Neighbors had been hearing screams for months. The local motodops were well accustomed
to young children being delivered to the house at around 6pm and then collected early
the next morning. Everyone noticed that the same four or five older foreign men would
routinely visit the house and sometimes stay all night.
The August 20 arrest of Karl Heinz Henning, 61, and that of his neighbor, Thomas
Baron von Engelhardt, 42, one day later, confirmed the worst fears of the area's
residents: children were being tortured and sexually abused in their own neighborhood.
Those who witnessed the police raid on his house say there is now no doubt in their
minds that Henning is guilty of the crimes of which he stands accused.
As the police searched his house, Henning jumped from his third-floor balcony in
what was described by officials and local media as an attempt to escape arrest.
But neighbors and local motodops say the sexagenarian was not trying to flee, but
to commit suicide.
"He is old, he would die in jail," said one motodop. "We saw it all
happen and it was obvious he wasn't worrying about escape - he wanted to die. It
is a very long way to jump."
Henning impaled himself on the metal gates of his house. After several days of treatment
in Calmette hospital, his condition was described as "improving."
Residents of the area had long been concerned by Henning's activities.
"Most days I would hear a little girl screaming," said one of Henning's
neighbors, who declined to be named. "It was definitely a kid's voice; sometimes
there would be loud screaming and then silence immediately. I suspected someone in
the area was raping kids."
Despite circumstantial evidence and heated speculation, it was difficult for anyone
to take action.
"Everyone in the area, even the police, knew he was taking young children into
the house," said one motodop who works opposite Henning's house. "But we
were too scared to get involved."
An undercover police and anti-trafficking NGO investigation has since revealed that
the innocuous-looking three-story house on a quiet residential street just behind
Lucky supermarket was the epicenter of a pedophile ring.
Police say they have seized dozens of video recordings of Vietnamese girls, aged
between 10 and 14, being bound, whipped and raped inside Henning's flat, where they
also uncovered sexual paraphernalia and computer equipment. Authorities have said
Engelhardt, Henning's neighbor, appeared in some of the videos.
Three ethnic-Vietnamese Cambodian adults were also arrested. Cheng Thit Heu, 45,
is likely to be charged with providing her two children, 10 and 14, for sex. Her
sister, Cheng Thit You, 21, and her husband, Nguyen Hong Voeng, 20, face charges
of acting as go-betweens and procuring the children for sex.
"At the moment we are carrying out undercover investigations to catch the rest
of the people involved," said Keo Thea, deputy chief of the municipal anti-human
Local motodops said they had long suspected Henning and Engelhardt were not the only
foreigners involved in the sexual abuse.
"There are four or five of them, all friends," one motodop said. "This
[Henning's house] was the 'office' for them, the place where they made all the videos.
When the police check all the tapes they will identify the other guys."
The area that Henning and Engelhardt lived in has a high percentage of ex-pat residents.
Neighbors voiced concern that it was an easy place for pedophiles to hide.
"I am worried that there is a network of pedophiles operating in this area,"
another neighbor said. "When I first came here many years ago I would see old
men in the street surrounded by young kids and you still see a lot of that type of
guy in the area."
Citing security concerns as a result of the ongoing investigation, anti-pedophile
NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) director Beatrice Magnier declined comment on
The benefit of hindsight makes it easy for Henning and Engelhardt's neighbors to
recollect incriminating details about men they had lived side by side with for years.
People described seeing Henning walking down the street surrounded by young children
who would call him "papa."
"I would see him taking the kids to the supermarket," a neighbor said.
"But when I looked at him, trying to make eye contact, he would look down at
But neighbors, motodops and even colleagues also readily admit that the men were
normal enough not to arouse excessive suspicion.
"I used to give Henning rides," said one motodop. "He seemed like
a normal guy."
Current and former colleagues of Engelhardt, who was team leader of level one English
at Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC), have found it hard to reconcile their
impression of a mild-mannered and professional teacher with the sadistic behavior
he stands accused of.
"Everyone is shocked," said one former PUC employee who declined to be
named. "He was one of the nicest guys at the school - no one ever had a bad
word to say about him."
The students Engelhardt was teaching were between 17 and 18 years old, said one PUC
teacher, who received her teacher training from him.
"I have seen him teach and he seemed to have a good rapport with the students;
he taught well and the students seemed to like him," she said. "He seemed
to be a very interactive teacher, quite entertaining even, and from the classes I
sat in on I never heard anything bad said about him."
Pannasastra University declined to comment on Engelhardt's arrest. Mr Rotana, the
teacher in charge of English - who has responsibility for vetting new teachers and
who was responsible for employing Engelhardt - did not answer repeated calls to his
But Engelhardt's colleagues all painted a picture of an agreeable, friendly, responsible
"He was always on time, he took his teaching work seriously," said the
former PUC employee. "He has worked at the school for years and he would always
be happy to sit and chat at coffee breaks. He was intelligent too, articulate and
interested in politics."
Moreover, Engelhardt was believed to be in a long-term relationship, and possibly
to be a father - though the Post was unable to confirm this.
"He had a stable Vietnamese girlfriend," said the former PUC employee.
"A stable job, a flat in a nice area, he always passed the regular PUC teacher
This portrait is totally at odds with the initial findings of the police investigation.
Police say ropes, video recording equipment, and tapes of both Henning and Engelhardt
having sex with very young Vietnamese children were seized at Henning's property.
Police also believe the children were being drugged.
"The children they were sexually abusing told us they were being given drugs,"
Thea said. "When we raided the house we caught a Vietnamese couple who were
just on their way out to buy illegal substances for Henning."
The case against him and Engelhardt is progressing rapidly, Thea said.
"I have already sent the case to the prosecutor," he said. "They will
organize the information, prepare the charges, and then it send to the judge."
In Germany, news media have been slow to pick up on the involvement of German nationals
in a suspected pedophile ring, said Stephan Haselberger, a journalist at Der Spiegel
"As far as I know there is no media interest in the case at all," he said.
"I am sure the German public would want such criminals to be arrested and tried
and they wouldn't care if this happened in Cambodia or Germany, as long as there
is no death penalty."