Gillingham: Man Jailed Over Student Death
A 23-year-old has been sentenced to death for murdering two "exceptional young'' British medical students, including one from Kent, who had been working in a Malaysian hospital.
Newcastle University students Aidan Brunger, from Gillingham, and Neil Dalton, from Ambergate in Derbyshire, were killed in the unprovoked attack in Sarawak on the island of Borneo in August last year.
The country's high court heard during the trial that, before killing the two men, Zulkipli Abdullah, 23, had said he wanted to "test his strength'' against bigger and taller foreigners.
The prosecutor also said that, after he stabbed the pair, he sniffed the blood on his hands and claimed it smelled nice.
Zulkipli had denied stabbing them but the court ruled that his defence was merely an afterthought, with the attack outside a cafe in the early hours being entirely unprovoked.
Both victims, who were 22, had been working at a local hospital in Kuching - an area popular with backpackers.
Following the verdict, their parents put out a joint statement paying tribute to their sons and spoke of the devastation they have felt since their deaths.
They said: "Since Aidan and Neil were killed on 6 August 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.''
At the time, Professor Jane Calvert, Dean of Undergraduate Studies for Newcastle University Medical School, said the fourth-year students had been highly committed and were both doing well in their studies.
"They were excellent students, they were doing really well with their studies, they were highly committed and coming back next year to work as doctors,'' she said.
"Aidan was aspiring to do some medical research on his return, Neil was going straight into his final year and it's such a tragic thing to occur.''
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.''
The death penalty is mandatory for murder in Malaysia.