The Belgian national that Cambodian authorities have implicated in the murder and rape of 25-year-old Frenchwoman Ophélie Begnis says he doesn’t know the victim and has cast doubt on the other evidence in the case, according to the law firm defending him.
Forty-one-year-old Oliver Van Den Bogaert, a former guesthouse owner who has lived in Cambodia for about three years, is expected back in Kampot provincial court today after being arrested on April 23 and then charged three days later with “murder preceded or followed by torture, cruelty or rape”.
The investigating judge is expected to continue questioning him about the death of the Frenchwoman, who was travelling through Kampot earlier this year and disappeared towards the end of her vacation on February 9.
A day later, her naked and bludgeoned body was discovered in the estuary that runs through town. A preliminary investigation determined she had been raped.
If convicted, Van Den Boegart could face life imprisonment.
His attorneys say the case is largely supported by witness statements describing a man resembling Van Den Boegart in an Adidas shirt toss a bike into the water, which may be the same bike that Begnis pedalled out of her resort on the day she disappeared.
In Chiva, provincial deputy police chief, said Van Den Boegart was arrested based on statements from a boat operator and a woman, as well as the discovery of the victim’s bicycle.
But according to the president of the law firm defending him, “there are witnesses from both sides”, and Van Den Boegart’s story contrasts with the official police evidence.
Khun Sophal, the defence lawyer working on the case, said the judge is still in the investigative phase, and he isn’t sure yet if he will ask the court to drop charges or ask for a delay in the investigation.
Thierry Dalimier, the honorary Belgian consul in Cambodia, told the Post yesterday that Van Den Bogaert has support outside of the consulate.
“We are not alone on this case – we have the lawyer, we have the family.”
A spokesman for the French embassy could not be reached for comment.