Dispute Over Events in French Woman’s Death

Municipal police and the Interior Ministry were at odds Thursday over whether the death of a French woman in Phnom Penh on Wed­nes­day was due to a bag snatching attempt or simply a traffic accident.

Aurelia Lacroix, 28, died instantly after being struck by a mini-van on Mao Tse Tung Boulevard at noon Wednesday in what police originally claimed was caused by bag-snatchers who dragged her into the path of an approaching vehicle.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said Thursday that police investigators are leaning towards the possibility that Lacroix was the victim of a traffic accident.

“We do not yet know if it was a snatch attempt because [Lacroix] did not lose her bag,” Touch Na­ruth said. “Probably another motor­bike hit the motorbike she was on and then she fell off.”

Touch Naruth said that police this month have arrested five men suspected of snatching bags while traveling on motorcycles.

Traffic police said Wednesday that Lacroix’s death was caused when two men on a motorcycle pulled her off her motorcycle taxi in an attempt to steal her bag.

However, on Thursday, Muni­ci­pal Traffic Deputy Police Chief Pen Khun said that he thought the death was the result of a traffic accident.

But Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interi­or Ministry, said that La­croix’s death appeared to be caused by bag snatchers.

“It seems to be that the robber dragged her to the ground and she accidentally got hit by the car,” he said, adding that such incidents “rarely happen.”

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith wrote by e-mail that police must do more to stop motorized bag snatchers.

“The police must have more means of communication to catch the thieves,” he wrote, adding that he has been personally affected by bag snatchers.

“A few months ago my own aunt was robbed and she fell of the bike and hit her head violently,” he wrote. “She passed away.”

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