Fears Grow For Russian Backpacker Who Disappeared On Thailand’s ‘Death Island’

A police search has ensued after Valentina Novozhyonova went missing on the Thai island where British backpackers David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were murdered in 2014. The 23-year-old Russian tourist arrived at her hostel on February 11 and was supposed to check out five days later.

On February 24, the staff barged into her room where they discovered her passport, camera, and mobile phone. The hostel owner said that they did not immediately seek the help of authorities thinking that Valentina proceeded to a different place.

Since her purpose for visiting the island was free diving, the locals have searched for her in various dive sites. They have contacted diving firms, as well, hoping to discover clues about her disappearance.

Divers have recovered bone and tissue samples as well as a goggle strap and a green singlet on the seabed of the Chalok Ban Kao Bay. These have been sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Bangkok.

While investigations are still ongoing, a Surat Thani Provincial Police commander told The Nation that a diving accident could be the cause of Valentina’s disappearance.

“We still give more importance to a water accident rather than other causes. It’s not about crime because Valentina liked to do free diving alone,” he explained. “She wanted to beat her personal record of diving, set at 22 meters under the sea.”

Meanwhile, the family of one of the murdered British backpackers in 2014 still believe that the killers should be jailed for a long time instead of being sentenced to death.

David and Hannah, both in their early twenties, were killed with a wooden hoe while walking back to their hotel on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand. It was also revealed that Hannah was raped and that David had been drowned after being struck.

After their killings, The Samui Times reported that the place had earned the name, “Death Island.”

Locals Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin were found guilty and sentenced to death. Their appeal was rejected, and the verdict was upheld.

David Miller Hannah Witheridge murders
Win Zaw Htun (middle) and Zaw Lin (left) arrive at the Koh Samui Provincial Court on December 8, 2014, in Koh Samui, Thailand [Image by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images]

Mirror reports that David’s family released a statement last week urging the authorities to “show leniency” to the pair.

“We remain confident that this is the correct decision. We hope that the Thai authorities will show leniency in relation to the death sentence. We have always said that we did not want innocent men sentenced, nor guilty parties acquitted on a technicality. In the end, we believe that the evidence is overwhelming and we feel that justice has been done.

The family said that they were present in the court hearings and were provided “excellent, unbiased translation” by family friends residing in the country.

Wai and Zaw previously confessed to the murder, but later retracted their statements claiming that they have been tortured. They filed an appeal, but the court announced its firm decision to uphold the sentences. As per the judges, the evidence collected was reliable.

The Miller family is pushing for jail time in order for the Burmese migrant workers to reflect on what they did.

“We have lost our son David forever and the Witheridge family will have been similarly devastated by this crime. We are proud of our son and what he achieved in his short life. We miss him terribly and miss his hugs, beaming smiles and infectious enthusiasm. His life was cruelly destroyed.”

Authorities investigating the case have been scrutinized following the allegations that Wai and Zaw have been tortured. Earlier this year, Hanna’s sister, Laura, criticized the Thai police for being insensitive.

As per the Independent, Laura wrote on Facebook that her parents were told by the police to just “go home and make another one” because the family was upset about the death. They were told that they should not make a fuss because Hannah would eventually go home. Laura further hinted that the murderers might have only “half completed the job.”

“What if I told you that, since we lost Hannah, there have been many more suspicious deaths on Koh Tao. You probably haven’t heard of them, as not all were British nationals. The deaths, where possible, are covered up as suicides and accidents.

Just like the Millers, the Witheridge family did not praise the conviction of the two men.

[Featured Image by Valentina Novozhyonova/Facebook]

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