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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 08:52 GMT
Men escape death for Thai murder
Thai fishermen Bualoi Posit, 23, foreground, and Wichai Somkhaoyai, 24 arrive at the court in Surat Thani
The fishermen confessed to the student's rape and murder
Two Thai men who murdered tourist Katherine Horton have had their death sentence commuted to life in jail.

Bualoy Kothisit, 23, and Wichai Sonkhaoyai, 24, had appealed over the sentence for the killing.

The 21-year-old from Cardiff was with a fellow Reading University student when she was attacked New Year's Day on Koh Samui's Lamai Beach.

A Foreign Office spokesman confirmed the two men will no longer face the death penalty following an appeal.

A spokesperson said the appeal verdict will be officially read out at Surat Thani Court in Southern Thailand on Thursday.

Miss Horton was attacked as she made a mobile phone call on the beach where she and a friend had rented accommodation for a New Year's holiday before returning to Reading University for their finals.

We respect the judicial procedure that happens in Thailand
Ian Horton, Katherine Horton's father

The trial of the fishermen, who were arrested within days of the murder, heard she was beaten with a parasol pole of a beach umbrella, raped and later dumped out at sea, where she drowned.

The men who had been drinking and watching pornography before they launched the fatal attack both admitted the rape and murder charges.

The judge at the court in the southern Thai province of Surat Thani sentenced both men to death by lethal injection, saying their crime had "terrified people".

The men immediately appealed against their sentences.

International media attention on the murder coming as it did in the wake of the tsunami which devastated the country's tourism industry had prompted the then Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to call for the "harshest possible punishment" for the men.

Picture of Katherine Horton
Katherine Horton was on holiday with a friend

Making their appeal, the pair's lawyer claimed they were convicted solely on DNA evidence and that they confessed to her murder "out of a sense of remorse".

He said they were appealing on grounds that the death penalty was "too harsh" and that their conviction was secured without eyewitnesses.

Their lawyer Prompatchara Namuang said at the weekend: "The court commuted their death sentences on the ground that they had voluntarily confessed their crime."

Prosecutors would challenge the court's decision and bring the case to the country's supreme court by 7 December, he said.

Ian Horton, the father of the murdered student, said: "We respect the judicial procedure that happens in Thailand.

"We are not involved in that and we have never been involved in that.

"If the judicial procedure results in a commutation of the death sentence, so be it.

"If it results in the carrying out of the death sentence, then so be it," he said.

Mr Horton said the family were "uniform on this", adding "We would just like it all to calm down now."




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