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June 27, 2017

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Probe shows French family was murdered in Cambodia: judge

PHNOM PENH--A Frenchman and his four young children, whose skeletal remains were found in a submerged car in Cambodia two years ago, were murdered, a judge said Tuesday, after a probe by forensic experts.

The family's badly decomposed bodies were discovered inside widower Laurent Vallier's white 4x4 vehicle after it was retrieved from a large pond behind his house in southern Kampong Speu province in January 2012.

Vallier, 42, and his two sons and two daughters — aged between two and nine — had been missing since September 2011.

Chhim Rithy, a Cambodian investigating judge at Kampong Speu, said tests carried out in conjunction with French experts on the remains showed that Vallier and three of the four children did not die from drowning.

"It means they died before being (put in the car) and were pushed into the water," Chhim Rithy said.

Only the youngest child was alive before the car was pushed into the pond, he added, citing French forensic work on the bones.

"I and the French side have jointly concluded that it is a murder case," the judge said.

Ten French investigators, including a judge and scientific and forensic police, arrived in Cambodia in March last year to help probe the deaths.

Days later the French embassy in Phnom Penh said the investigation had ruled out the possibility of suicide.

Bloodstains found inside Vallier's house were not his, tests showed, while a pair of flip-flops recovered from the driver's side of the car did not belong to the father.

Vallier, who according to his relatives worked as a tour guide, is understood to have moved from France to Cambodia around 13 years ago, arriving in Kampong Speu in 2007. His Cambodian wife died in childbirth in 2009.

No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing, the judge said, but Vallier's in-laws were questioned last year.

Vallier had previously had a dispute with members of his wife's family over deeds to land, Chhim said last year.

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