New Suspect Emerges in Frenchwoman’s Murder

Police are looking for a foreign female suspect who they believe was involved in the murder of a 25-year-old French­woman in Kampot province in February, police officials said Tuesday.

“The new suspect is a foreign woman in her early 40s. She has white skin, red hair and is about 1.6 meters tall,” said Toek Chhou district police chief Sam Ouk.

The naked body of Ophelie Beg­nis was found floating near a riverbank in Kampot City on February 10 with her head and arms battered. She had been staying at Les Manguiers guesthouse in Toek Chhou district and was last seen leaving the residence on bicycle a day before her body was discovered.

Two months later, a 40-year-old Belgian national, Olivier van den Bogaert, was arrested and charged with the murder on the grounds that he had been seen by witnesses dumping the bicycle at a durian plantation about 3 or 4 km away from where the body was found. The guesthouse owner has said that a staff member who was sent to identify the bicycle was unsure if it was the same one that Ophelie Begnis had left with.

Mr. Ouk said Tuesday that the new suspect was seen walking with Mr. van den Bogaert and the bicycle the day he allegedly dumped it.

“Two witnesses saw the woman walking behind Olivier on the day he walked with the bicycle as the bike chain was broken,” Mr. Ouk said. “She might not be in the country anymore. We will keep looking.”

The French Embassy declined to comment on the investigation. Khun Sophal, Mr. van den Bogaert’s lawyer, said he has heard nothing about a new suspect. He added that the provincial court is still questioning witnesses who could exonerate the Belgian, adding that three people were questioned Tuesday.

“About three witnesses were questioned. There are about 10 exculpatory witnesses who are supposed to be questioned,” Mr. Sophal said, adding that he will request bail for his client once the investigation is over.

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