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'I didn't mean to kill her'

The American man charged with the gruesome killing of a

Vietnamese prostitute who worked the Street 63 night-beat near Phnom Penh's

Sorya shopping mall says that not only has he never been in trouble with the

law, for a while he was the law.

“I was a police officer in the States. I joined after

September 11 but I later left the force because I realized it was just a

business that didn’t truly serve the people,” Grant Helling told the Post March 5 from a hospital bed in the

capital where is recovering from injuries sustained while attempting to evade

police.

“I’m not against the police – I’m just not with them anymore.

“But man, I had to have a clean record to join the force.

I’ve never been in trouble before, I’ve never been arrested before, not even

for drunk driving,” he added.

Helling declined to name the police force he worked for, or

to give any details about that career, or any details about what actually

happened during the killing of the street worker in late February.

But for a man who says he has never been in trouble with the

law before, Helling’s troubles are now as big-time as they can get – and he

knows it.

Laying in his boxer shorts on a narrow bed in Phnom Penh’s Calmette

Hospital, with a bottle

of water and a Robert Ludlum book seemingly his only possessions, Helling began

to sob uncontrollably while speaking to the Post,

repeating over and over, “It was an accident man, I didn’t mean to kill her, it

was an accident.”

Helling is charged with the killing of a Vietnamese woman in

a bizarre incident that came to light when police arrived at his rented house Boeng

Keng Kang I on February 22 to see him jump out of a first floor window. They

found the body of a dead prostitute in his house covered by a smoldering

mattress.

The landlord had called the police when he noticed smoke

coming from Helling’s apartment – Helling had covered the decomposing body with

a mattress and clothes and set fire to it.

Helling panicked when the police arrived, and when he jumped

from his first floor window he seriously injured his leg, hence his stint in

hospital.

Helling is a youthful 46 years, and his boyish and polite

demeanor belies his recently acquired image as a brutal killer.

He told the Post

that it was all an awful accident.

“It was just like I was driving my car home from work and

hit someone and threw the body in a ditch. It was an accident. I’ve never hurt

anyone in my life, I’ve never been violent in my life.”

Asked how he could cope with being holed up in an apartment

for several days with a dead woman on the floor slowly decomposing, he began

weeping again.

“I didn’t know what to do, man. So in the end I did the

wrong thing. I ended up doing nothing,” Helling said.

There is some discrepancy about how the 20-year-old Vietnamese street

worker, known only as Emi, was actually killed.

Chamkar Mon district Security Police Chief Leng Kim Heang

told the Cambodia Daily that the

woman had been strangled. “There was a mark made by a coat hanger,” he was

quoted as saying.

But on March 5, Municipal Foreigner Police Chief Mom Sitha

made no mention of the coat hanger to the Post.

He said that on the day of the fatal incident Helling and

the woman had a serious argument. Helling said he met Emi as a street worker

and took her home several times as a client.

“When he learnt that she had another boyfriend, Helling

asked her to get out of his home. Then she asked for money,” Mom Sitha said.

“He clasped his hand to her mouth and nose and then left the

apartment, not knowing then that she was dead. But when he came back at the

evening time, he found that she was dead.”

Ouk Sokhon, Chamkamon district police chief said, “Helling

came to Cambodia as a

tourist but he is not sure when he entered Cambodia. He rented the house in Boeng

Keng Kang I commune for less than a month before he was arrested.

“From what I know, the argument between Helling and a

Vietnamese girl happened when both sides used rude words and cursed each other,

and this made Helling angry.”

According to riverside bar owners, Helling had been partying

hard and was on the edge for some time.

One riverside bar and guesthouse owner told the Post he threw Helling out a couple of

months ago while he was allegedly on a methamphetamine binge.

Helling said he is friendless in Phnom Penh and only has the US Embassy to

look after his interests.

“I understand now why I pay taxes because the American

government, the American Embassy has been here for me.”

He said his mother and father know of his situation but he

does not want them to come to Cambodia,

and as far as he knows his divorced wife in the US

is unaware that he faces a life sentence in Cambodia

Helling’s final words to the Post were, “I’m gonna pay my bill for this and I know it’s gonna be

a big bill. I’m not gonna try to snaggle out of it, but it was an accident,

man, an accident.”

A US Embassy spokesman

said, "The Embassy is prohibited from discussing individual American

citizens, due to the Privacy Act.”

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