The bounty for the killer of two British tourists on Koh Tao island has been raised to Bt713,000 ($22,110), as police widen their manhunt to Bangkok, where one suspect is believed to have fled. Earlier today The Nation reported that Udom Tantiprasonchai, an executive with Orient Thai Airways, will add Bt500,000 to the original reward for the arrest of the murderers. The victims— Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24— were found dead on the morning of Sept. 15, and police told The Nation that one of the suspected killers left the island that same day.
The missing suspect is believed to be the son of a former village headman. Overseeing investigator Pol Lt-General Panya Mamen would not release the suspects’ names, but he did he did say that one man was being questioned and that the authorities “planned to arrest another in Bangkok today”.
Earlier this morning the Bangkok Post ran a story identifying the village headman as Woraphan Tuwichian, 49, who also owned the AC Bar, where the victims were seen the night of their murder. According to that story, police also questioned Woraphan and took samples of his DNA. The Nation, which did not name him, said the former headman was released because police were “unable to contact his son and did not know if he had a hand in the killings.”
The Nation added that the former headman’s younger brother is still in custody. The Post identified him as Montriwat Tuwichian, 45, who operates the AC Bar and was caught on CCTV footage near the Sai Ree beach crime scene hours before the victims’ bodies were found.
There are several other discrepancies between The Post’s account and that of The Nation’s, aside from the former printing names of some of the persons of interest. The Post’s source said the fleeing suspect is one of Woraphan’s close aides, rather than his son, and its report described the AC Bar owner as a current headman, while The Nation indicated that he no longer holds that position. Neither publication released the fleeing suspect’s name.
According to The Post, Montriwat told reporters he was innocent. He and the fleeing suspect became persons of interest in the case after they were implicated by Sean McAnna, 25, a Scottish tourist and friend of Miller’s who posted the suspects’ photos on Facebook. The Daily Record, a British paper, reported on Monday that McAnna— a local busker known as ‘Guitarman’— said he was then threatened by Thai mafiosos. The Post said McAnna has since “left Koh Tao in protective custody.” That article went on to say that Montriwat admitted to approaching McAnna at one point, but only to check on the Scottish tourist’s condition because he “‘looked strange at the time.”
This morning, Time reported that McAnna received death threats after photographing two Thai men that he says sexually assaulted Witheridge on the night of the murder. The story added that Miller stepped in to protect her from the assailants, and Thai PBS reported an altercation then broke out between the male victim and the current suspects. The Daily Record story says McAnna admitted he had not witnessed the scuffle, saying he had planned on meeting Miller that night but “was hungover and didn’t get out of bed.” After taking the photos of who he believed to be perpetrators, McAnna was later confronted by another pair of Thai men at AC Bar. According to Thai PBS, McAnna believes those men attempted to make him a “scapegoat” in the killings.
The Time article noted the mixed messages released by police throughout the investigation, which initially implicated Burmese migrants and then a British backpacker who had befriended Miller. It pointed out that new restrictions were swiftly placed on the hiring of migrant workers after the crime, before adding: “But when no evidence emerged to pin the murder on any Burmese, the focus shifted to other outsiders.” The story then quoted a Bangkok-based risk analyst named Paul Quaglia, who claimed that Burmese workers are frequently scapegoated before speculating on the investigtion: “The problem is all the distractions. The police are getting a lot of not only domestic media coverage but also international, and are under pressure to make statements about progress.”