French Judge Arrives to Probe Death of Frenchman’s Family

A team of 10 investigators from France arrived in Cambodia on Sunday evening to probe the death of a Frenchman and his four children, whose decomposed bodies were recovered from a pond near their home last year, an embassy official said.

The remains of Laurent Vallier, 42, and his four children, aged between 2 and 9, were found in­side the French national’s submerged car when police pulled the vehicle out of a pond behind their Kompong Speu house 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 that the in-laws have denied.

Though local police suspect suicide, the French have not ruled out murder.

Nicolas Baudouin, first secretary at the French Embassy, said that a French investigating judge arrived Sunday evening along with nine scientific and forensic police.

“The judge is arriving this evening,” he said. “She is scheduled to stay until 23 of March,” Mr. Baudouin said before adding that he did not have the particulars of her itinerary.

Kompong Speu Provincial Court investigating Judge Chhim Ritthy said he was scheduled to meet with the French team at the French Embassy today and head to Laurent Vallier’s old property the following day.

“On Tuesday, we’ll inspect the house and car again,” he said. “We have inspected long ago, but this time it is with international cooperation; we have set up an intergovernmental investigation.”

In their initial investigation, Cambodian police said Laurent Vallier had killed himself and his four children by intentionally driving his car into the deep pond.

They characterized the murder-suicide as an act of despair by a man in financial straits. But close friends and relatives of Laurent Vallier dismissed the theory, insisting that the French­man was a devoted father and not distraught when last seen alive in September 2011, about four months before his body and those of his children were finally found.

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