Colchester/Norfolk: Body of University of Essex student Hannah Witheridge returned to UK after Thailand murder

Hannah Witheridge, picture released by her family.

Hannah Witheridge, picture released by her family. - Credit: Archant

The body of a University of Essex student who was brutally murdered together with a fellow tourist in Thailand has returned to the UK, her family said.

Hannah Witheridge, 23, who lived in Colchester, was found with severe head wounds next to David Miller, 24, on a beach on the island of Koh Tao on Monday.

Her family said today that they had travelled to Bangkok on Tuesday to bring their “beloved Hannah” home and find out more about the investigation.

In a statement, they said: “We can confirm that we have now returned to the UK with our beautiful Hannah.

“As a family we feel enormous relief to have Hannah back at home where she belongs.

“We continue to work closely with officers to assist in the investigation and bring those responsible to justice.

“Our family is broken and require time to grieve in private - as do Hannah’s many friends. With the support of our fantastic family liaison officers we will make further statements as required and when we feel able.

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“As such, we would be very grateful for time and privacy to try and come to terms with our devastating news.”

Meanwhile, police in Thailand said they are investigating new evidence suggesting that the murders may have been due to “sexual jealousy”.

A spokesman for the Royal Thai Police said that the force was also looking into claims that the pair had a row with a Thai man in a bar before they were killed.

Police Colonel Kissana Phathanacharoen said: “We have discovered fresh evidence which could lead to a new suspect who may have had a relationship or one night stand with Hannah or one of her friends or David the night before they were killed.

“We have asked the Metropolitan Police to go back and make enquiries of Hannah’s friends on this matter.

“The liaison officer here in Bangkok is working on getting that statement. The faster we get it, the faster we may be able to get the bad guy.

“No lines of inquiry can be ruled out and we believe these crimes could have been motivated by sexual jealousy.

“Police have been made aware of reports that Hannah and David had a fight in a bar with a Thai man before they were killed, but cannot confirm if they are true.”

Post-mortem examinations revealed that Ms Witheridge, from Hemsby, Norfolk, died from head wounds while Mr Miller, from Jersey, was killed by severe blows to the head and drowning.

A bloodstained garden hoe, believed to be the murder weapon, was found nearby.

Thai police are offering a cash reward worth about £4,000 for information that leads to the arrest of the suspects.

Around 150 officers have been deployed on the island and senior police officials met with Ms Witheridge’s family.

Police said yesterday that they were looking for more than one suspect following unconfirmed reports that the DNA of two Asian men had been found on Ms Witheridge’s body.

Two British brothers were questioned by police but later told they were free to return home.

Christopher and James Ware, childhood friends of Mr Miller who had been speaking with officers but were never detained or declared to be suspects, were given permission to fly back to Jersey.

A group of Burmese migrants who were interviewed by police after bloodstains were found on their clothes have also been eliminated from inquiries.

No matches were found between them and DNA found on Ms Witheridge and a cigarette butt at the scene.

Police had previously said they were looking for three Westerners who were seen playing a guitar near the scene on Koh Tao’s main Sairee beach.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s military ruler was forced to apologise for suggesting that foreign visitors to his country’s world-famous beaches might be unsafe wearing bikinis.

In the face of mounting criticism, General Prayuth Chan-ocha said: “I apologise that I have spoken too harshly ... I didn’t mean to criticise or look down on anyone. Today I can guarantee that Thailand is still safe ... I wanted to warn (the tourists) to be careful.”

Earlier this week he claimed that foreigners visiting the south-east Asian country think “they can do whatever they want, wear bikinis wherever they like ... (but) will they be safe?”

He was quoted as saying: “Can they be safe in bikinis ... unless they are not beautiful?”

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