French Police to Revisit Botched Murder Cases

French police will arrive in Cambodia in October to reinvestigate two separate murders of French nationals that have yet to be solved by Cambodian police, an Interior Ministry official said Tuesday.

French police and diplomats met with Interior Ministry officials in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to request cooperation in reinvestigating the 2012 murder of expatriate Laurent Vallier and his children, and that of tourist Ophelie Begnis in 2013, according to Sok Khemarin, director of the ministry’s penal police department.

“They requested our cooperation and they will come in October this year. We are happy to cooperate,” he said. “French police will lead the investigation.”

Major General Khemarin added that the request would also be passed along to National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun.

When the bodies of Laurent Vallier, 42, and his four children were found inside a Land Cruiser submerged in a pond near their home in Kompong Speu province’s Chbar Mon district three months after they disappeared, Cambodian police immediately wrote the case off as a murder-suicide—despite the Frenchman’s head being found inside a suitcase in the back of the car.

Laurent Vallier’s relatives in France suggested that foul play was involved, pointing to a dispute with in-laws over plots of land that were acquired by the family of his Cambodian wife after his death.

Ophelie Begnis, 25, had been staying at a resort in Kampot City when she was murdered in February 2013. Her naked body washed up on the bank of the Kampot River the day after she disappeared.

In April that year, with international attention growing, Kampot police arrested and charged Belgian national Olivier van den Bogaert for the murder, saying that a witness had seen him dumping the bicycle the victim had been riding on the morning of her disappearance.

Mr. van den Bogaert—then a guesthouse owner in Kampot—spent a year in the provincial prison before being released due to a lack of evidence, at which point he returned to his home country.

In March 2013, a team of French forensics specialists visited Cambodia to probe both murders, immediately ruling out suicide in the Laurent Vallier case, and later saying that DNA evidence taken from Ophelie Begnis’ body did not inculpate Mr. van den Bogaert.

The French Embassy has repeatedly declined to comment on the investigations.

Contacted Tuesday, Chhim Ritthy, the investigating judge in Kompong Speu who has overseen the Laurent Vallier case, said he was not invited to Tuesday’s meeting at the Interior Ministry.

Mr. Ritthy—who for 11 months has had in his possession the 300-page results of the French team’s original investigation—said he would finalize his own report about the case next week.

Hang Sokunvathana, the investigating judge handling the Ophelie Begnis case, said the investigation into her murder was ongoing.

“If the French police request the court’s cooperation, we will cooperate,” he said.

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