The parents of two North-East medical students - one of whom was the son of a north Northumberland man - stabbed to death in Borneo have said they are ‘pleased’ after a man was found guilty of murder, but added that the verdict will not bring their sons back.
Newcastle University students Aidan Brunger, whose father Paul and stepmother live in Lesbury, and Neil Dalton, both 22, were stabbed in a bar in Kuching, Sarawak, in August 2014.
Fishmonger Zulkipli Abdullah, 23, had denied their murder, but admitted being involved in a street fight with them, along with two other men.
The penalty for murder in Malaysia is a mandatory sentence of death by hanging.
In a joint statement, the victims’ parents, Paul Brunger and Sue Hidson, and Phil and Jan Dalton, paid tribute to their sons, and spoke of the devastation their deaths had caused.
They said: “Since Aidan and Neil were killed on August 6, 2014, our lives have been shattered.
“They were two exceptional young men with such promise - kind, funny and full of life. Their deaths have left their families and many good friends utterly devastated.
“Neil and Aidan were having a wonderful time in Borneo working in Sarawak Hospital and also travelling around seeing as much of the beautiful country as they could. Both boys said how very welcoming and friendly the people were.
“Our sons would soon have qualified as doctors. Their unprovoked and senseless murders as they were walking home after a night out with other medical students mean that Aidan and Neil will never have the chance to spend their lives caring for and helping others.
“They would have given so much to the world. We are so very proud of both of them and in what they achieved in their all too short lives.
“Although we are pleased that the man responsible for their murders has been held accountable, the guilty verdict does not bring our sons back.
“We would like to thank our families, friends and everyone who has helped us through these distressing times. We would ask that we are now left to grieve for Neil and Aidan in peace.”
Mr Brunger, from Hempstead, Kent, and Mr Dalton, from Ambergate, Derbyshire, had almost completed a work placement at a hospital in Kuching.
They were found sprawled in the road by cafe workers in the Jalan Padungan area of Kuching in the early hours of August 6 last year.
The trial heard Abdullah admitting being involved in a fight with the two students and punched one of them. But he denied stabbing them or carrying a knife.
Prosecutor Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad said he had told friends he wanted to ‘test his strength’ against bigger and taller foreigners before going after the two men.
The prosecutor said the court ruled that Zulkipli’s defence was ‘merely an afterthought’ and failed to raise any reasonable doubt in the case.
The families’ British lawyer Kieran Mitchell, from Slater and Gordon, said: “This was a savage and unprovoked attack which lead to the death of two young men who had travelled to Borneo with the sole aim of using their medical skills to help people.
“Since that day the families have put their faith in the Borneo justice system, which is very different to our own, adding further strain and difficulty during this devastating ordeal.
“After a long and complicated trial they are relieved that justice has been done.”