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Man charged in murder of Australian

ACONSTRUCTION worker has been charged with the murder of an Australian man who was beaten to death in Sihanoukville in December, officials said Wednesday.

John Edward Thompson, 47, was ambushed in Sihanoukville’s Commune 3 at around 1am on December 27 by a group of men who savagely assaulted him with acacia branches and left him to die at the scene.

Bou Bunhang, chief prosecutor at Preah Sihanouk provincial court, said Wednesday that the construction worker, 20-year-old In Toma, had been charged with murder and robbery, and that he was being held in pretrial detention.

Provincial police Chief Tak Vantha said In Toma was arrested on Monday in Kampot province’s Teuk Chhou district, and that police had received arrest warrants for two other suspects.

He said police were initially unsure whether the attack had been motivated by money or a desire for revenge, as the victim reportedly had less than US$2 in his pocket when he was killed.

“After the killing, we created a special committee and launched a murder investigation to determine whether the killing was related to revenge or robbery,” he said. “After six months of investigation, our efforts led us to identify the suspects and arrest one of the three killers to be brought in for prosecution.”

He said In Toma had confessed to police that he and two others robbed and killed Thompson in December.

“They had been drinking alcohol and saw the victim was walking alone carrying a backpack, and they expected that they would rob lots of money from him,” Tak Vantha said. “But unluckily, the foreigner was a poor man and had only 6,700 riels in his pocket.”

He added that police have leads on the other two suspects, both of whom are also construction workers.

Bou Bunhang said In Toma’s trial date would be set after an investigation into the case was concluded. “We cannot give a timeline of the trial, as further investigations will take at least four months,” he said.

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