Farmer Found Beheaded in Forest After Sorcery Claims

After the headless body of a missing farmer was found on Friday in a patch of forest 500 meters outside his home village in Kompong Speu province, police said on Sunday they had questioned five villagers but were no closer to finding the murderer.

When 62-year-old Sao Siv did not return home on Thursday after leaving the house at 3 p.m. to tend his cows, his wife asked relatives to search for his body, said Phnom Sruoch district police chief Say Bunthorn on Sunday. The farmer’s body was found by a group of young boys at about 12:30 p.m. the next day, he said.

“After receiving the report from the residents, we quickly went to see the scene and found the victim dead in the forest. It was murder,” Mr. Bunthorn said.

“We examined his body and found that he had been killed by a machete blow on the back of his neck,” he said, adding that the assailant had then used the machete to hack off the head.

“We don’t know why the killer took his head. We have searched around but so far we have been unable to find it,” he said.

Mr. Bunthorn said that a large number of people in Chambak commune had previously accused Sao Siv of being involved in sorcery, sometimes blaming him for the deaths of relatives.

Suspected sorcerers are regularly attacked or threatened by villagers who believe they have ruined their lives, often by sickening family members.

Two men who had previously made violent threats against Sao Siv were questioned and subsequently released on Friday, Mr. Bunthorn said.

Suon Chan, deputy district police chief, explained that three more men had been questioned on Sunday at the district police station, but that they had also denied involvement in the murder.

Mr. Bunthorn said another still-unsolved beheading had occurred in the commune in recent years, though he could not remember when it had occurred.

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