The body of the Canadian journalist and filmmaker Dave Walker, who disappeared in Siem Reap province more than two months ago, was found Thursday morning in the Angkor Thom temple complex, police and family said.
Two teenage boys, who had gone to a forested area of the archeological park to pick fruit, stumbled upon the badly decomposed body at about 6:30 a.m. and ran half a kilometer to inform local police, according to Chao Mao Vireak, provincial immigration police chief.
“We received information at 7:30 a.m. that a body was found in the Angkor Thom complex about 250 meters from the entrance inside a small forest area,” he said. The area was sealed off with police tape, and the body will remain unmoved as police await the arrival today of a forensic pathologist from Bangkok, at the request of the Canadian Embassy in Thailand.
Dave Walker, 58, who lived in Cambodia on and off over the past two decades, disappeared without a trace after leaving his guesthouse in Siem Reap City on February 14 while staff cleaned his room. He left behind personal belongings including his phone, laptop and passport.
On Thursday morning, the owner of the Green Village Angkor Guesthouse, along with the victim’s friend and business partner, accompanied police to the popular tourist site to help identify the body, said provincial police chief Sort Nady.
“His friend and the owner of the guesthouse confirmed that the body is that of the journalist because he was dressed in his own clothes that he wore at the time of his disappearance,” Mr. Nady said.
“So far, our police have not concluded whether the death is the result of a murder or natural causes as we are awaiting analysis of the body by experts from Thailand.”
A statement released by the victim’s family Thursday said that a medical professional examined the body at their request but failed to determine a cause of death, and that a pathologist was being brought in to carry out a post mortem exam to establish the cause and time of death.
“Dave Walker’s family asks that the Cambodian authorities continue their efforts to determine the cause of Dave’s disappearance and death and Dave’s family and loved ones request that the Canadian government begin now to formally investigate, in order to move forward and bring those who were responsible for Dave’s senseless death to justice,” the family’s statement says.
Lieutenant General Kirth Chantharith, National Police spokesman, said it was too early to determine whether the journalist’s death may have involved foul play, adding that the body was too decomposed for Cambodian police to reach any conclusions about the cause of death.
“The body was found after two months, which makes it difficult for Cambodian police. But we have reported to the Canadian Embassy and they are sending a forensics team and police investigators from Canada…and we will cooperate alongside them,” he said.
Dave Walker’s disappearance—and death—has confounded his family, friends and police, who until Thursday’s chance discovery had unturned no evidence in their efforts to solve the mystery.
Originally from Edmonton, Canada, he had a long relationship with Cambodia that began in the 1980s, when he worked as an investigator for a family of Cambodian refugees living in Canada and successfully located their 15-year-old daughter in a refugee camp in Thailand.
In July 2012, he set up an independent film company called Animist Farm Films and had been working on a documentary about the Khmer Rouge regime with his business partner, 37-year-old Sonny Chhoun, who helped police identify the body.
Mr. Chhoun said he hopes his longtime friend gets the investigation he deserves.
“I hope the police don’t just want to wrap up the case as soon as possible, because though I recognized his clothes and shoes. Other than that I really could not tell whether it was him or not,” he said.
“There are many questions, such as how he got to Angkor Thom—did he walk, did he get a tuk-tuk, did he pay and get a ticket to get into the park? But mostly, I just want his body and the case to be treated professionally.”
(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)
sokhean@cambodiadaily.com, henderson@cambodiadaily.com
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