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'Lucky' Lauwaert found dead in Siem Reap jail cell

7-Bart.jpg
7-Bart.jpg

AFP

Bart Lauwaert

A

n Australian man convicted and imprisoned in 2003 for raping underage girls was found dead in his jail cell, a court official said May 4.

Former English teacher Bart “Lucky” Lauwaert, 41, was sentenced to 20 years for raping his nine maids, aged between 12 and 14, in Siem Reap province, the tourist gateway to the famous Angkor Wat temple complex.

“He didn’t commit suicide,” said prosecutor Bou Bun Ham. “We just found him dead on the floor.”

A duty officer at the Australian embassy told AFP Lauwaert had died of a stroke.

Lauwaert had denied the rape charges, but in June 2006 lost an appeal against his sentence.

The nine girls had recanted their original statements and said they had never been assaulted, but the appeal court upheld the sentence amid accusations that the victims had been pressured to change their stories.

Lauwaert was arrested with fellow Australian Clinton Rex Betterridge in 2002 in a case spearheaded by local rights group the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre.

Betterridge jumped bail and fled to Australia, where he was released from jail the same that the nine girls retracted their rape claims.

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