Police failed to hold a promised press conference Thursday over the arrest of the alleged murderer of a Dutch woman in Phnom Penh on Monday, but more details have emerged on the suspect and the attack.
Police initially reported that Chea Phin, 35, had broken into a Tonle Bassac commune home in the early hours of Monday morning and stabbed Daphna Beerdsen to death after she found him attempting to steal a bicycle.
But National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said Thursday that the perpetrator had actually attempted to commit a brazen daylight robbery—of a bicycle—and confessed to doing so.
“According to [the] confession, the man was walking past the home of [the] victim and saw that the gate was open and wanted to steal the bicycle,” Lieutenant General Chantharith said, adding that the crime had been committed around 3 p.m., rather than 3 a.m., as previously reported.
According to the suspect’s reported confession, Daphna Beerdsen used a feather duster to attack the thief, who in turn produced a screwdriver and stabbed her six times, Lt. Gen. Chantharith said.
Daphna Beerdsen’s 19-month-old daughter Dana was also stabbed by the suspect and was airlifted to Bangkok General Hospital with her father, Joris Oele, who was out of town at the time of the murder. Dana was treated for stab wounds to her body and severe head trauma and was in a critical condition in the intensive care unit Wednesday. The hospital declined to share details of her condition Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Chantharith said that Mr. Phin had admitted to stabbing the baby.
“According to [his] confession, [Mr. Phin] did not intend to stab the baby but the victim was maybe carrying the baby at the time of the struggle,” Lt. Gen Chanthirith said.
He also said that a tip-off had led police to Wat Botum pagoda, where Mr. Phin was found in possession of Daphna Beerdsen’s handbag, identification and laptop.
“These people saw this man with these things that he never had before, so they became suspicious,” Lt. Gen. Chantharith said.
Phnom Penh penal police chief Eng Sophea, who had promised a press conference would be held Thursday regarding the arrest, said via telephone that Mr. Phin is known to police as a petty criminal and had recently been released from prison.
“The suspect is an orphan and he does not have a real place to live,” Mr. Sophea said.
“He was imprisoned in 1997 for thievery, and in 2007, he was jailed for seven years for robbery and has just left prison,” Mr. Sophea continued. “Also, he is a drug user.”
Mr. Sophea said that Mr. Phin was arrested in front of Wat Botum pagoda Tuesday night, but declined to provide any insight into how police tracked him down.
Lt. Gen. Chantharith said that the suspect was arrested, and lived, inside Wat Botum.
A number of laymen and monks inside the pagoda said Thursday that they had no knowledge of Mr. Phin, the events around the arrest, or the murder.
Chuon Narin, Phnom Penh deputy police chief, said Mr. Phin would be questioned at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday.
blomberg@cambodiadaily.com, sovuthy@cambodiadaily.com
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