A woman arrested in Prey Veng province on Wednesday has confessed to killing a Sihanoukville man as he slept next to his 1-month-old daughter, then kidnapping the infant, police said yesterday.
Police arrested Pot Rotha, 24, in connection with the alleged homicide and kidnapping, after an exhaustive 48-hour manhunt, spanning five provinces. Police are still searching for a 33-year-old male suspect in connection with the crime, said James McCabe, manager of operations at the Phnom Penh-based Child Protection Unit.
Sihanoukville police chief Phol Phorsda yesterday identified the second suspect as Rotha’s husband, but refused to give his name.
When brought to Preah Sihanouk provincial police headquarters for questioning Wednesday night, Rotha initially claimed she had given birth to the child, Porn Hamma, four days before, McCabe said. But after a doctor and her mother, Oung Deang, 32, proved this false, she confessed.
“She lost a child when she was seven months' pregnant, about three months ago,” McCabe said yesterday. “We believe this was a triggering factor.”
Rotha said she killed her neighbour, Pin Sokpal, 34, and took the baby on Monday morning, McCabe said. Police initially believed the male suspect being sought had smashed Sokpal’s head with a garden hoe.
Phorsda said that at this time, his department does not believe that Rotha’s husband was involved in the killing, adding that he had frequently threatened to divorce her if she could not bear a child.
“The suspect’s husband is not involved in this crime; she committed it alone,” Phorsda said.
McCabe said that the confession Rotha gave to police sounded credible, when looking at the crime scene and circumstances surrounding the murder and abduction, but that the investigation is ongoing.
“What she’s saying is very plausible, but we still need to work to ensure that we only have one offender,” McCabe said yesterday.
Rotha will today appear at provincial court, where she will likely be charged with aggravated murder and kidnapping of a child, McCabe said.
Sokpal’s uncle, Suos Som Ath, 46, yesterday said he is overjoyed that his great-niece is safe, and that neighbours in his village have been chipping in money to pay for Sokpal’s funeral.
“I am so happy that my great-niece is home and healthy,” Sam Ath said. “I have raised 400,000 riel [$100] for the funeral.”