitted that he was also involved.

Mr Wild said that, despite Mr McLean's account, "the cause of death in both cases appeared to be drowning, which indicated that both women were alive when they went over". He said they might have been unconscious at the time.

The court heard Ms Kroksamrang and Ms Insamnan worked as prostitutes in Darwin. The teenagers had sex with them before allegedly killing them. When their bodies were found, their ankles and hands were tied and each had a red rope around her neck. A car battery had been tied to both bodies to weigh them down.

Mr McLean and Mr Trinh, who both appeared barefoot in Darwin magistrates' court, did not enter a formal plea. Mr Wild said they had been working at Mr Trinh's family vegetable farm at Marrakai, near the river, at the time of the murders. After being questioned by police, they flew to Brisbane and were arrested in a friend's house, where they were found hiding in a bedroom cupboard.

Mr Trinh allegedly contacted the women and bought zip ties, rope and packing tape before picking them up from the motel. He gave no reason for the murders, while Mr McLean claimed he wanted to pay off a drugs debt. Mr Wild said the prosecution did not accept that explanation.

Ms Kroksamrang was known to carry large amounts of cash, and kept $50,000 (£19,000) in a safety deposit box. A sum of $1,800 (£700) was allegedly withdrawn from her account after she disappeared.

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