Three months of witness testimony were due to end on Friday but the judge granted the defence team a request for an extra two days, on 10 and 11 October, to give the defendants further time to speak on the stand.
A Thai judge has extended the trial of two Burmese migrants accused of murdering British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in Thailand in 2014, pushing the likely verdict date back at least a month.
Andy Hall, a migrants’ rights activist from Britain who is working for the defence, said from Koh Samui island: “The verdict could be late November or early December but I’m pretty sure it will be this year.”
The verdict, which will be decided by a panel of three judges, was previously expected in October.
In Thailand, recording or taking notes in courts is forbidden. The Guardian confirmed the extension with an observer in the court.
The murders on a idyllic beach shocked the UK and Thailand due to their brutality. Witheridge, 23, from Norfolk, and Miller, 24, from Jersey, were found on Sairee beach on Koh Tao island with severe head wounds. Police alleged sperm collected from the crime scene implicated the two defendants.
The defence have accused the Thai police of extracting confessions from the two men through abuse and intimidation, a charge the authorities deny. Tho two restaurant and bar workers at first confessed to the murders but later retracted the admissions.
During the three-month trial, the defence has also exposed inconsistencies in the police investigation, arguing that chains of custody over evidence were broken and the crime scene was not properly cordoned off.
This month, a Thai forensic expert said DNA samples taken from the alleged murder weapon, a garden hoe, did not belong to the two men who are standing trial.
Thai police deny any wrongdoing.
Concerns over the suspects’ alleged mistreatment led David Cameron and his Thai counterpart, Prayuth Chan-ocha, to agree in 2014 to allow the Metropolitan police to conduct an inquiry in an attempt to reassure the victims’ families that the judicial process was being carried out in a fair and transparent way. The Met has refused to share its findings.
Human rights groups have become involved in the trial, noting that migrant workers from Myanmar, of whom there are about 2.5 million in Thailand, have previously been wrongly accused of crimes by Thai police.
On Friday, representatives of the Myanmar embassy in Thailand told the court of a culture of police brutality on Koh Tao island.
Aung Soe, a Myanmar Embassy attache, said nearly all the Burmese migrant community on Koh Tao had been questioned in the weeks between the murders and the arrests.
“Many of them said police scalded them with hot water if they were caught talking about the case to anyone,” said Aung Soe. Myanmar has called for a fair trial.
The Witheridge family travelled from the UK to Thailand to be at the court this week. “Our family have returned to Koh Samui for the closing days of trial. As a family we are here to represent our beautiful girl,” they said in a statement earlier this week.
“Please remember, above all, that Hannah and David were both real people, they were loved by their families and all those that were privileged enough to know them. This story bears no happy ending; their lives were ended brutally that night without sense or reason.”