KOH TAO – A petrified British National Sean McAnna, 25, from Shotts near Glasgow, has fled the Koh Tao island where two British backpackers were murdered last week after claiming the “Mafia” was trying to execute him.
Sean was a friend of David Miller, the tourist whose body was found last Monday on Koh Tao island along with that of Hannah Witheridge.
Mr McAnna claimed that two Thai men, who he believes may have crucial information about the murders, threatened to kill him in the early hours of Monday morning while he was drinking at a bar on Sairee beach near to where their disfigured bodies were discovered.
He fled, took refuge in a nearby supermarket and was only able to leave when police were called and arrived on the scene at around 5am. They questioned the two Thai men but no arrests were made.
With those two men still at large, Mr McAnna spent the day in hiding before fleeing Koh Tao fearing he could be killed if he stayed.
“I need to get off this island,” a tearful and visibly nervous Mr McAnna told The Telegraph during an interview conducted inside the back of a taxi before he departed.
“I genuinely thought that was the day I was going to die,” Mr McAnna said. “I genuinely thought that this was me dead. That I was gone.”
“I phoned my mum, I phoned my sister. I told her I loved her and that I would try and make it home. I said that if this was going to be the last conversation that we had then it was a really sad one to have but she’s been great and I love her.”
Mr McAnna met Mr Miller last year while both men were living in Leeds. He was the singer and guitarist in a Leeds band called These Fading Polaroids and Mr Miller was an engineering student. Both lived in the Hyde Park area
Mr McAnna said he recently returned to Koh Tao – where he had previously spent 18 months living and working as a barman – and had planned but failed to meet Mr Miller on the night he and Ms Witheridge were murdered.
Police have yet to make any arrests for the horrific murders and now say they plan to force every man on the 2,000 population island to provide DNA for testing. Locals appear reluctant to discuss the case, apparently fearing reprisals from mafia-style families who are said to control Koh Tao.
Mr McAnna said he believed it was people linked to one such group who threatened to kill him. At around 2.30am he was accosted by two Thai men at Koh Tao’s AC Bar, a beachfront nightclub where Mr Miller and Ms Witheridge had been just before they were murdered.
“They just said to me: ‘It was you who killed them. You’ve got two people’s deaths on your hands. We know it was you. You’re going to hang yourself tonight and we are going to watch you hang. You will die tonight.'”
“So I just ran. I just left and ran,” he said.
A terrified Mr McAnna took refuge in a small supermarket into which the men chased him. They tried to convince him to leave but he refused, fearing he would be murdered.
“They wouldn’t have shot me. They would have taken me up into the hills and hung me to make it look like I’d hung myself,” he said.
Mr McAnna said he did not know if the men who threatened him were directly involved in his friend’s murder. However, he did believe they had key information about the murders and were attempting to make him a “scapegoat” for the killings.
“I think they needed a scapegoat. I think they might know who it was. They need a scapegoat and they don’t want it to be locals. They want it to be a westerner. So if I kill myself here, if I hang myself here, then it is easy to say: ‘See, it was him.'”
Mr McAnna posted information about the alleged threats on his Facebook page at around 4am on Monday and issued a desperate plea for help. “Thai mafia are trying to kill me. Please help me,” he wrote.
He said he also spoke to Foreign Office officials in London over the telephone. After being taken from the supermarket by Thai police, Mr McAnna said he spent the rest of the night hiding from the men he feared were going to kill him in the jungle.
“I was scared s*******. I was really scared. So I kept moving every thirty minutes in case anybody had seen me. I would move from one part, to the next part in case there was anyone close that had seen me and could send someone.”
Mr McAnna rejected the men’s claims that had been involved killing his friend and Ms Witheridge. “Of course I had nothing to do with it.” Prachum Ruangthong, the police chief responsible for Koh Tao, confirmed that Mr McAnna had been asked to provide DNA samples as part of investigations into the murders but was not considered a suspect.
The police chief denied recieving reports of death threats against Mr McAnna even though he met him on Monday morning and told the British traveller: “I am sensitive about your feelings. You don’t worry, ok?”
Two Thai men were questioned about the incident but they were not arrested. The police chief said he would guarantee the Briton’s security while he remained on Koh Tao.
After spending much of Monday in hiding, Mr McAnna travelled to the island’s port with a group of British reporters at around 2.30pm. He left Koh Tao on a passenger ferry at 3.10pm.
Mr McAnna’s friends took to social media to express their concern. “Sean get off that island now,” wrote Jordan O’Hara, a friend. “Can’t believe what Tao is turning in to. Madness!” wrote Rachel Howard.
On Monday afternoon, Mr McAnna sat near Koh Tao’s main pier in blazing sunshine preparing to board a ferry off the island. “I’m getting nervous,” he said, as holidaymakers lined up to board the vessel that would take him to safety.
The 25-year-old Scot vowed never to return to an island that markets itself as a paradise for divers and partiers. “I’m done here,” he said, adding that he would only feel truly safe once he had flown out of Thailand. “Something could still happen to me in the next 24 hours.” – By Tom Phillips