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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Suspect arrested in Siem Reap town beheading

Chan Chhay Ya, 40, sits at a police station in Siem Reap on Saturday after he was detained for allegedly decapitating a woman. National Police
Chan Chhay Ya, 40, sits at a police station in Siem Reap on Saturday after he was detained for allegedly decapitating a woman. National Police

Suspect arrested in Siem Reap town beheading

Police in Siem Reap province on Saturday arrested a suspect in the case of the alleged murder of a woman whose headless body was found stuffed under a guesthouse bed.

Chan Chhay Ya, 40, was apprehended while allegedly attempting to burn the head of Len Seila, 24, in a fire pit behind his house in Siem Reap town’s Toek Vil commune, said provincial police chief Thorng Sakun. Seila’s parents had told police of the possibility that Chhay Ya was behind the killing.

“It is the cruellest murder I have seen in Siem Reap,” he said, adding that Ya was preliminarily charged with intentional murder.

Soun Cheam, a brother-in-law of the victim, said Chhay Ya had planned on marrying Seila but the marriage fell through after Seila’s parents discovered he was married with a child.

Sakun said that investigators deduced that before her beheading, Seila was beaten and strangled with a krama.

However, Chhay Ya denied murdering Seila and claimed the two were attempting to commit suicide together by overdosing on an undisclosed medicine in their guesthouse room, according to provincial penal police director Doung Sokha, citing Ya’s testimony.

The suspect passed out after ingesting the pills, he said, and when he awoke he found that Seila had hanged herself with a krama in the bathroom.

Ya admitted to decapitating Seila, claiming that he took her head for sentimental reasons, though he did not say why he had burned it.

In a video of Ya re-enacting the alleged murder, the suspect described the moment he severed his former fiancee’s head.

“I prayed for forgiveness that I could not take you [the victim] with me. I could only take your head,” he said.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the suspect had been formally charged with murder by the provincial court. In fact, he was only preliminarily accused of murder. The Post apologises for any confusion caused.
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