Four Arrested In ‘Facebook Murder’ of Teenager

Police announced yesterday that they arrested four people for the alleged kidnapping and brutal murder on Tuesday of a 19-year-old Phnom Penh woman who the group’s ringleader had first connected with on social-networking website Facebook.

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A photograph of Lim Sreypich at her funeral in Kandal province’s Ang Snoul district on Friday. (Siv Channa)

The victim, Lim Sreypich—photos of whom show a slender, fair-skinned young woman with dyed red hair and fashionable clothes—had met Sun Kimheng, 23, on Facebook three months previously, police said at a press conference yesterday to announce the arrest.

“First we arrested the ringleader, Sun Kimheng, who killed the victim in her rental house, after inviting the victim, who she had met on Facebook, to her home,” deputy municipal police chief Chuon Narin said, adding that three accomplices were arrested later the same day.

“It is the first time we have seen a case like this—where a female murderer connects with a victim on Facebook, and then kills her and extorts money from the family,” he said.

After bonding online, Ms. Kimheng invited Lim Sreypich—whose parents own a car dealership—to her home to talk about starting a clothing business, Mr. Narin said. After arriving at Ms. Kimheng’s home in Chamkar Mon district’s Boeng Trabek commune on Tuesday afternoon, the 19-year-old was sitting on the living room sofa watching television when her hostess came up behind her and strangled her with a rope, Mr. Narin said.

Lim Sreypich was not yet dead, merely unconscious, when Ms. Kimheng then taped up her mouth, put the young woman in the boot of her Toyota, and drove to Kong Pisei district’s Ang Popel commune in Kompong Speu province, where she dumped the victim in a canal.

Ms. Kimheng then returned home and used Lim Sreypich’s mobile phone to call her parents, telling them that their daughter had been kidnapped, and demanding $50,000 in ransom. Following negotiations with the family—who were unaware the teenager was already dead—Ms. Kimheng lowered the amount to $16,000.

Police—who the parents had contacted on first hearing from the kidnappers—then advised the family to ask Ms. Kimheng to go to the bank to receive the money, and when she did they were waiting to arrest her, Mr. Narin explained.

“She was arrested after she drove her car to take the ransom money from the victim’s parents at a bank on Monivong Boulevard,” he said.

After questioning by police, Ms. Kimheng admitted she had not acted alone, and told police how to find the three alleged accomplices—another woman and two men, one of whom is Ms. Kimheng’s boyfriend. Police detained the other three suspects that afternoon, but did not provide details yesterday as to how they had been involved in the plot.

Yesterday, police returned to the scene of the crime with Ms. Kimheng, and asked her to re-enact the murder. Media were present at the re-enactment, and a video was subsequently posted on the Internet.

The chilling footage shows Ms. Kimheng—in a nice living room—come up behind a woman acting as Lim Sreypich, put a rope around her neck, and strangle her until she slumps over on the sofa.

Ms. Kimheng and her three accomplices are currently in detention at the municipal police station, and will be sent to court to be charged today.

The tragic murder of Lim Sreypich, while a first for Cambodia, is hardly the first Facebook-related killing.

In July, a 24-year-old Nigerian woman, Cynthia Osokogu, was kidnapped and murdered in a Lagos hotel by people she had met on Facebook, prompting a flurry of debate in the Nigerian media about the dangers posed by social-networking sites.

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