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Major General Paween Pongsirin made swift arrests in murders probe

Phuket Investigator Takes Over Thailand Beach Murders Probe and Makes Quick Arrests

Saturday, October 4, 2014
Updating All Day, Every Day

THE TELEPHONE found in jungle close to the workers' accommodation, broken into pieces, belonged to David Miller, not Hannah Witheridge. Police clarified that fact on Saturday night. Phuketwan apologises to readers for the confusion.

Original Report

PHUKET: The arrests of two bar workers for the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller came when a top policeman from Phuket was brought in to become the chief investigator on the island of Koh Tao.

Major General Paween Pongsirin, who has been arresting taxi thugs and attacking beach corruption on Phuket, a much larger holiday island on the other side of Thailand's isthmus, apprehended the two Burmese for questioning soon after he was ordered to go to Koh Tao on Wednesday.

The major general said he spent ''all night and all day'' interviewing the two Burmese suspects, who worked at a bar where Witheridge, 23, and Miller, 24, had been drinking hours before the brutal slaying.

He would only say that there must have been ''some error'' in the police investigation after the bodies of the two British tourists were discovered on a beach on September 15.

''I believe we now have the killers,'' Major General Paween told Phuketwan last night. ''We have the right people. DNA has confirmed the confessions.''

Major General Paween said he took the Burmese, named as Win and Zaw Rim, both aged 21, through the details of the murders at length before yesterday's public reenactment in which the two accused wore helmets and flak jackets.

Win told him that a mobile telephone, believed to belong to Hannah Witheridge, had been broken into pieces and thrown into the jungle near where the Burmese lived. The broken telephone was found in a search by police, Major General Paween said.

The two gave a detailed and very specific account of how the two murders were carried out, Major General Paween said. The pair and another friend had been playing a guitar nearby when the couple strolled past.

The Burmese told him that they attacked from behind as the British couple walked along the beach, using a hoe to hit Miller on the head.

Both the Burmese raped Hannah Witheridge while a third Burmese looked on, Major General Paween said he was told.

''They then used the same hoe to kill her,'' Major General Paween said.

''The pair stripped the pants from David Miller to make it look as though the couple had had sex in an attempt to confuse police.''

The two men worked in the AC Bar on Koh Tao. Win had worked there once previously and returned to a similar job there five months ago.

Earlier this year, Major General Paween spent several months leading an undercover team of police on Phuket in an investigation of alleged taxi and tuk-tuk ''mafia.'' The drivers were accused of intimidation and extortion of tourist resorts.

More than 200 arrests followed, mostly in Kata-Karon and Patong, when the task force swooped.

As well as planning more taxi-related arrests on Phuket, the major general has recently exposed corruption on the island's beaches where sunbed operators extorted massive amounts from resorts for use of the public sands.

''What's happened on Koh Tao is not complicated, like the problems on Phuket,'' the major general said.

''The murders on Koh Tao are shocking. Phuket is just as shocking, but in a different way.''

Major General Paween worked on Phuket years ago but only returned this year to conduct the Region 8 special investigation.

He and his boss, Lieutenant General Panya Mamen, were both promoted on Tuesday. The major general was ordered to Koh Tao on Wednesday.

Today the two Burmese from Koh Tao were taken to appear in court on the neighboring island of Samui. The third man is expected to be an important witness in the case.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I can now believe this story of events coming from Deputy Commissioner Paween. This story is more plausible than previous versions. Well done and may true justice prevail in these senseless killings. RIP David and Hannah.

Posted by Robin on October 4, 2014 12:11


So, how does a phone that belonged to Hannah and given to police by one of her friends end up behind the accomodation of the two accused?

Why did the police have to show the accused what to do in the reconstruction?

Why was there an attempt to pay someone as a false witness just a few days before it was announced that they had caught the culprits?

I'm sure you won't publish this and I certainly wouldn't blame you, but, there are just too many holes.

Posted by sir burr on October 4, 2014 12:39

Editor Comment:

Did you read somewhere that the phone that belonged to Hannah was given to police by one of her friends? I suggest you seek the answer to your question there.

Did you read that there was an attempt to pay someone as a false witness just a few days before it was announced that police had caught the culprits? I suggest you seek the answer to your question there.

Readers may believe everything they read from unreliable sources and cherry pick information to fit their own theories. But don't blame us for your errors of judgement.

The information here comes direct from Major General Paween and we are reporting it, not endorsing it. If TV is your preferred source of information, best not to wander.


There is actually a photograph of Hannah's phone in police custody.

Just sayin'......

Posted by sir burr on October 4, 2014 13:20

Editor Comment:

You saw her phone and know what it looked like? Could it possibly be somebody else's phone?


Sound and swift ending. But shows a lack of professionalism by the rural police force conducting an investigation like these. Good Thailand can muster top cops at least in their urbanite criminal dep to step in. Great job, again, by Khun Paween.

Posted by Lena on October 4, 2014 13:28


It's clearly Hannah's phone and even her friend said she gave the phone to police

Posted by Sarah on October 4, 2014 13:44

Editor Comment:

Well then, there's another mystery. Which friend said that? Where was she reported as saying that?


If Hannah's friend can confirm about the phone, then these boys are off the hook, and some police are in trouble.

Posted by phonus balonus on October 4, 2014 14:10

Editor Comment:

No point in guesswork.


just when I thought there was real honest hope for Phuket.........

Posted by Vfaye on October 4, 2014 14:31

Editor Comment:

There is no suggestion that the major general is moving.


If I was the parents of the murdered people i would have an independent DNA test carried out as i would not trust the Thai verdict at all

Posted by Mr Wolf on October 4, 2014 14:34


I know you don't allow links but I'll try anyway as its to a photo of the phone being given to the police by her friend.

Posted by Josh on October 4, 2014 14:50

Editor Comment:

That's certainly what's implied but the information is not coming from anyone who was there. Not possible to say for sure either way.


The way some are telling it wasn't so much interviewing the subjects as it was beating them. Why weren't the village headman and his brother arrested when they threatened to kill a Brit tourist because he wouldn't admit to the crime? We all know these men they have arrested didn't commit the murders and the Thai police covered it up further by refusing the assistance of the FBI and British government concerning the DNA...someone got paid well for this cover-up.

Posted by Tim on October 4, 2014 17:11

Editor Comment:

Your opinion has no value, Tim, unless you have evidence to support it. That's the whole point. You make dramatic claims, without evidence . . . precisely the point you seem to be complaining about. Conclusion: Unless you are a witness, somebody who was there at the time, your opinion has no value. Witnesses should feel free to speak. Opinionated readers? No thanks. Stop impeding justice.


I saw during the re-enact that the two burmese are killing together Steve with the hoe ,but this hoe has only Hannah "s blood on it .And where was Hannah during they killed David ?

Posted by Vince on October 4, 2014 17:24

Editor Comment:

Were you on the beach for the reenactment? Please tell us what you saw, and only what you saw.


You can see video of the re-enacting easly on internet

Posted by Vince on October 4, 2014 17:31

Editor Comment:

Sure, but it's a re-enactment.


I meant my faith in justice here due to unanswered in the Koh Tao case, has dramatically decreased to the pre-coup days...

Posted by VFAYE on October 4, 2014 18:33

Editor Comment:

You had faith in justice before the coup? Really?


To me the mobile phone on the picture very probably belongs to Hannah, so if it was there it could not have been stolen and found behind the accused's place. It would be very interesting to know if the woman on this picture is the person who gave this mobile phone to the police.

Posted by no-scapegoat on October 4, 2014 19:09


I have watched the video and the only conclusion is that the whole enactment is a circus of performing police officers for the purpose of providing the media with some positive news.
It prejudices the rights of the accused in respect of being unrepresented and having to act out a situation for which they are accused only, in front of locals and the media.
If police do have evidence necessary to convict them, this serves no purpose.

Posted by Manowar on October 4, 2014 20:41


I would rather not speculate at this juncture or comment - except to say better late than never

Posted by farang888 on October 4, 2014 21:53


Either this new guy who came in suddenly is a real sherlock holmes where all others have failed, or it's a fit up with severe wringing out the falsies from the dunces. The headman and sons (who were main suspects with good reason, e.g. severe intimidation of bystanders etc) have not been , and have refused to be, DNA tested? This stinks, and not in a small way.

Ed - Please fill in the blanks below

" B*st w**T an* se* - no poi*t i* sp*cul**i*g" etc etc."

Posted by phonus balonus on October 4, 2014 23:25


To all the Sherlock Holmes in the comment section. It was great police work after the pros stepped in. Even when they stole the phone from Hannah, who maybe was carrying the phone from David for whatever reasons, it is clear, that they told police where to find it. And it is easy traceable to the deceased.

They have the phone, they have the DNA, they have offender knowledge given by these people. They have confessions. They have motives. They have the guys at the beach at the time. They have a witness. What to expect more? Just insane some comments.

What else should have happened to these two unlucky tourists?

So again, great police work. That case is solid.

Posted by Lena on October 5, 2014 00:08


I agree with Lena, after just under 3 weeks what a great job the police have done collecting DNA from a island full of Illegal migrant transiant workers, or transient foreigners and in fact transiant locals ( they were not all born there ) and despite ALL the misleading theories published by ALL the media including this one I think the Royal Thai Police have done a excellent job, I think the FBI or the New scotland Yard couldn't have done much better.Even though the commissioner flew to Koh Tao to make sure the suspects apprehended were interviewed by him, it was a tip off to the police from other migrant Burmese workers that these were the trio that put the cops on the trail caused by pressure interviewing the other workers on the island. I just hope that all the bars and businesses also get a fine or warning for employing illegal unregistered workers and in the future anyone that applies for work anywhere in thailand should submit fingerprints and DNA with their applicant form !

Posted by Realistic Farang on October 5, 2014 06:44

Editor Comment:

The case won't be over until the jail door slams behind the perpetrators. It's certainly been a rocky ride. As we've noted, it's not realistic to expect an FBI or Scotland Yard approach in a developing country. It also has to be acknowledged that there is both good and bad police work in Thailand, just as there is everywhere. We hope the families eventually find closure. We hope that in future on major cases like this one, police provide daily briefings through a single spokesperson.


Hear Hear , Very well said Editor I totally agree and share you same sentiments.

Posted by Reaistic farang on October 5, 2014 11:53


What about this news? ???Three migrants from the six migrants caught were physically beaten and their bodies scolded through pouring over hot boiling water as a means to get information about the three people who had run away from the police arrest. All were then they were released.?????

???(Name redacted), an elder of the Rakkhine migrant community Rakkhine who (redacted) recorded three Rakhine victims and their wounds from beating/scolding and sent their photos to Myanmar embassy.

Posted by dave on October 5, 2014 13:41

Editor Comment:

Unconfirmed claims that shouldn't be exaggerated or treated as fact by anyone, dave. Lawyers from migrant welfare groups and the Burmese embassy are investigating the claims. Proving or disproving those claims has not direct relevance to whether the accused are guilty or not.


Agree if they are guilty, however in this case there may not be a door to close which may be reopened at a later date.
When the accused are potentially facing death, there must be no doubt in evidence or question that it was obtained legally.

Posted by Manowar on October 5, 2014 15:40


It's a very sad state of affairs when the majority have no faith in the Thai police. But unfortunately they have brought this upon themselves.
The public want to trust the police but in Thailand that's very difficult to do.
In this case there are too many question marks surrounding the confessions and the DNA and that is not acceptable. The only way to start building faith in the results would be to have them independently verified.
Just for info, the Thai government said in the first few days that british police were welcome but their help wasn't necessary.
It's a shame we didn't go at that point.

Posted by Ex KT Resident on October 5, 2014 16:35


The police allegedly beat up 3 burmese in order to make them tell them where the 3 burmese workers that fled into the jungle lived. This, if true, is a serious matter, but a totally different case. They didn't (allegedly) beat them up in order to force them to implicate the 3 that ran away, or force them to give false statements. "Just" to tell the police where they are

Posted by christian on October 5, 2014 18:02

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