Four Thai men hunted over student's death

FOUR Thai men were last night being hunted by police for the gang rape and murder of a British backpacker.

Katherine Horton, 21, a psychology student at Reading University, was attacked on the evening of New Year's Day as she telephoned her mother in Cardiff from Thailand.

Police on the holiday island of Koh Samui have taken DNA samples from locals and holiday makers, including two Scotsmen who befriended the victim and her friend, Ruth Adams.

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However, the authorities are now targeting their enquiries on four Thai men seen near holiday homes two miles along the beach from where Ms Horton was staying, but from where screams were heard on the night of her murder.

A senior Thai police officer yesterday called an emergency meeting of 25 village heads and ordered that they report any suspicious behaviour among young men in their villages during the past four days.

The case moved forward after two British women told police that they had heard screams outside their rented home called "Family Home No 1" on Lamai Beach shortly after 10pm on Sunday night. The women, who wish to remain anonymous, read about the murder on the internet. Their story was corroborated by a security guard at "Family Home", a line of three houses near where Miss Horton had been staying, who said he saw four men in the area on motorcycles.

Yesterday, television news bulletins in Thailand were reporting that Miss Horton had been gang raped in or around a longboat on the beach.

Miss Horton had spent New Year's night at a party on the nearby island of Ko Phangnan.

Meanwhile, Miss Adams broke her silence yesterday, to say: "I hope they catch the person or persons who did this, especially for the family's sake. Katherine was one of the best. I am really going to miss her."

Miss Horton's father, Ian, and her brother Richard arrived in Thailand yesterday and are expected to arrive on the island of Koh Samui today.

In a statement from the Horton family, released by South Wales Police, they said: "Katherine was much loved by all her family and friends. We will miss her warmth, her vivacity and her passion for life."

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