According to the UK-based The Telegraph, a Thai motorbike gang mugged British women the night before British couple David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were brutally murdered on Koh Tao island.
New clues emerge as one of Thailand's leading newspapers criticized the Royal Thai Police and characterized their investigation as "rushed, rash, incompetent and speculative."
Interestingly, the British couple described above were murdered on the same beach where two backpackers were brutally murdered and just one night before the double-homicide took place.
The women were robbed of their bags, cameras and iPhones by a group of four Thai assailants, according to James Isaacs, a British tourist and friend of the victims.
The robbery took place on Koh Tao island's Sairee beach at the same spot where islanders found the brutalized bodies of David Miller, a 24-year-old from Jersey, and Hannah Witheridge, a 23-year-old from Great Yarmouth, at around 0600 hours on Monday (September 15).
It came as one of Thailand's top newspapers claimed that the investigation into the killing of the couple had been "rushed, rash, incompetent and speculative" and police confirmed they were looking into a possible altercation between a Thai suspect and the murdered couple.
Police have blamed the double-homicide on at least three unidentified assailants, although solid leads have been elusive, according to The Bangkok Post.
COMMENT: Considering how obsessed the Thai are in "saving face," to date they have failed to follow best-police practices in terms of crime scene protection, collection of physical and forensic evidence, etc. One can only imagine if errors have been made in the investigation that have resulted in flawed conclusions.
Kissana Phathanacharoen, a police spokesperson who is on Koh Tao, said he could not immediately confirm if police knew of or were investigating the robbery.
The bodies of Miller and Witheridge were found dumped on Sairee beach before dawn on September 15. Since the murders occurred, no solid arrests have materialized.
On Sunday (September 28), investigators confirmed for the first time that they were looking into claims the two victims had been involved in a dispute with a Thai suspect who is rumored have harassed Witheridge in a bar shortly before the murders.
Miller and Witheridge visited at least two bars in the hours before their deaths, an Australian sports pub called Choppers, where they watched a Manchester United game and a Thai-run nightclub called AC Bar which is known for heavy-drinking.
"Sexual jealously" was now seen as a "working" motive for the murders, said Kissana. The possible involvement of fishermen who could have swam ashore from their boats to commit the crime was also being considered.
Thai police have rejected claims they "messed up" their response to the murders. General Somyot Poompanmoung, Thailand's most senior police official, visited Koh Tao on Saturday vowing to do "his best" to solve the double homicide.
Numerous questions have been raised about the police response, including why they failed to designate the entire island as a crime scene. This weekend, tourists continued to sunbathe just yards from where the victims' bodies and where a murder weapon had been found. Within days after Miller and Witheridge's bodies were found, tourists could be seen taking "selfies."
The investigation had been "rushed, rash, incompetent and speculative," an editorial in Sunday's BANGKOK POST said. Police handling of the incident was "an international scandal and should be a source of deep embarrassment," the POST added. The POST also accused the police of leaking insensitive and incorrect information to the media about the possible identity of the killers.
Even Kissana Phathanacharoen, a police spokesperson who is on Koh Tao, said he could not immediately confirm if police knew of or were investigating the robbery.
The investigation had been "rushed, rash, incompetent and speculative," an editorial in Sunday's BANGKOK POST said.
Police handling of the incident was "an international scandal and should be a source of deep embarrassment," it added. "And it would be, except the egregious lack of professionalism displayed in this case is par for the course for the Thai police force." The POST also accused police of leaking insensitive and incorrect information to the media about the possible identity of the killers.
"It must be horrifying for the victims' friends and families to hear police discussing intimate details of the crime and speculating on the possibility of rape, reading reports of leaked autopsy details and seeing unnamed sources discuss the blood that later turns out to be dirt, but sadly this is the level of unprofessionalism we have come to expect in Thailand."