French Investigators Search the Home of Dead Frenchman

A team of Cambodian and newly arrived French investigators on Tuesday began re-examining the Kompong Speu province home of a Frenchman and his four children whose decomposed bodies were discovered in a pond at the property more than a year ago.

The remains of Laurent Vallier, 42, and his four children, aged 2 to 9, were found inside the French national’s submerged car when police pulled the vehicle out of the pond in January 2012.

Laurent Vallier’s family in France suspects foul play and has lodged a court complaint there alleging that he was in­volved in a bitter land dispute with his late Cambodian wife’s relatives, a claim the inlaws have denied.

Though local police have indicated suicide, French investigators have not ruled out murder.

A French investigating judge, accompanied by nine French scientific and forensic police, arrived in Cambodia on Sunday.

Kompong Speu Provincial Court investigating Judge Chhim Ritthy said the French and Cambodian team had interviewed the local village chief, commune chief and others, as well as inspecting Laurent Vallier’s house.

“The French and Cambodian police went to the house and sprayed some kind of chemical to look for traces of blood,” Mr. Ritthy said, not elaborating on what was found.

Mr. Ritthy said the investigators also planned to summon several people for questioning over the next two weeks, including Laurent Vallier’s late wife’s parents.

Sou Ponh, chief of Chbar Mon commune’s Tuol Tnong village, in Chbar Mon City, confirmed that he was questioned on Tuesday.

“They asked me about his death, who he bought the land from and things,” Mr. Ponh said.

“They also talked to people around the house,” he added, including a neighbor, the commune chief, Laurent Vallier’s electrician and someone who had taught his children.

Srey Oun, a sister of Laurent Vallier’s late wife, said she was summoned for questioning at the provincial court today. “I was asked to go, but I don’t know why,” she said. “I’ll go tomorrow.”

The French Embassy has confirmed the arrival of the investigators but is declining to comment on their activities in Cambodia.

“The investigation phase and all the actions performed during it, is by definition secret in both Cambodian and French criminal procedures,” French Embassy First Secretary Nicolas Baudouin said on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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