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UN worker murdered

Police officers stand outside the gate of a house where Dutch national Daphna Beerdsen was found dead yesterday in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district.
Police officers stand outside the gate of a house where Dutch national Daphna Beerdsen was found dead yesterday in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district. Sreng Meng Srun

UN worker murdered

A Dutch woman working for the United Nations was found stabbed to death yesterday in a horrific attack that also left her 19-month-old baby daughter in critical condition.

Daphna Beerdsen, 31, was found shortly before 9am yesterday by the family’s babysitter. She was lying alongside her child, Dana, in their rented house off of Norodom Boulevard in a side street across the road from Myanmar’s embassy. Police at the scene said Beerdsen, whose LinkedIn profile says she worked as a consultant on climate change projects for UN Habitat, died from six stab wounds to the body that authorities said were likely caused by a sharp metal object, possibly a screwdriver or a metal file.

Her child was in a critical condition after being stabbed multiple times with the same weapon and was to be transferred to a hospital in Thailand for treatment yesterday.

The murder weapon had not been recovered as of yesterday evening, police said.

“The baby was badly stabbed in the head, back and waist and was sent to Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital,” Chan Sahuth, an officer with the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigation Department, said. “[The child] is in a bad condition with a blood clot in the brain and is being prepared to be forwarded to Thailand,” he said.

Beerdsen’s husband, Joris Oele, 34, arrived at the home at about 1pm, escorted into the courtyard by a British Embassy official. The embassy, which provides consular assistance to Dutch nationals in Cambodia, declined to comment on the case. Oele, who also works for UN Habitat, left the capital on a work trip to Preah Sihanouk province on Sunday, according to neighbours.

UN Habitat representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mom Sitha, Phnom Penh municipal foreign police chief, said Beerdsen was stabbed six times across her body and died before police arrived at the scene.

“It is a murder case, but we do not know the motive yet,” he said. “Our police are working very hard to investigate.”

Authorities have not ruled out robbery as a motive, but they also reported that the only thing listed as missing was a bicycle. Police also said there was no evidence of forced entry.

Neighbours yesterday said that the family had been living in the two-storey rental for about five months. A video uploaded to Beerdsen’s YouTube page on February 23 shows blond-haired Dana playfully exploring the house with Oele.

Police were called to the scene after the family’s babysitter shouted to a neighbour for help. The neighbour, who asked not to be named, said she told the local village chief about the crime after responding to the babysitter’s cries.

“We went to the house and saw the woman and baby lying on the floor with blood on their bodies,” she said, adding that she immediately rushed out to alert the authorities.

Run Chanthar, the official who was notified by the neighbour, said he had called police immediately.

A police officer who was one of the first to the scene, but declined to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media, said the police forensic team had discovered what they believed to be the handprints and footprints of the attacker.

“We saw 12 bloody footprints and five bloody handprints. We believe they are the foot and hand prints of the suspect, not the dead woman,” he said.

Photographs of the crime scene taken by investigators appeared to show grey hairs caught in Beerdsen’s hands.

Another neighbour, who also declined to be named, said that when she entered the house, she noticed the baby move.

“I saw her arm and head move, but she was badly injured. She was driven to hospital by a foreign neighbour,” she said.

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