An Australian national serving a 20-year jail sentence for sexual abuse at Siem Reap Provincial Prison was found dead in his cell Friday evening, an official said Sunday.
Bart “Lucky” Lauwaert, 41, who was sentenced in 2003 by the Siem Reap Provincial Court, died at about 8 pm from complications resulting from high blood pressure, according to Som Socheat, Siem Reap provincial autopsy police chief.
Som Socheat said that court doctors ruled out foul play after examining Lauwaert’s body.
“There were no signs of injuries on his body,” he said, although authorities did not conduct a full autopsy.
Siem Reap Provincial Prison Director Chem Savuth could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Lauwaert, along with his onetime roommate Clinton Betterridge, was sentenced in January 2003 to 20 and 10 years, respectively, for sexually abusing eight women employed in their home as maids.
Betterridge was released from prison on bail in February 2003 and fled Cambodia within days of being issued a new passport by the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh.
Lauwaert’s sentence was upheld at an Appeal Court hearing in June 2006, despite several witnesses recanting their testimonies.
Those witnesses claimed they had been pressured to give their original testimonies by the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center. The CWCC, which aided police in Lauwaert’s arrest, has repeatedly denied having pressured witnesses.
CWCC Secretary-General Nop Sarin Sreyroth said her organization was aware that Lauwaert had died. “I am sorry to hear that. He was a perpetrator, but we don’t want someone to die,” she said.
Officials at the Australian embassy could not be reached for comment Sunday.