Bar Owner Is Slain at Home By Intruder

The British owner of one of Phnom Penh’s most popular Wes­tern bars was stabbed to death by an intruder at his home early Wed­nesday morning, while his girlfriend, a New Zealand na­tional, was left seriously injured, police said.

David Mit­chell, the 36-year-old owner of the Ginger Mon­key bar on Street 178, died around 12:15 am in his apart­ment above the bar, af­ter being stabbed three times in the chest and once in the neck, said Mu­nicipal Autopsy Police Chief Prach Nhat.

Jane Nye, the 29-year-old managing editor of the Cambodian Scene tourist magazine, was flown to Bangkok after being slashed across her face, ears, throat and arms, Prach Nhat said.

Mitchell is the second foreign national working in the hospitality business to have been killed in re­cent months. On Nov 28, French national Allan Romagnoli, 49, who owned the Palm Resort in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district, was found dead with head injuries inflicted by a meat cleaver.

Police arrived at Wed­nes­day’s crime scene at 12:30 am and an hour later ar­rested Tong Chen, an 18-year-old home­­less youth, who they found washing blood off his hands and arms outside the Na­tional Mu­se­um, said Municipal Po­lice Chief Touch Naruth.

“This burglar went to steal something from the victim’s house, but the woman woke up and yelled for help,” Touch Na­ruth said. “Then her boyfriend came to fight with the burglar, and the offender used a knife to stab his chest and kill him on the spot.”

Tong Chen has confessed to the killing, and police found the weapon—a long kitchen knife—outside Mitchell’s home, Touch Na­ruth said.

“The offender confessed that he went into the foreigner’s house to steal something and had no plan to kill the victims. But it was bad luck for the victims,” he said.

Tong Chen is being held in Daun Penh district police station and will be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court today, Touch Naruth said. He faces life in prison if he is found guilty of the attack.

A British Embassy official de­clined comment on the case.

Mitchell came to Phnom Penh two-and-a-half years ago from Wal­sall, near Birmingham, in Eng­land, and is survived by his mother, father and older sister, a friend said.

Brandon Davis, the Canadian man­ager of the Ginger Monkey, which won the Cambodia Pocket Guide best bar award in January and is popular among both tour­ists and expatriates, said he en­tered Mitchell’s apartment shortly after the attack.

“I saw an ambulance pull up, and then the landlord started screaming ‘David, David,’” Davis said, adding that nothing had been stolen. Mitchell’s apartment had been burgled earlier in the month, he added.

Davis said he took Nye to Cal­mette Hospital, then to SOS In­ternational Medical and Dental Clinic.

“She said she went to use the bath­room, which is outside, at­tached to the balcony, and she was attacked,” Davis recalled. “Dave came out after she screamed. The attackers went after him, and she got away. She figured she’d been screaming for half an hour.”

“He died saving her life,” Davis said.

On Wednesday morning, a handful of friends sat inside the Ginger Monkey, tearfully comforting one another.

Stephanie Bryant, a 26-year-old NGO worker, said she had been horrified when she saw Nye after the attack. “Jane is my best friend,” Bryant said. “She just kept saying, ‘is he really dead?’”

Ken Wilcox, another friend of Mitchell, ex­pressed regret over his death.

“He was supportive, brought everybody together,” Wilcox said. “I wish we had been a little more there for him.”

At Rory’s Pub, which is on the same street, owner Rory Barry said Mitchell had no enemies and would be missed for his generosity.

“He never fought with anybody,” Barry said. “He just gave away beers. That’s the worst he ever did.”

Bretton Sciaroni, president of the International Business Club, said the attack would be unlikely to deter investors. “This is just one of these tragic things that happens in big cities,” said. “It’s not part of a trend.”

A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit released in Oc­to­ber, partly based on the city’s crime rate and security, ranked Phnom Penh as one of the world’s worst places to live.

The survey ranked the capital 122 out of 127 cities, putting it two places behind Zimbabwe’s capital Ha­rare and just a few places ahead of Port Moresby in Papua New Guineau, which was at the very bottom of the list.

Municipal Governor Kep Chuk­tema could not be reached for comment.

  (Additional reporting by James Welsh)


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