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Court to question relatives over death of Frenchman

130104 04
A boy watches on as police inspect the vehicle of French national Laurent Vallier, which was pulled from a pond in Kampong Speu province in 2012. Vallier and his four children were found dead inside. Photograph: Derek Stout/Phnom Penh Post

Five people, including relatives, will be summonsed for questioning later this month in connection with the year-old investigation into the mysterious deaths of a Frenchman and his four children, officials for the Kampong Speu Provincial Court said yesterday.

On Wednesday, the sister-, father- and mother-in-law of Laurent Vallier were questioned after applying for land titles to his two properties, each approximately one hectare and occupied by a large house and cowshed.

The bodies of Vallier and his four young children were pulled from a car submerged in a pond behind his property last January, four months after the family had last been seen alive.

A preliminary investigation suggested Vallier had carried out a murder-suicide, but the investigation, run with assistance from France, remained ongoing and few public inroads had been made in the intervening months.   

Investigating Judge Chem Rithy said yesterday that he will issue summonses for a January 24 questioning of the parents-in-law, Tit Chhoun and Sar Sarvy, their daughter Lou On, a commune chief and a witness.

“Yesterday, we questioned [the in-laws] over the land title, but they are not officially suspects, because the court did not have evidence sent over from the Ministry of Interior yet,” said Judge Rithy.

“We have to strictly and clearly investigate related to all points, including that [Tit Chhoun] claimed the land title for his ownership. It is a point of which we have to take note,” he added.

Judge Rithy said he was working with French authorities and expected a French investigating judge to arrive late this month or early next.

French Embassy First Councillor Dominique Mas said in an email that the investigation remained ongoing and that “two investigating judges, French and Cambodian, plan to work jointly and exchange information, according to the rogatory commission [request] sent by the French judge to the Cambodian justice.

“This is in accordance with the strong co-operation which was initiated from the beginning of the case between the French and Cambodian police and justices.”

Vallier’s wife died in October, 2010 while giving birth to the couple’s youngest son.

When police searched Vallier’s home following the discovery of the bodies, they discovered  the only thing that had been removed was the urn containing her ashes.

It was later discovered in the family’s submerged Nissan SUV.

Speaking by phone, Chhoun confirmed he and his family had been questioned over the land-titling claim and said the judge had alleged the three might be guilty of murder.

 “The judge accused me and my family of being involved in the killing of my son-in-law, my grandsons and granddaughters.

“I cannot accept that accusation. How could I do that? I truly loved them.

 “Why can I not claim ownership of that land which belonged to my daughter?”

 

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from Abby Seiff abby.seiff@phnompenhpost.com
 

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