Koh Kong provincial court yesterday handed a life sentence to a man who murdered a toddler in April, with investigators saying the killing was an act of revenge following a disagreement with one of the child’s parents.
According to Child Protection Unit (CPU) director James McCabe, Le Yangsoeung, 36, threw Le Sim against a wall and smashed her head against the ground in a vacant area near a police post in Mondul Seima district’s Bak Khlang commune.
“The horror and viciousness of this attack on an innocent 15-month-old was difficult to comprehend and will remain in the memories of all involved [in the investigation],” he said.
Provincial deputy prosecutor Eav Tranh said Yangsoeung had been convicted of intentional murder with aggravating circumstances and ordered to pay 18 million riel ($4,500) in compensation to the victim’s family.
According to the police investigation, which was assisted by the CPU, on April 12, Yangsoeung had been drinking with the girl’s father when at around 6:30pm he left with Sim saying he was going to buy food.
Tan Kimrany, a provincial officer for rights group Adhoc, said Yangsoeung did not initially arouse suspicion because he was a neighbour and family friend who often took the girl with him on errands.
“The perpetrator used to play with the girl and would take her to buy her cake, so the girl’s parents had no concerns about [Yangsoeung],” Kimrany said.
But when the pair had not returned within an hour, the girl’s parents alerted police.
Officers found Yangsoeung carrying the girl’s naked dead body at about 9pm that night. Forensic investigations found the child had been bitten multiple times.
According to McCabe, after Yangsoeung was arrested, an angry mob descended on the police station where the suspect was being held and demanded he be handed over to them.
“It was only the cool-headedness of the officer in charge of the [investigative police] that prevented a terrible situation from escalating further,” he said.
Bak Khlang commune police chief Lim Thy yesterday said Yangsoeung had previously served a 10-year prison sentence for murder and had only been released months before killing the youngster.
Both Thy and Kimrany suggested Yangsoeung suffers from mental illness.
However, McCabe yesterday rejected it being a factor in the incident.
“Mental health had no involvement with this crime,” he said. “He had a lawyer and the mental-illness defence was never raised.”