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Murder statements retracted

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Former Takeo governor Lay Vannak on his way to court on April 3, 2018. Pha Lina

Murder statements retracted

After one day of questioning, three suspects and one witness said police forced them to claim that Lay Vannak, former Takeo provincial governor, and his brother Lay Narith, former provincial deputy police chief, together murdered Vannak’s mistress, Chev Sovathana. Police have denied the accusations.

According to a Ministry of Interior criminal police report, which was read by a court clerk on Wednesday, Vannak’s driver Men Sakmay told police that on January 26 last year, the date of the murder, he took Vannak and Narith to Sovathana’s house.

The house gate was opened by Choem Vuth and Chan Ry, a married couple who worked at the house.

According to the police report, after arriving at the house, Vannak and Narith approached Sovathana’s room, while Sakmay waited with Ry and Vuth.

After around 30 minutes, Vannak and Narith came back and told them: “Sovathana is dead. All of you go up to her room and make it look like she hanged herself, then report it to Donkeo city police.”

Sakmay said Vannak and Narith then got in the car and fled the scene.

However, Sakmay told the court the story he told police during questioning was a result of being bribed.

“I would like to deny all my answers made to the Ministry of Interior and the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The police said they would give me $1,000 dollars and allow me to return to my wife and family. I have not received the money from the police yet,” he said.

After listening to the report, Ry also retracted her previous statement.

“I would like to retract all my answers to the police and the court because the authorities threatened me. Before I could answer, they told me I needed to speak carefully."

“Hearing this, I feared they might do something bad to my child who is a monk living in Prey Veng province, so I just said whatever they wanted me to. After my arrest, they detained me and my husband for 22 days at a guesthouse on the east side of Chroy Changvar Bridge in Phnom Penh.

Police denied the allegations. Pol Ratana, who along with other police officers had questioned the accused before sending them to court, said during the trial that Sakmay, Vuth and Ry told him they were afraid to tell the truth.

But after arriving at the Ministry of Interior for questioning, he said the trio were no longer afraid and freely made statements to police.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Donkeo town police chief Chhay Savuth told the presiding judge that he saw deputy police chief Lay Narith at the scene. They and Military Police personnel went to Sovathana’s room and opened the door, but they did not enter as examination experts were at work.

“After the experts finished their examination, he discovered a letter [allegedly left by the victim], but I could not read it as the handwriting was bad. Lay Narith told me to keep it to avoid it from falling into journalists’ hands,” Savuth told the court.

Presiding judge Ham Mengse told the court that the trial wil continue on March 22.

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