The Appeal Court on Monday upheld the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdicts for former Takeo provincial governor Lay Vannak, his brother Lay Narith, who is former deputy provincial police chief, and his drivers Men Sakmay and Choem Vuth for murdering Vannak’s mistress Chev Sovathana.
Judge Yon Narong upheld the verdicts in Vannak’s absence.
He said although the four denied killing Sovathana, an investigative report from the Ministry of Interior’s crime department showed Vannak and Narith had killed her.
The court also upheld the charge of concealing evidence against Sakmay and Vuth.
Judge Narong said statements by Vuth’s wife, Chanry, who is a witness in the case, corresponded with the report prepared by the interior ministry police.
He said: “The court has decided to uphold a 13-year sentence for Lay Vannak, a 10-year sentence for Lay Narith and two years each for Men Sakmay and Choem Vuth.
“Should the accused protest the ruling, they can file an appeal with the Supreme Court within a month after the announcement of the verdict,” he said.
Vannak’s lawyer Sarey Buth Chakrya declined to comment on the verdict outside the courtroom.
The lawyer for the other three accused, Thuy Sokun, said: “I’ve consulted my clients. The four will file grievances with the Supreme Court.”
Judge Narong based the verdicts on the statements made by Vuth and his wife at the Ministry of Interior after the murder. Both told police at the time that on the day of the incident, Vannak and Narith entered Sovathana’s room and stayed there for around half-an-hour.
After walking out of Sovathana’s room, they allegedly told Vuth that Sovathana had died and instructed him to “make it look like she hanged herself”.
However, Vuth denied the validity of these statements during his trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. He alleged that the police forced him to make the confession.
During the March 11 trial at the Appeal Court, Vannak said on the day of the incident on January 22, 2018, he was busy attending a meeting at the provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sport.
Following the meeting, he said he got in a car driven by Sakmay. They then drove to a garden being built near the Independence Monument in the provincial town.
In the afternoon of the same day, he said he visited Sovathana at her house. He claimed that only he and Sakmay had entered the house and that his brother Narith was not there.
However, Sakmay, Vuth and his wife told police during questioning that they all saw Narith and Vannak enter Sovathana’s house.
During the trial, Narith denied he was in the same car with Vannak. He said he did not even know where Sovathana lived and had to ask around before arriving at her home.
The Municipal Court handed down its verdicts on September 2, last year, sentencing Vannak to 13 years in prison and Narith to 10 years imprisonment under Article 199 of the Criminal Code. Sakmay and Vuth were sentenced to two years each for concealing evidence under Article 532 of the Criminal Code.