A homeless man confessed to two counts of murder for the killings of Dutch UN worker Daphna Beerdsen and her young daughter, Dana, who died in a Bangkok hospital more than a week after the April attack, during a hearing in Phnom Penh yesterday.
The defendant, 35-year-old Chea Pin, said at his hearing in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court that he had scaled the gate at Beerdsen’s home in Chamkarmon district’s Tonle Bassac commune with the intention of stealing a bicycle. But after she saw him and screamed for help, he stabbed her repeatedly with a screwdriver.
“My purpose was to steal her bicycle. I did not go there intending to kill them,” he said.
On April 29, two days after the alleged encounter, the suspect was arrested at a pagoda near Beerdsen’s home, which she shared with her partner Joris Oele, who had also worked for the UN in Cambodia and was on a trip to Preah Sihanouk province with colleagues from UN Habitat when the victims’ bodies were discovered by neighbours.
Nou Veasna, presiding judge at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, read from the police report during the hearing, which said Beerdsen had been stabbed at least 10 times.
“He entered the victim’s house while she was with her daughter, and had left her house door open, in order to steal her bicycle,” he said. “He used a screwdriver to stab the mother more than 10 times and causing her to lose consciousness.”
Beerdsen, 31, was found by the family’s babysitter the next morning, shortly before 9am on April 28. She was lying alongside Dana in their rented house in a side street off of Norodom Boulevard.
“After stabbing her, he used the screwdriver to hit her daughter. He then collected her valuables and stole her bicycle to escape,” Veasna said.
Dana was left in critical condition after being stabbed multiple times with the same weapon as her mother and was transferred to Bangkok General Hospital in Thailand for treatment.
She died of her injuries on May 7 after undergoing several surgeries to reduce swelling on her brain.
Pin was charged just days before Dana’s death with “intentional murder with aggravated circumstances” under Section 199 of Cambodia’s Penal Code. If found guilty, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
He appealed for sympathy during yesterday’s hearing, telling the court that he was an orphan and had a drinking problem. He had previously been jailed four times, including a seven-year spell at Prey Sar prison for theft and robbery, court officials said.
Prior to the killings in April, Pin had only been out of jail for a little over two weeks when he re-offended, he said, adding that he had been drinking heavily the night before the attempted robbery.
“But when I entered her house to steal her bike, she shouted for help and it surprised me,” he said. “She used a broomstick to beat me and pushed me into her house and we were fighting each other.
“To avoid being beaten and caught, I took a screwdriver that I had hidden in my trouser pocket and stabbed her many times.… After that, I closed my eyes and stabbed her daughter many times,” he said.
Pin requested that the court reduce his likely sentence as he said he was remorseful about what he had done.
“I know my mistake now,” he said. “I promise that I will never do this again in the future. I would like to ask the court to reduce my sentence.”
Seng Singheng, lawyer for the prosecution, argued that the harshest possible sentence should be handed down.
“The crime was very serious and inhumane. Therefore, I would like to ask the court to punish him strongly under the law,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE