‘I was tortured to confess murdering Hannah Witheridge’ - accused tells court today Skip to main content

‘I was tortured to confess murdering Hannah Witheridge’ - accused tells court today

Two Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin, front  and Win Zaw Htun, behind,  arrive at  Samui provincial court in Suratthani province, Wednesday, July 8, 2015, accused of killing Hannah Witheridge and David Miller. 
(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Two Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin, front and Win Zaw Htun, behind, arrive at Samui provincial court in Suratthani province, Wednesday, July 8, 2015, accused of killing Hannah Witheridge and David Miller. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
One of the men accused of raping and killing Hemsby student Hannah Witheridge on the Thai island of Koh Tao told a court today how he was tortured to confess to her murder.
Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.
The 22 year-old Burmese migrant worker Zaw Lin said he was detained by about ten men dressed in civilian clothes - some armed with wooden batons - who came to his dormitory in the middle of the night and took him and six others away in handcuffs.
He said he was taken to a location, which was not a police station, and separated from the others where he was asked if he murdered Ms Witheridge and fellow backpacker David Miller from Jersey on September 15 2014.
Zaw Lin then told the court in Koh Samui, Thailand, today that the men asked him some questions through a translator before stripping him naked in an air conditioned room and putting a plastic bag tightly over his head.
“I bit through the bag to be able to breathe so they put another bag on top of that one and the translator asked me: “Did you kill?” When I said “No”, they put another bag over my head and pulled it tight around my neck.
“The translator then asked me again: “Did you kill or not?” Then I collapsed on the floor.”
Zaw Lin went on to say that he was blindfolded and something was put in his mouth as they continued asking him questions.
The accused is giving evidence on the opening day of testimony for the defence after 13 days of prosecution hearings on the neighbouring island of Koh Samui.
Zaw Lin had been working in Koh Tao since 2012 at various bars and restaurants, and was legally registered as a migrant worker, but on the night he was detained he was only in possession of his Burmese “smart card” issued to all legal workers, as he said his passport had been taken by a friend to get its three month visa stamp.
Zaw Lin and his co-accused Wei Phyo, also aged 22, confessed to the rape and murder of Ms Witheridge, 23, and the killing of Mr Miller , aged 24, during police interrogation, but retracted their confessions weeks later after being given access to legal representation.
They told human rights lawyers who visited them in Koh Samui prison that they had been threatened and beaten to confess.
In court today, Zaw Lin admitted that he and two friends had been on the same beach on the night of the killings.
They had bought beer and cigarettes, and one of the men had acquired a bottle of wine. One of the friends left to visit his girlfriend, but the two co-accused stayed and decided to have a swim. They say they hid their guitar in a bar, and Wei Phyo left his shoes and his shirt on the beach, but when they emerged from the water the clothing and the musical instrument were nowhere to be found.
“At that point we gave up looking for our things and went home to bed at our friends house, at between two and three o’clock in the morning,” Zaw Lin told the court.
The friend, known affectionately to the two men as Mao Mao, who was also a Burmese migrant worker, has not testified. The prosecution took a statement from him at the time but they say they no longer know his whereabouts. Mao Mao worked at the bar where Zaw Lin claimed to have hidden the guitar.
Zaw Lin’s mother was in court to hear her son’s testimony and as he explained what had happened to him she left the court and vomited outside, before going back in.
The trial continues.


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