Two women who police say have admitted to beheading a family member thought to have practiced black magic were provisionally charged with murder at the Kompong Speu Provincial Court yesterday, but some local officials questioned the manner in which their confessions had been obtained.
The headless body of mango farmer Soa Siv, 62, was found on his plantation in Phnom Sruoch district’s Chambak commune on Friday, according to police. His daughter-in-law Mao Channy, 33, and her aunt Em Sun, 58, were arrested over the murder earlier this week.
Police say the pair confessed to killing Soa Siv because he used black magic to cause the death of Ms. Channy’s father a decade ago.
On Tuesday, they were sent to the Kompong Speu court for further questioning, according to deputy provincial police chief Som Sak.
“The prosecutor finished questioning the two suspects and provisionally charged them with premeditated murder,” Mr. Sak said, adding that the charge would be confirmed by an investigating judge today.
But friends and neighbors of the women—including local officials—say police coerced the women into confessing, and on Tuesday petitioned the Phnom Sruoch governor for their release.
“This morning, the commune chief, the village chief and about 10 other villagers went to the district governor to demand the release of the two suspects,” said district police chief Say Bunthorn.
“Those people believe those two ladies are not the murderers,” Mr. Bunthorn said, adding that he had recorded their confessions and would play them for any locals who wished to hear.
Commune chief Chey Hin confirmed that he was among those who did not trust the provincial police’s version of events and said both women had alibis.
“While the crime happened, both ladies were busy. One was picking cashew nuts and the other one was cooking a meal for her children at home,” Mr. Hin said, adding that police likely extracted their confessions using devious methods.
“Police always threaten people to get them to confess when they are questioning them,” he said.