Foreign & Commonwealth Office answer our 10 questions on the Hannah Witheridge case

25 October, 2014 - 13:30
University of Essex student Hannah Witheridge.

University of Essex student Hannah Witheridge.

British police officers are now in Thailand working with Thai police to find the truth into the brutal killing of University of Essex student Hannah Witheridge and fellow backpacker David Miller.

False reports that a friend was guilty, confused manhunts for multiple suspects, allegations of torture, withdrawn confessions, bizarre media conferences and an investigation that has taken twists and turns from day one. The Thai investigation into the murder of Colchester resident Miss Witheridge, 23, and Mr Miller, 24, from Jersey, has been fast-moving, but rarely clear.

With so much confusion surrounding the investigation, the EADT put 10 questions to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and asked will there ever be justice for the pair?

■ What are the British officers working alongside the Royal Thai Police in Thailand focusing their investigations on?

The investigation is a matter for the Thai authorities. British police have travelled to Thailand to get a better understanding of the investigation and stand ready to offer any support if necessary. The scope of cooperation will be determined by the respective authorities.

■ Does the FCO plan on sending further British experts to Thailand if the officers are not satisfied with their initial findings?

It would be inappropriate to speculate about the outcome of the deployment while it is ongoing.

■ When did the British government first approach the Royal Thai Police about getting involved with the investigation? Or what was the catalyst for wanting to send British police?

At the Asia-Europe Meeting summit in Milan, the prime minister raised the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller with Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The two leaders agreed that it is important that whoever committed these murders was brought to justice in a fair and transparent way, and that British police experts should travel to Koh Tao to provide assistance.

■ Does the FCO have concerns about the treatment of the two Burmese suspects?

We are concerned about the reports of allegations of mistreatment and expect the Thai authorities to address these thoroughly and transparently.

We have raised our concerns with the Thai authorities, including the need for the investigation and any future judicial proceedings to be carried out according to due process in a fair and transparent way.

As a matter of principle, the UK unreservedly condemns the use of torture and does not condone its use for any purpose.

■ Does the FCO have specific concerns over the transparency of the case, in light of mixed reports over the suspects’ confessions?

The UK cannot interfere in Thailand’s judicial proceeding, but we encourage the Thai authorities to address these allegations thoroughly and transparently.

■ Does the FCO think that information could have been better relayed to the British government and to the families of the victims?

We continue to provide support and assistance to Hannah and David’s family at this tragic time.

We do not comment on the detail of individual consular cases nor on the assistance that we have provided.

■ What are the British government’s specific concerns over the Royal Thai Police dealings with media in Thailand?

The conduct of the investigation remains a matter for the Royal Thai Police and the Thai authorities.

■ Is there concern that criticising the Thai police investigation could jeopardise the agreement for British police to be in Thailand offering support?

The UK has a good relationship with the Royal Thai Police. British experts arrived in Thailand on October 21. A detective chief inspector from the Metropolitan Police Service Homicide and Major Crime Command and a forensic operations co-ordinator from Forensic Services have been deployed and are in Thailand.

An experienced officer from Norfolk Police has also been deployed to support the UK team.

■ How confident is the FCO that those responsible for the killings will be brought to justice?

We want to see the perpetrators of this crime brought to justice and we have asked the Thai authorities to keep our Embassy in Bangkok closely informed on their investigation.

The British government cannot interfere in Thailand’s judicial proceedings, just as other governments are unable to interfere in our own judicial processes.

That said, we are very concerned by the allegations of corruption and mistreatment of the suspects and it is very important that whoever committed these murders is brought to justice.

We call for the investigation to be conducted in a fair and transparent way, in line with international standards.

■ Does the FCO believe the British involvement in the investigation will reassure those, including friends and family of Hannah, who have concerns about the investigation?

We continue to provide support and assistance to Hannah and David’s family at this tragic time. We do not comment on the detail of individual consular cases nor on the assistance we have provided.

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