Police are searching for a 26-year-old unlicensed dentist in Tbong Khmum province who is believed to have used a rope to strangle a patient to death at his clinic in order to steal her jewelry and motorbike, along with about $3,000 in cash, an official said Monday.
The body of Lai Sam An, 40, was found stuffed into a plastic bag inside a cabinet at Huy Seng’s clinic in Memot district’s Dar commune at about 7 p.m. on Sunday, according to commune police chief Pes Chamroeun.
“Our first conclusion was that maybe the suspect was scared after the patient screamed when she reacted strongly to too much medicine and he killed her by strangling her,” Mr. Chamroeun said, referring to the possibility that Mr. Seng administered an overdose of anesthetic to the victim.
After examining the body of Lai Sam An, he said, investigators from the commune, district and provincial police departments determined that she had been strangled with a length of rope or string.
“We could not find any rope or string as evidence, but we can assume he killed her by strangling her…with a rope because we saw bruises around her neck,” Mr. Chamroeun said, adding that because investigators then failed to find any evidence that the woman had been given anesthetic or was having dental work done before she died, they revised their theory.
“Our second conclusion was that this was a robbery because the police received reports from neighbors of the clinic that Mr. Seng lost a lot of money gambling,” he said, adding that Mr. Seng did not have a license to practice dentistry. Police are now searching for the suspect, who has fled, Mr. Chamroeun said.
Memot district governor Cheng Bunra said Mr. Seng had been working as a dentist in the area for about two years, but that he did not know anything else about the man.
Mr. Chamroeun said that Lai Sam An’s husband, Chhorn Vy, told police that before his wife’s death, she was carrying about $3,000 in order to pay for supplies for their pepper farm. But after inspecting the body, police found only $513 in U.S. notes and 590,000 riel (about $148) in her purse, he said.
The husband also told police that Lai Sam An was wearing necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings—about 7 grams of gold and 6 grams of platinum in total—which were also missing when she was found, the police chief said.
When a reporter called Mr. Vy’s phone number, provided by police, a man who identified himself as Lai Menghong, the 32-year-old brother of the victim, said his brother-in-law was too bereaved to speak.
Mr. Menghong said that his sister, whom he had lived with, had gone to Mr. Seng’s clinic on two previous occasions to receive artificial tooth implants. He added that their neighbor told him that before his sister had left for the clinic, she overheard Mr. Seng repeatedly calling his sister and asking her to come in to finish the procedure.
“My sister didn’t want to go because she was busy, but the dentist kept calling,” he said. “My neighbor heard my sister speaking with the dentist and then saw my sister drive her motorbike to meet him.”
When Lai Sam An didn’t return home, Mr. Menghong said, he called Mr. Seng at about 5:30 p.m.
“I called the dentist to ask where my sister was and he said my sister already went back home,” he said. “I asked him, ‘So where are you?’ The dentist said, “I am in Kompong Cham.’”
After searching for his sister at the local market and nearby shops, Mr. Menghong said he went to the clinic. Outside the building, he said, a woman told him she saw Mr. Seng leave on his sister’s motorbike at about 4 p.m.
“I felt that my sister had been inside that dental clinic, so we went to file a report with the police,” he said. “This was a robbery because the dentist saw that my sister had a lot of money.”