Suspect Held in Rape and Murder of Widow, Land Dispute Cited as Possible Motive

Kampot police on Monday arrested the brother-in-law of a 43-year-old woman who was raped and murdered early Sunday morning inside her home in the province’s Dang Tong district, police said yesterday.

Keo Botra, 28, was arrested as the chief suspect in the rape and killing of Tham Cheda, after villagers alleged that they had seen him wearing a t-shirt that was used to choke the woman to death and then hang her from a beam inside the house, provincial judicial police chief In Chiva said.

Mr Botra has not confessed to the crime, though Mr Chiva said that the suspect was allegedly involved in a dispute with the victim over the ownership of her farmland.

“We concluded that he raped and killed the victim to inherit her farmland,” Mr Chiva said. “He probably wanted to get all the land after the victim was killed.”

The woman’s 8-year-old son was tied up by the attacker outside the house while his mother was killed inside. Tied to the house at around midnight, the boy broke free at around 3 am and alerted neighbors and police. He is now being cared for by relatives in the village where the suspect’s family also resides, the police chief said.

Mr Chiva yesterday refuted claims made by local rights group Adhoc that cases of rape are increasing in the province due to the practice of police officials negotiating “compensation” deals between rapists and their victims in return for the dropping of charges.

“Rape and rape killings are brutal criminal cases. We cannot release or negotiate in these cases,” Mr Chiva said.

While Sim Sorphea, provincial investigator for Adhoc, welcomed news of the speedy arrest yesterday, she cautioned that police needed to make a thorough investigation to ensure they have apprehended the right person.

“This case is very brutal because the offender tortured, raped and killed the female victim,” Ms Sorphea said. “I would like the court to prosecute the suspect by law,” she said.

The suspect is still being detained at Kampot provincial police headquarters and is scheduled to be sent to the provincial court today.

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