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Canadian fugitive finds Siem Reap haven

Canadian fugitive finds Siem Reap haven

ker2.jpg
ker2.jpg

Ian Francis Kerr

CANADIAN Embassy officials are expressing grave concern regarding a Canadian child-sex

suspect who has lived openly as the operator of a popular Siem Reap guest house since

July 1999.

Ian Francis Kerr, a retired doctor from British Columbia, fled Canada in April 1999

before trial on charges of gross indecency and indecent assault involving children

aged eight and 13 years old. A Canada-wide warrant for his arrest was issued in September

1999.

In July 1999 Kerr, 61, married a Khmer woman and subsequently opened the European

Guesthouse in Siem Reap, one of only three hotels recommended in a May 6-7 Cambodia

Daily article about the city's tourist accommodations.

"The Canadian government looks with a great deal of concern toward the activities

of Canadian citizens which violate Canadian laws inside or outside of Canada,"

Canadian Ambassador Normand Mailhot said in reference to Kerr's presence in Siem

Reap.

"The Canadian government is particularly concerned with regard to crimes involving

sex with children."

Kerr told the Post that the charges against him had no foundation and that his relocation

to Cambodia was carefully planned to minimize the possibility of being apprehended

by Canadian authorities.

"I needed to find a country which did not have an extradition agreement with

Canada," the affable Kerr explained. "If I ever go back to Canada I'll

be arrested upon arrival, but here in Cambodia I should be fine."

According to Kerr, the charges against him - which date back to incidents alleged

to have occurred between 1974 and 1976 in Powell River, British Columbia, were a

baseless and malicious attempt by former patients to extort money from him.

Kerr also insisted that the incident alleged to have involved a 13-year-old actually

involved an individual "18 or 19 years old".

The first charge was laid four years ago, but was eventually dismissed by the [British

Columbia] Medical Ethics Review Board," Kerr said. "Then six months later,

the second charge was laid by an individual who I later found out was a friend of

the first complainant - they were in it together for the money."

Although describing the charges against him as "contradictory and riddled with

inconsistencies", Kerr said he decided to flee Canada after his preliminary

hearing in early 1999.

"Even though the case against me was so weak, sexual charges involving doctors

automatically go to trial, regardless of the strength of the evidence," he said.

"My lawyer told me he had a good chance of clearing my name, but that it would

take at least $20,000 in court costs to do so."

Kerr claims that he could not afford to pay the court costs and opted to "retire

outside the country" rather than wait to be tried.

Acknowledging that fleeing the country carried with it an automatic implication of

guilt, Kerr says the financial burden of a trial left him no choice.

Although Kerr's location and identity was revealed in a Canadian press story in late

1999, Canadian authorities are tight-lipped regarding the status of his case.

Repeated Post inquiries to both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian

Children's Rights Tribunal, an NGO which monitors child-sex offenses, went unheeded.

Neither Siem Reap court officials nor Cambodian Interpol report having received any

alert from the Canadian government about Kerr's case.

Muireann O'Briain, Executive Director of the child protection NGO ECPAT, said of

Kerr, "The Cambodian authorities can't arrest [him] unless there is a request

from the Canadians or until he commits an offense on their [Cambodian] territory."

Mick Kearney, a former Australian policeman and ECPAT consultant with extensive experience

in Cambodia, said official Canadian involvement in Kerr's case might even be counterproductive.

"[The Canadian Embassy] might even alert the offender [to an arrest attempt],"

Kearney told the Post by email from Australia. "It wouldn't be the first time

an embassy has done [this] ... plus embassies are there to assist their nationals

in that country."

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