Chea Phin, a 35-year-old homeless man recently released from prison, was questioned by a prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday in relation to the stabbing murder of a Dutch woman earlier this week, to which he has confessed.
Before speaking with the court prosecutor in a closed-door questioning session, Mr. Phin told reporters that he was drunk and looking for a place to sleep when he discovered the victim’s gate open and attempted to steal a bicycle from inside.
Mr. Phin said he often slept on the street in the alleyway off Norodom Boulevard where Daphna Beerdsen and her family lived. He said he was drunkenly looking for a comfortable place to sleep when he noticed an open gate.
“I bought rice wine to drink with my last 1,000 riel and I tried to find a place to sleep. At that time, I saw the house open and I saw a bicycle and it was quiet so I wanted to steal the bicycle,” Mr. Phin said.
“At that time, the woman yelled and blocked my exit,” he continued.
“She yelled loudly and I was afraid that other people would be alerted. Then we fought each other and I stabbed her with a screwdriver.”
Daphna Beerdsen was home alone with her 19-month-old daughter Dana at the time. Dana was also stabbed and sustained serious blunt force head injuries in the home invasion.
She was airlifted from Phnom Penh’s Kantha Bopha Hospital to Bangkok General Hospital Monday night in critical condition.
The hospital has declined to provide updates on her condition.
Mr. Phin claimed that he stabbed Daphna Beerdsen with his eyes closed and that he had no intention to stab the child.
“I am very regretful and I pity the child, so I do not try and deny,” he said.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said Thursday that the crime had occurred Sunday afternoon, but Mr. Phin claimed he murdered Daphna Beerdsen in the early hours of Monday morning.
After initially saying that nothing had been stolen from Daphna Beerdsen’s home in the attack, police on Wednesday said that they arrested Mr. Phin in Wat Botum pagoda Tuesday in possession of the victim’s phone, handbag and personal documents.
On Friday, the National Police posted to its website a photo of the victim and a photo of a handbag and an I.D. card that they say they found in Mr. Phin’s possession. The I.D. card, however, belongs to a German national that the National Police identify as Jua Seiel.
Mr. Chantharith could not be reached for comment Friday to clarify the evidence against Mr. Phin or how police had identified him as the murderer.
An investigator at the Child Protection Unit (CPU), an arm of the Cambodian Children’s Fund that investigates abuse against children in conjunction with the National Police, confirmed Friday that the CPU was working on the case.
He said that the suspect’s friends had alerted police to the suspect.
“His friends noticed that his lifestyle changed very fast,” the CPU source said.
“Normally, he looks like a beggar and smokes drugs but they saw he had lots of money so they contact[ed] police.”
The source referred further questions to James McCabe, a former Australian police officer and senior investigator with the CPU.
When asked to clarify the discrepancies in the statements of the suspect and National Police, Mr. McCabe replied: “You are the journalist, you work it out.”
“Yes, CPU is assisting however due to the fact that this matter is now before the courts we are unable to comment,” he added in a text message.
The court prosecutor will continue questioning Mr. Phin on Saturday.