South Korean police on Tuesday arrested a man suspected of murdering his pregnant Cambodian wife in order to collect about $8.5 million from 26 life-insurance policies he had taken out on her, according to a report in Thursday’s Korea JoongAng Daily.
The 45-year-old man, identified only by the common surname “Lee,” is alleged to have fed sleeping pills to his wife before deliberately driving his car into a parked truck while she was in the passenger seat, the article says.
“The police said Lee rammed his car into an eight-ton truck parked on an emergency parking strip around 3:40 a.m. on Aug. 23,” it says. “His wife, a migrant from Cambodia, was in the passenger seat and was killed instantly. She was seven months pregnant.”
The fatal crash occurred about 335 km from Busan, the second-largest city in South Korea after Seoul, the article says, noting that the woman’s South Korean husband sustained only minor injuries.
“The accident occurred after I dozed off at the wheel,” the man is quoted as saying by the South Korean police.
The article does not name the Cambodian woman or otherwise identify her, and says only that she got married in 2008. It says the crash was initially deemed an accident by police.
“The case was almost filed away as a tragic accident until the police learned that Lee had taken out 26 insurance policies for his wife which would pay out a total 9.6 billion won ($8,640,864),” it says.
The premiums paid across the 26 separate insurance policies totaled about $2,700 per month, according to police.
“CCTV analysis showed that Lee operated the car at the time of the accident in a way that a drowsy driver would not,” the article says. “Lee turned on his high beams 400 meters (1,312 feet) away from the truck and maneuvered toward it adeptly. Lee was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident while his wife wasn’t.”
“It is impossible to operate a steering wheel the way Lee did if a driver was truly falling asleep,” police are quoted as saying.
Video footage of the August 23 crash aired on South Korean television Wednesday shows the car’s headlights moving at a constant pace and in a straight line toward the parked truck.
According to the Korea JoongAng Daily, the South Korean man denies the police’s murder allegations.
Contacted by telephone Wednesday, Cambodia’s ambassador to South Korea, Suth Dina, said that he had been in close contact with South Korean police, but that they had not yet provided a report about the case to his embassy.
“For this case, I am still cooperating with the Korean police to verify how she was killed,” he said. “Until now, the police do not release the real case to me but our Cambodian Embassy tries to push them to find the real cause.”
Mr. Dina said the Cambodian woman had adopted a Korean name after her marriage, but that he could not recall it.
“There are many manipulations in this case, and I contacted the Korean police officers and they said that they will cooperate with the embassy to clarify this case,” he said.