This combination of handout images created from undated images received from Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office on September 16, 2014 shows British students, Hannah Witheridge (L) and David Miller (R).
Migrant workers face death for murder of tourists
02:36 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The bodies of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were discovered on a beach in September last year

Police argued that DNA evidence tied two Burmese migrant workers to the scene

CNN  — 

Two Burmese migrant workers have been sentenced to death after being found guilty of murdering two British backpackers on a Thai resort island in 2014.

The bodies of the young Britons, Hannah Witheridge – who was also raped, according to police reports – and David Miller, were discovered early on September 15 on a beach on Koh Tao, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand. They were partially undressed and had sustained severe head injuries.

The Burmese men, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo – also known as Win Zaw Htun – who were working in the hospitality industry on the island, were arrested almost two weeks after the bodies were found and originally confessed, only to later recant, saying their admissions of guilt were made under duress.

Wai Phyo arrives outside the court on the Thai resort island of Koh Samui on July 9, 2015.

The defense team argued the police investigation was flawed due to “alleged mishandling of forensic evidence, abuse of suspects and intimidation of witnesses,” according to a statement from the Migrant Worker Rights Network issued in July before the trial started.

The group has been helping the two defendants in the case.

Thai police said forensic evidence, including DNA samples from cigarette butts found near the bodies, tied the men to the scene.

The Ocean View Bungalows hotel where Witheridge and Miller were murdered is seen on Wednesday, September 17.

The court, on the island of Samui, agreed and found the two men – both 22 – guilty of murder and sentenced them to death.

According to court documents seen by CNN, the Samui Provincial Court said “the processes of collecting evidence and DNA extracting were up to international standards, therefore the court thinks the result of DNA examination is ultimately reliable. In addition, there were enough statements from surrounding witnesses which could lead to the conclusion both defendants are culprits.”

Nakorn Nachomphuchart, the lawyer for the two Burmese men, said, “we will appeal as soon as we can, we have just got a copy of the court’s verdict. It will take a bit of time to find loopholes to appeal.”

Nakorn said an appeal must be lodged within 30 days.

CNN’s Chieu Luu in Hong Kong and Kocha Olarn in Bangkok contributed to this report.