One year and a month after the naked hacked body of 25-year old French holidaymaker Ophélie Begnis was pulled from a Cambodian river, her alleged killer still waits in Kampot prison not knowing whether or not he will go to trial. Belgian Olivier Van Den Bogaert, arrested two-and-a- half months after the killing, has now been behind bars and denied bail for eleven months with no end in sight.

Once Cambodia’s main port, Kampot is a quiet rural town famous among epicures for its black pepper and salt. It also has a thriving tourism industry but major crimes against tourists are rare in a town known for its laid-back atmosphere and rustic riverside guesthouses. The murder of Begnis came out of the blue.

oll5The accused, Olivier Van Den Bogaert, 41, formerly owned a guesthouse a short distance out of town called Olly’s Place. A short time after the murder of Begnis, he left Cambodia to see his Thai girlfriend and his daughter. He was arrested after he returned in late April 2013 and has been detained since then.

Although Van Den Bogaert’s Facebook page refers to plans to move to South America, he had, in fact, sold his guesthouse and planned to go into partnership with an unnamed Belgian businessman to build a new riverside place. By coincidence, the new property was to be close to a loop in an arm of the river where Begnis’s body was found.

oll3Van Den Bogart’s alibi for the day and evening of the murder is that he was with the Belgian businessman at that time and the businessman would be willing to return to Cambodia to testify on his behalf.

oll10Local police have been under considerable pressure to find Begnis’s killer. It is claimed that witnesses saw a man who allegedly looked like Van Den Bogaert pushing a bicycle with a broken chain on the evening before the body was found, and later saw him throwing a bicycle into the river. The suspect was identified as Van Den Bogaert based on a jacket he had once owned.

A bicycle was later recovered but the guesthouse where Begnis hired it could not positively identify it as theirs.

oll9DNA evidence gathered from Begnis’s body by a French forensics team also proved inconclusive.

The police have handed its investigation and evidence off to the prosecuting judge who does not himself carry out investigations. He passes the evidence on to an investigating judge who examines the evidence and interviews the witnesses. In theory, the investigating judge acts neither for the defence nor the prosecution, but according to Cambodian news reports, he regards the case as still open and is looking for more evidence against Van Den Bogaert.

The Phnom Penh Post quotes the investigating judge: “I am working on it, and it is progressing, and I cannot say how many witnesses [there may ultimately be]. And I cannot say when the case will be finished.”

oll2Much of the inefficiency of the Cambodian legal system stems from the civil war and several years under Khmer Rouge rule from which it is still struggling to recover. Judges are overburdened with cases and, in the case of investigating judges, have no attachment to their cases.

Under the Cambodian system, Van Den Bogaert may remain in prison for up to 18 months without going to trial. Two appeals for his bail have already failed and it is unlikely to be granted in a serious felony case such as this.

For now, the case is in limbo with no one responsible for moving it forward while a grieving family is denied closure.

 

For more on this story check out our earlier reports:

The Kampot Murder: The Mystery of the Red-Headed Woman

Dispatch From Cambodia: Murder In A Sleepy Town

Kampot Murder Investigation: The DNA Issue

Cambodia Murder Investigation: Update From Kampot

The Kampot Murder: The Chilling Price of Innocence

Dispatch From Cambodia: Murder In A Sleepy Town

More stories from Bob Couttie

 

 

One Response to One Year Later Kampot Ex-Pat Murder Remains Unsolved

  1. Rick says:

    Thanks for the update on this sad case, Bob. It doesn’t look like this case is not any further developed since your last report.

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