A lawyer for accused pedophile Michael Julian Leach said his client was not guilty of procuring sex from three underage girls in 2010 during the Briton’s trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. Two Cambodians charged with helping him procure the children also claimed innocence.
Leach, who was arrested on Sept 5, 2010, during a raid on his guesthouse room in Kandal province and later charged with procuring sex from three girls aged 10 to 16, was absent from the trial.
According to a statement read out in court, the 51-year-old Leach, who is being held at Prey Sar prison, said he could not attend because of stress and an unspecified “mental illness.”
Two Cambodians charged with helping Leach procure the girls and since released on bail—Eth Oeurn and Penh Phat—were also absent. A woman likewise charged, Sim Savoeun, a mother of one of the alleged victims, remains at large.
Hay Seila, a moto-taxi driver who allegedly helped translate during procurement of the girls, said that he had driven Leach to a market and restaurant but denied taking him to the Kien Svay district guesthouse where he was arrested.
“I did not commit the crime. I did not know about Michael’s activities. I did not drive Michael to have sex with children,” he said.
Sem Dep, who owned the guesthouse, also professed innocence. She told the court she had no idea what had transpired in the room the police raided that night.
Phnom Penh anti-human trafficking police chief Keo Thea said his office was tipped off to Leach’s activities by a police informant the day before the raid.
“On the evening of Sept 5, after we saw with our own eyes, we cracked down on them at Sem Dep’s guesthouse,” he said, where police found Leach in his room with two of his three young victims.
Lawyer for the girls Noun Phanith demanded $5,000 in compensation for each of the victims.
Theng Meng Y, Leach’s lawyer, said the police did not actually see the suspect and victims engage in sex and insisted his client was innocent.
Presiding Judge Oeung Seang said a verdict will be handed down Sept 8.