A 31-year-old man was arrested in Kompong Speu province for allegedly murdering an elderly woman in a dispute over a small plot of land that she had lent to the man’s late father, who was the village chief, officials said on Tuesday.
Non Dara, deputy military police commander in Samraong Tong district, said the body of Tuot Nhit, a 71-year-old farmer, was found by fellow villagers at about 6 p.m. on Monday after she went missing in Khtom Kraing commune.
“After lunch, the victim brought her cows to graze in the field and no one saw her come back home,” Mr. Dara said, adding that police and military police went to the scene after villagers discovered her dead body, but could not investigate until the next morning because it was too dark.
At the scene on Tuesday, police found a bloody hammer belonging to the victim, which she had used to drive wooden stakes into the ground to tie up her cattle, he said.
“After the body was examined today, it showed that the victim was hit by the suspect multiple times on the head, then he threw her into the tall grass,” he said, adding that Tuot Nhit “died from a crushed skull and from losing a lot of blood.”
The deputy military police commander said Poy Chanrith, the suspect, was arrested at 7 p.m. on Monday, about an hour after the body was found, but denied committing the murder during questioning at the district police station.
Mr. Dara said police suspected Mr. Chanrith because neighbors said that he had a dispute with the victim over a 0.3-hectare plot of land that Mr. Chanrith’s late father, who was the chief of Prey Norea village, borrowed from Tuot Nhit three years ago to plant beans.
“The dispute between both sides was serious because even after the village chief died, his son refused to return the land to the victim,” he said.
Sam Sak, chief of the provincial police’s serious crimes bureau, who questioned Mr. Chanrith, said police were 80 to 90 percent sure he had murdered Tuot Nhit.
“We think this because first of all, the suspect and victim have been engaged in a land dispute, and second, at the time, he and the suspect were tending their cows together, then an eyewitness saw him run quickly from the scene,” he said.
Mr. Sak said the suspect would be sent to the provincial court today for questioning.