Cambodian and Vietnamese police are investigating the suspected murder and kidnapping of an 8-year-old Vietnamese schoolgirl who was found dead in Svay Rieng province last week after going missing on her way to school in Ho Chi Minh City in January, a Cambodian official said Sunday.
The body of Ngo Ngoc Phut was discovered on Wednesday in a patch of forest in Svay Teap district’s Popet commune—about 30 km from the Vietnamese border—by four boys herding cows, said provincial serious crimes bureau chief Khim Lai.
“At about 4 p.m. Wednesday, four cow herders coming to look after some cows nearby detected a bad smell and reported it to their parents,” Mr. Lai said, adding that police were then called.
“A day after we found the body, the parents of the Vietnamese girl identified the body due to her clothes,” Mr. Lai added. “We found her bag, pens and pencils, and books with her body.”
Mr. Lai said that Ngo Ngoc Phut’s parents worked at the New World Casino in Bavet City and paid about $30 a month to a man in Ho Chi Minh City named “Mr. Ngoc”—who is now suspected of the murder—to care for their daughter.
“We are still cooperating with Vietnamese police to break this case,” he said. “The case is a kidnapping, as the suspects believed the parents had money because they are staff at New World Casino.”
The girl’s mother, Ngo Thi Dien, 46, reported her daughter missing to Vietnamese police on January 26, at first saying she did not suspect any foul play until Mr. Ngoc began demanding money.
The provincial serious crimes bureau chief said that police in Ho Chi Minh City are now investigating Mr. Ngoc’s role in the girl’s death.
“The girl’s mother claimed Mr. Ngoc kidnapped her daughter and then killed her because she didn’t give enough money to him,” he said.
“But I am not sure how much money he demanded because the case is in the hands of the Vietnamese police,” Mr. Lai explained.