KOH SAMUI, Thailand (Reuters) - DNA evidence in the murder case of two British backpackers has not been lost, Thai police said on Friday, taking back earlier statements by police that crucial evidence had been misplaced.
The trial of two Myanmar migrant workers accused of killing tourists David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, in Thailand began on Wednesday.
Thai police said in October that Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 22, had initially confessed to the killings.
Witheridge and Miller, who met while on holiday in Thailand, were found dead on a beach on the island of Koh Tao last September. Post-mortem examinations showed both suffered severe head wounds and Witheridge was raped.
The high-profile murder case has been mired in controversy from the start. Soon after the bodies were found, Thai netizens mocked the police investigation and accused officers of failing to seal off the crime scene quickly enough and failing to stop potential suspects from leaving the island.
DNA evidence is central to the high-profile case. Police say it is what links the two Myanmar men on trial for the murders with the body of one of the victims.
The defence team has requested that some DNA samples be retested.
Thai police said on Thursday some key DNA evidence in the trial of two men had been lost or that there was not enough of it to be retested as the defence has demanded.
Police Colonel Somkiat Kaewmook, deputy police chief of Surat Thani province, where the island is located, and the legal coordinator for forensic police, said no evidence had been lost.
“Nothing has been lost,” Somkiat told reporters. “There are materials that were finished in the testing process, [which] means they do not exist.
“But those remaining items that are solid ... we will send to the court,” he added.
Thai police said in October the two accused men had confessed to the killings, but they later retracted their confessions, saying they had been made under duress.
Police say they have a watertight case, and that DNA found on the victims matched the suspects.
The men could face the death penalty if found guilty. A verdict is expected in October.
Reporting by Prapan Chankaew; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Jeremy Laurence