KOH TAO – A pair of British women were reportedly mugged by a Thai gang on the same beach where David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were brutally murdered and just one night before the killings took place, it was claimed on Sunday.
The women were robbed of their bags, cameras and iPhones by the group of four Thai men, according to James Isaacs, a British tourist and friend of the victims.
The robbery took place on Koh Tao island’s Sairee beach at the same spot where islanders found the disfigured bodies of David Miller, a 24-year-old from Jersey, and Hannah Witheridge, a 23-year-old from Great Yarmouth, at around 6am last Monday.
It came as one of Thailand’s top newspapers claimed that the investigation into the killing of the couple had been “rushed, rash, incompetent and speculative” and police confirmed they were looking into a possible altercation between a Thai man and the murdered couple.
Officers have blamed their murders on a gang of at least three unidentified “attackers”, including two Asian men.
“It could have been them,” Mr Isaacs, who is from Bournemouth, said of the thieves, according to the Bangkok Post. “It was literally the same spot.”
Kissana Phathanacharoen, a police spokesperson who is on Koh Tao, said he could not immediately confirm if police knew of or were investigating the robbery. Sometimes tourists did not file official police reports, he added.
The bodies of Mr Miller and Ms Witheridge were found dumped on Sairee beach before dawn last Monday. Nearly a week later no arrests have been made.
On Sunday, investigators confirmed for the first time that they were looking into claims the two victims had been involved in a row with a Thai man said to have harassed Ms Witheridge in a bar shortly before the murders.
Mr Miller and Ms Witheridge visited at least two bars in the hours before their murders: an Australian sports pub called Choppers, where they watched a Manchester United game, and a Thai-run nightclub called AC Bar which is known for heavy-drinking, punch-ups and its beachside fire-juggling shows.
On Friday police raided AC Bar seizing “narcotics” and other substances, according to Thai media reports that police officials have refused to confirm.
“Sexual jealously” was now seen as likely motive for the crime, said Kissana Phathanacharoen. The possible involvement of fishermen who could have swum ashore from their boats to commit the crime was also being considered.
Thai police chiefs have rejected claims they “messed up” their response to the murders. General Somyot Poompanmoung, Thailand’s most senior police official, visited Koh Tao on Saturday vowing to do “his best” to solve the crime.
However, many questions have been raised about the police reaction, including why they failed to properly secure the area around the crime scene. This weekend, tourists continued to sunbathe just yards from where the victims’ bodies and one of the murder weapons were found.
The investigation had been “rushed, rash, incompetent and speculative,” an editorial in Sunday’s Bangkok Post said.
Police handling of the incident was “an international scandal and should be a source of deep embarrassment,” it added. “And it would be, except the egregious lack of professionalism displayed in this case is par for the course for the Thai police force.”
The newspaper also accused police of leaking insensitive and incorrect information to the media about the possible identity of the killers.
“It must be horrifying for the victims’ friends and families to hear police discussing intimate details of the crime and speculating on the possibility of rape, reading reports of leaked autopsy details and seeing unnamed sources discuss the blood that later turns out to be dirt, but sadly this is the level of unprofessionalism we have come to expect in Thailand.”
Police also appeared to be following “prejudices rather than evidence” by targeting Burmese migrant workers more than Thai residents, the newspaper added. “Certainly the announcement that Myanmar migrant workers were suspects in the Koh Tao murders appeared premature.”
Investigations reveal that the speedboat driver was clearly beating around the bush when he was interrogated by police, and denied all the charges. He was tested positive for drugs and would be prosecuted on drug-related charges.
Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has declared that the Thai police will not enlist the help of the FBI or any other international law enforcement agencies. He believes the case will be solved in a couple of days.