Monk in court for gambling debt murder

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The as yet unnamed monk (left) and his brother. NATIONAL POLICE

An allegedly womanising 27-year-old chief monk will be sent to the Oddar Meanchey Provincial Court on Monday after confessing to killing a 62-year-old motodop with a hammer over a gambling debt.

Lek Sokha, the deputy police chief of the provincial serious crime bureau, said the monk’s brother had been released after it was determined he had played no part in the murder.

“We initially detained the two men, but after questioning, we concluded the brother was not involved,” Sokha said.

Yin Naret, the head of the Oddar Meanchey provincial serious crime bureau, on Sunday identified the suspect as the 27-year-old chief monk of a pagoda located in the province.

“We initially arrested him after we noticed disparities in the testimonies of the monk and his brother,” he said.

Police arrested the suspect on Saturday. A hammer he said he had used to kill the victim was seized as evidence.

The monk told police he killed the victim by hitting him on the back of the head after telling him to take him to a secluded part of the forest.

He then put the body into a bag, placed it on the back of the victim’s motorbike and drove 7km from the scene to dispose of it.

He later abandoned the bloodstained motorbike on a pavement in Anlong Veng commune, Naret said.

A novice monk had said that the pagoda chief had had many female lovers, taking them into the forest to have sex with them, he added.

The chief monk often used the victim for errands and they became friends.

However, the suspect had a serious gambling problem. With the victim acting as a go-between to protect the monk’s identity, the suspect borrowed 32 million riel ($8,000) from a money lender. The motodop said he would pay off the interest of the loan.

But the lender later demanded money from the victim as the suspect had not repaid anything.

The motodop approached the monk for payment, but the suspect hatched the plan to silence him instead, Naret said.

The victim’s wife told police that at noon last Tuesday, the suspect had contacted her husband to instruct him to buy bread to be taken to the pagoda.

Not being able to reach her husband by phone, she went to the Dey Thmey commune police chief that evening, with officers and family members launching a search.

“We searched for five days with nearly 100 people, including residents, but we found nothing,” Naret said.

With his wife telling police that she last knew of his movements as taking bread to the pagoda, they invited the chief monk in for questioning on Wednesday.

He told officers that on the day of the man’s disappearance, he had used his services after going for a walk in the forest. He had asked to be dropped off at a roundabout, with his brother taking him back to the pagoda.

After three days of interrogation without a confession, police called the monk’s brother in for questioning, with his version of events differing from the suspect’s.

“The suspect told police that his brother had taken him back to the pagoda at 1pm after a walk in the forest. However, his brother said that he picked him up at 8pm from the forest where the victim was killed. These conflicting answers led us to believe the monk was the murderer,” Naret said.