A woman who pretended to be pregnant for two months after suffering a miscarriage has admitted to killing her friend’s husband and kidnapping the couple’s one-month-old daughter in an attempt to pass off the infant as her own, police said Thursday.
The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court on Thursday charged 24-year-old Yun Ratha with intentional violence under aggravating circumstances following her admissions to police, according to Nhet Phoan, chief of the Preah Sihanouk provincial serious crime bureau.
“We sent her to pretrial detention at the provincial prison this evening,” Mr. Phoan said last night.
According to police, Ung Sreymao, 35, returned to her husband’s hut on a plot of land that he had been paid to guard in Sihanoukville’s Muoy commune on Monday morning to find him unconscious and badly injured. The couple’s infant daughter, Phan Hana, was missing.
The husband, Pin Sophal, 34, succumbed to his injuries that afternoon in the provincial referral hospital.
After questioning Ms. Sreymao, police learned that her friend, Yun Ratha, was likely involved in the murder and kidnapping, Mr. Phoan said.
On Wednesday afternoon, police arrested Ms. Ratha, who was with the baby at the home of her parents-in-law in Prey Veng province, and transferred her to Sihanoukville for questioning, said Mr. Phoan, who led the investigation.
“At 1 a.m. this morning, the baby arrived in her mother’s arms in Sihanoukville,” he said.
Mr. Phoan said that during questioning, Ms. Ratha confessed.
“She confessed she committed the crimes because she wanted a baby to replace the baby she lost in a miscarriage,” he said.
According to Mr. Phoan, Ms. Ratha checked into a private clinic in Prey Veng’s Preah Sdech district on March 8 having suffered a miscarriage after a seven-month-long pregnancy. She then left the clinic and concealed the miscarriage from her family by using pillows and clothing to make herself look pregnant, he said.
“Her husband’s relatives said they didn’t think Ms. Ratha had miscarried, because she looked like a pregnant woman.”
On Sunday—about two months after she lost her own baby—Ms. Ratha traveled to Sihanoukville to visit her friend, Ms. Sreymao, and her newborn daughter, Mr. Phoan said.
“She tried to convince the family of the victim to give her the baby and she promised to give some money if they wanted,” he said.
But the parents rejected the offer, so that night Ms. Ratha bought the husband six cans of Black Panther beer, Mr. Phoan said, adding that the husband drank throughout the night.
The next morning, after Ms. Sreymao left the house to get money to buy baby formula, Ms. Ratha told police she gave Pin Sophal more beer, which he drank until he passed out.
“When Mr. Sophal was drunk, Ms. Ratha used a spade to chop his head two times and grabbed the baby,” Mr. Phoan said.
Kol Phally, deputy provincial police chief, said police recommended that the court charge Ms. Ratha with premeditated murder under aggravating circumstances.
“We accused her of that because she made the plan to kill the father and steal the baby,” Mr. Phally said. “She wanted to keep the lie she told her parents-in-law that she had a baby and secondly, she was concerned her husband would divorce her if she had no children.”
However, Mr. Phoan, who led the investigation, said late last night that he had seen a court document which showed that Investigating Judge Ly Sobanet had charged her with intentional violence under aggravating circumstances.
“I’m really disappointed with the decision of the judge, because police have enough evidence” to charge her with the more serious crime of premeditated murder, he said.
Ms. Sreymao, the mother of the baby, said Thursday that Ms. Ratha had tried to adopt her daughter, but her husband refused.
“My husband refused because he said he loves his daughter,” she said, adding that she had been friends with Ms. Ratha for two or three years and did not suspect that she had any nefarious plans.
“She looked like a normal person, I never thought she could do something like that,” she said.
Ms. Sreymao said she hoped the court would award her compensation and convict Ms. Ratha.
“I want the authorities to convict her to life in prison, because she committed a very bad thing against my family,” she said. “My husband died and I am very poor. I need some money to look after my baby.”