Dead man cleared of murder suspicion after 42 years

By Viet Quoc   January 14, 2022 | 10:30 pm PT
It has taken a man in central Vietnam 28 years after his death to be cleared of suspicion he had committed a murder 42 years ago.

Colonel Pham That, deputy director of the Binh Thuan Province police department, said the real culprit in the murder of a woman in Ham Tan District in 1980 has been found.

But Vo Te (1932 – 1994) had been wrongly suspected and questioned, he said.

Phan Thi Khanh of Tan Minh Commune, Ham Tan, was murdered on July 31, 1980, and her family said 1.6 taels of gold had been stolen from her.

The police arrested Te, who lived in the same commune, and said he was the main suspect.

But after five months they released him saying they "did not have enough evidence to press charges."

He had remained the main suspect until he died in 1994.

His son, Vo Ngoc, 54, said the situation had put his father and the entire family in great difficulty and they had had to live with the shame for decades.

Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

Vo Ngoc, the son of Vo Te, is at the scene of a murder crime that Te had been accused of committing 42 years ago. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc

Two years ago Do Thanh An, a son of the victim Khanh, approached the province police and said he knew who killed his mother: Truong Dinh Chi, the brother-in-law of her younger brother.

Chi has over the years changed his name to Tran Dinh Khoi and then Le Minh Son.

Following this several lawyers helped Ngoc and his family proclaim Te’s innocence.

The province police and the Ministry of Public Security’s Criminal Police Department reopened the case.

They found that two days before the murder Chi and his wife had traveled from their home in southern Vietnam to Binh Thuan and stayed in the house of Khanh’s younger brother, next to her own.

Chi and his wife left after Khanh was killed, and have since moved from place to place and become known to various people by various identities.

"Chi has changed his identity at least thrice. But the [investigation] determined it was the same person, Colonel Pham That said.

But Colonel Vu Xuan Tieu, deputy head of the Binh Thuan Police Investigation Agency, said Chi could not be prosecuted because of "the statute of limitations."

In Vietnam, a murder charge has to be brought within 20 years.

"The police will take steps to publicly apologize to and compensate Te’s family in accordance with the law," Tieu said.

Ngoc said: "The grievances of my father and family were finally resolved. I only regret he is gone."

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