Man sought in murder-kidnap

By: Sean Teehan and Kim Sarom

Several police departments are carrying out an intensive manhunt for a suspect who allegedly murdered a man in Preah Sihanouk province and abducted his 1-month-old child in the early hours of Monday morning.

In a gruesome scene, a 33-year-old man allegedly smashed the head of Pin Sokpal, 34, with a “wooden axe-handle weapon” as he slept on a bed outside his house with his daughter, James McCabe, operations manager for the Phnom Penh-based Child Protection Unit, said yesterday.

After the attack, which occurred at about 1:30am on Monday, McCabe said, the suspect – who authorities declined to identify to the public – took Sokphal’s child, Porn Hamma, and fled the crime scene in Sihanoukville’s Sangkat 1 commune with the infant.

“[Sokpal] was asleep on a bed in front of his house when a male suspect approached him and struck him … causing critical injuries,” McCabe said yesterday. Sokpal died shortly after the attack as a result of the injuries.

Deputy provincial police chief Kol Phally yesterday identified the murder weapon as a garden hoe.

Officials from the Sihanoukville criminal investigation department, Sihanoukville crime scene department, local administration police and local commune police are currently conducting a widespread search across Kampong Cham province for the suspect, McCabe said.

The multi-department search began early on Monday morning, and is currently still under way.

“An extensive and exhaustive manhunt [is under way]; there is urgency to locating the child,” McCabe said. “All efforts are being taken by Cambodian National Police in Sihanoukville.… The child is the priority.”

Police searched around the house for the child’s body, but found nothing, Phally said.

Coming up empty in a search within the vicinity of the crime scene for the baby’s body, provincial police also believe that she is still in the custody of the suspect, he added.

“After the murder, and the absence of the baby, our men searched around the victim’s house, but found nothing notable,” Phally said yesterday. “If the baby was killed, the body must be found; but we have concluded that the perpetrator must have kidnapped her.”

Several inquiries into the motive behind the murder and kidnapping are being investigated, McCabe said. However, it is known that the suspect and victim lived within close proximity.