Five housemates of a Chinese woman who was brutally murdered in her flat in an apartment building on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Sunday were still being held last night by police, despite the legal limit for detention without charge having elapsed in the case.
After exceeding the 72-hour limit for detaining a suspect without charge, police attempted to send the group—including one woman whom they suspect of being the culprit—to the municipal court last night but were too late, said Touch Phon, deputy chief of police in Pur Senchey district, where the murder occurred.
“We sent the five Chinese suspects to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday evening because we have no right to detain them anymore,” he said, adding that the group was returned to the district police station, and will be sent back to court this morning.
Mr. Phon said that after questioning the housemates and analyzing the 18 cleaver wounds to the victim’s neck, police believe 25-year-old Chen Huaying was killed by her female roommate.
“If a man hacked [the victim], he would not hack so many times with a cleaver,” he said, explaining that this reasoning had ruled out the three men who lived in the flat but are also being detained.
Mr. Phon said that one of the two women had admitted to stealing two knives from the cook at their residence, leading police to conclude that she committed the crime, despite her repeated denials.
“She told the police that she stole the cleaver and knife from the chef for peeling fruit,” he said, adding that police found it strange that someone would steal a cleaver to peel fruit.
Mr. Phon said that police believe Chen Huaying and her roommate got into a physical fight in front of the room they shared when the suspect stabbed the victim in the stomach, and then dragged her into their room, where she hacked her neck with the cleaver.
Pur Senchey district police chief Yim Sarann said the process of questioning the group had been hampered by the language barrier, with the Chinese Embassy only providing a translator on Wednesday.
“It is very hard to question the suspects because they cannot understand Khmer and we do not understand Chinese,” he said.
“We wanted the embassy to join us in the questioning and translating because we don’t want them to say the police worked carelessly.”