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Murder suspect Eng Thy in a photo circulated by police.
Murder suspect Eng Thy in a photo circulated by police. Photo supplied

Kampong Cham man accused of murdering family

A manhunt is under way for a suspect accused of brutally hacking to death his wife, two young children and mother-in-law and badly injuring his father-in-law in what appeared to be a drunken rage on Monday night in Kampong Cham.

Heang Meng, police chief of Speu commune, in Chamkar Leu district, said yesterday that suspect Eng Thy, 47, used a scythe to kill his 45-year-old wife, Chanthy Sopheany, daughter Thy Seanghy, 6, son Thy Seyha, 4, and mother-in-law Mao Yeang, 64.

His father-in-law, Svay Sakhorn, 69, an opposition commune councillor, was sent to Phnom Penh to be treated for serious injuries sustained in the attack.

At press time, Sakhorn was still clinging to life at Phnom Penh’s Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, according to a hospital official.

“The suspect does not like to talk a lot with other people, and he seemed gentle, but he often made problems in the family and argued with his wife. He has never had a problem or argument with the neighbours or other people,” Meng said.

Meng said police had summoned Thy to speak to them after he threatened to kill his wife in the past, and made him promise not to cause any more trouble. The promise, however, didn’t forestall Monday’s tragedy.

“The villagers could not help them, because they did not know the suspect killed all of his family members since he turned off the light in the home, so no one could see his actions,” he said.

According to James McCabe, of the National Police’s Child Protection Unit, which has assembled a special task force to deal with the case, Thy had been arguing with his wife on and off throughout the night. When he returned home from drinking with his friends, his wife took their children to her parents’ house out of fear for their safety.

“Thy then set fire to two separate piles of clothing in the home,” McCabe said. “Seeing what was happening, the suspect’s father-in-law walked next door and entered the home to extinguish the fires. While that was happening, the suspect walked to the in-laws’ home next door, where his wife and children were sleeping.”

Upon reaching the house, Thy allegedly killed his wife and children instantly with blows to their necks that nearly severed their heads. He then struck down his mother-in-law as she attempted to flee before returning home and attacking his father-in-law.

“Neighbours had awakened by this point and witnessed the final attack, which left the father-in-law in critical condition,” McCabe continued, adding that the suspect then fled the scene and was last seen heading into the rice fields in the direction of a mountainous area that forms the border with neighbouring Kampong Thom province.

McCabe called the crime scene “one of the most horrific” his unit had investigated this year.

According to Meng, the commune police chief, the four victims were cremated yesterday.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which victim Svay Sakhorn represented, offered its condolences to the victims’ families, and called for donations to pay for funeral expenses.

Provincial police chief Pen Roth, meanwhile, urged the public to cooperate with authorities if they had any information that would assist in Thy’s arrest.

Run Choun, 47, a local resident and acquaintance of Thy, said yesterday that he was shocked by Monday’s events.

“Eng Thy was not a cruel person as I knew him,” he said. “I just can’t believe that he could kill his children, who didn’t know anything.”

Additional reporting by Khouth Sophak Chakrya

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