Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Western trio feared dead after finds

Western trio feared dead after finds

Western trio feared dead after finds

S TRONG evidence has emerged that three Westerners abducted on Route 4 have been

killed, British, Australian and Cambodian authorities have said. However some

family members are still holding out hope they may be alive.

Human

remains and clothing have been recovered from a guerrilla camp 4 km from where

Briton Dominic Chappell, 25, his Australian girlfriend Kellie Wilkinson, 24, and

their British friend Tina Dominy, 23, were kidnapped at gunpoint.

Australian Foreign Minister Senator Gareth Evans said in a statement:

"Forensic testing in London has established that the remains are from three

Caucasians, including at least one male and one female.

"The balance of

the available evidence, including the condition of the material recovered,

suggests that the three may have been murdered quite soon after their abduction

April 11."

Results from further testing expected to be conclusive had yet

to be released as the Post went to press and Dominic's father David Chappell

said: "There must be still some slight glimmer of hope they are

alive."

But he added he was close to coming to terms with the fact that

his son might be dead.

The freelance photographer and advertising

designer remained in Cambodia after his ex-wife Phyllida, daughter Gabrielle and

Tina's parents Denis and Yvonne returned to England.

Wilkinson's father

Peter flew back to be with his wife Gabrielle in Australia after news about the

discovery of remains broke. He had remained in Sihanoukville since soon after

the abductions took place near Than Ny village, around 100 km north of the

port.

Some family members were flown over along with journalist Nick

Fielding by British newspaper the Mail on Sunday to make a new appeal for

information about the trio earlier in July.

A second report on July 17,

written by Fielding in the first person, stated as fact that the hostages were

dead.

This forced the authorities into prematurely releasing information

about the discovery of human remains before testing was conclusive.

The

younger Chappell and Wilkinson ran the popular Mediterranean-style restaurant

Rendezvous in Sihanoukville and were returning from the capital with supplies

for the Khmer New Year when they were abducted. Tina had decided to extend her

holiday in Cambodia for the festivities.

Up to 30 armed men were stealing

a truck ahead of their taxi which became caught in a jam.

In an

apparently opportunistic act some of the guerrillas kidnapped the

trio.

Cambodian authorities blamed the Khmer Rouge for the kidnappings

though the faction repeatedly denied being involved.

Gangs of bandits as

well as Khmer Rouge guerrillas are known to operate in the area and the

Australian and British diplomats are now backing away from earlier conviction

that the KR were responsible.

The KR took a number of Westerners hostage

in the run up to last year's elections but all were subsequently released

unharmed.

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