Chea Phin, the sole suspect in the April murder of a Dutch woman and her 19-month-old daughter in Phnom Penh, confessed before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday to stabbing the victims to death in their Chamkar Mon district home.
Mr. Phin, 35, a homeless man who had been released from prison about two weeks before the murders, told the court he attacked Daphna Beerdsen after she confronted him as he attempted to steal a bicycle from behind her unlocked front gate.
After discovering the intruder, Daphna Beerdsen shouted for help and used a mop handle to attack him, Mr. Phin told the court.
“She used a floor mop to beat me, then we beat each other and I stabbed her many times” with a screwdriver, Mr. Phin said.
“When I stabbed her, I closed my eyes and did not know I stabbed a girl. I only heard her crying,” he added, referring to Daphna Beerdsen’s daughter, Dana.
Daphna Beerdsen, 31, who worked as a consultant with the U.N., was alone with her daughter the day of the murder. Her husband, Joris Oele, who works for U.N. Habitat, was in Preah Sihanouk province for a work-related conference when the attack occurred.
Mr. Phin told the court that he did not specifically target Daphna Beerdsen’s house in Tonle Bassac commune, but stumbled across the open gate on the afternoon of April 27 after drinking half a liter of rice wine.
“I saw a house with the door open and it was quiet,” Mr. Phin said. “I entered the house because I saw a bicycle I wanted to steal.”
He added that he had not intended to kill the victims, but reacted violently because Daphna Beerdsen had called for help.
“If I had not seen a bicycle, I would not have entered,” he said. “If she had not shouted, it would have been OK.”
Police said Daphna Beerdsen was stabbed six times with the screwdriver while her daughter received severe head trauma and stab wounds to her body. The toddler was airlifted on April 30
to Bangkok General Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.
Police arrested Mr. Phin on the night of April 30 near Daun Penh district’s Wat Botum pagoda, and said he was in possession of the victim’s handbag and some personal documents. He also reportedly confessed to the murders after being arrested.
In court, Mr. Phin said he stole an Apple laptop, mobile phone, about $50 and the bicycle.
Seng Singheng, a lawyer working for the Child Protection Unit (CPU) who represented the victims, said outside court that the police had additional evidence other than Mr. Phin’s confession.
“We have footprints from the floor when he walked across the blood,” Mr Singheng said. “We also have handprints on the door and on the floor.”
Mr. Singheng added that a witness had reported seeing Mr. Phin riding Daphna Beerdsen’s bicycle to Wat Botum.
James McCabe, a senior investigator with the CPU, which aided police in the investigation, said even without Mr. Phin’s confession, police presented enough evidence to implicate him in the murders.
“There is [a] substantial amount of quality evidence before the court in this case,” Mr. McCabe said.
Kol Bon, a deputy municipal prosecutor, concluded Tuesday’s trial by asking the court to convict Mr. Phin to the fullest extent of the law.
“The suspect definitely committed the murder by stabbing the two victims,” Mr. Bon said. “I ask the court to punish him severely.”
Investigating Judge Nou Veasna is scheduled to deliver the verdict on December 24.
(Additional reporting by Chris Mueller)
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