Authorities arrested a 25-year-old man on Wednesday in connection with the rape and murder of a 5-year-old girl on the grounds of a Prey Veng province pagoda during the final day of Khmer New Year festivities on Tuesday, according to police.
Police are conducting DNA tests on the suspect to compare to samples taken at the scene of the crime, although the man has already confessed, according to Child Protection Unit head James McCabe, who declined to identify the suspect until he is charged.
The organisation, which is assisting police in the investigation, said 5-year-old Chan Sreydat left home Tuesday morning with her two sisters to attend a celebration at their local pagoda in Preah Sdach commune. The sisters lost track of their sibling and returned home an hour and a half later hoping to find her, according to investigators.
Upon realising that she was not home, the family began searching for the girl and found her body around 1:30pm that afternoon floating in a pond on the grounds of Wat Sithearam.
Romcheck Commune Police Chief Sim Oun said investigators believe the attacker raped the girl in a nearby stupa before fatally strangling her, then dropped her body in the pond, possibly in hopes of making the murder appear to be an accidental drowning. According to Oun, investigators found bruises on the girl's neck.
The victim's mother, 32-year-old Ros Hen, blamed herself on Wednesday for her daughter's death.
“My daughter never goes anywhere far away from her parents, but because it was the last day of Khmer New Year, I thought there are a lot of people in the pagoda, where I was not afraid that my daughter will face any problems," Hen said. "Now, my daughter is dead. I am so regretful. If I hadn't allowed her, she would still be alive."