A 27-year-old woman on Monday confessed to brutally beating her 6-year-old stepson at her Phnom Penh home over the course of several days last week, causing him to die of massive internal injuries, police said.
The woman, Seng Srey Tin, was arrested on Sunday after the child’s grandmother inspected his body and informed police that she suspected he had been abused. The boy died on Saturday of what his stepmother initially claimed was a stomach illness.
During questioning by district police Monday, Ms. Srey Tin admitted that she beat her stepson, Sarey Virak Bot, multiple times over the past week while he was staying at the house she shares with the boy’s father, Horn Sarey, 29, in Dangkao district’s Choeung Ek commune, according to district penal police chief Huor Minh Vang.
“Following questioning, the stepmother confessed that on December 10, she used a piece of wood to hit the boy on his body and beat him on his stomach,” Mr. Minh Vang said.
He added that Ms. Srey Tin also admitted to beating the boy on Thursday.
“The stepmother claimed that she had no intention of killing her stepson, but beat him because he did not listen to her and was not her own son,” Mr. Minh Vang said.
Commune police chief Khuon Yano said the boy lived with his grandmother and primary caregiver, Kong Sina, 51, in Tuol Kok district, but had been taken to stay with his father and stepmother on December 6.
“The grandmother told police that on December 6, the boy’s father picked him up for a visit, but then on Saturday called her to say he had died of stomach problems,” Mr. Yano said. “But what really happened is that the stepmother kicked the boy many times, stomping on him.”
Mr. Sarey, the boy’s father, who married Ms. Srey Tin after his first wife died, was also arrested on Sunday, but was released Monday after police determined that he was not present during the beatings.
On Sunday, the Child Protection Unit (CPU), a police unit supported by the Cambodian Children’s Fund, conducted an autopsy on the boy’s body at the Phnom Penh Referral Hospital.
“The autopsy revealed the boy had ruptured internal organs,” said James McCabe, a senior investigator with the CPU.
“The stepmother’s confession corroborates the results of the autopsy. A considerable amount of force was needed to inflict his injuries. She stomped on him,” he added.
Non Mony Roth, chief of the municipal police’s technical and scientific bureau, who carried out an initial inspection of the boy’s body at Stung Meanchey pagoda in Meanchey district, said the boy had received no treatment for his injuries.
“The body’s bruising shows he was brutally tortured before he died and went without treatment,” he said, adding that if the stepmother had taken the boy to a hospital after beating him, he might have survived.
Mr. Minh Vang, the district penal police chief, said Ms. Srey Tin is due to appear in court today to face charges of torture and acts of cruelty leading to death.
(Additional reporting by Alex Consiglio)