In my post on Tuesday, I highlighted the future trial in Phnom Penh of the 3 suspects in custody, charged with the abduction and murder of British de-mining expert Christopher Howes in March 1996. All three were arrested in November of last year and can be held for six months pending their trial, so we should see some movement in the case fairly soon. Khem Nguon is the main name in the frame, having been a high-ranking member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy and suspected of ordering and supervised Howes's execution. Arrested with him were Loch Mao, a CPP-affiliated district official in Anlong Veng, who is alleged to be the man who pulled the trigger, and Chep Cheat, believed to be their driver. Their names have been in the frame for the murder for the last ten years but its only now that the Cambodian authorities have put the wheels of justice into motion. Khem Nguon was number two to the commander of the Anlong Veng guerrilla forces, the brutal one-legged Ta Mok. However, witnesses have already pointed the finger at Loch Mao as the man who fired the shots that killed Howes. I have tracked down this Sunday Times article from veteran journalist Tom Fawthrop, printed in June 1998, that reveals the story of what took place on that fateful day in March 1996.Last week The Sunday Times tracked down Mao, 48, in Anlong Veng and questioned him about Howes’s fate. Mao, who lost a leg in a landmine explosion, confirmed that he had been under the command of a general who interrogated Howes. Asked about Howes’s death, however, he claimed that he knew only what he had been told by the general’s driver. “I never set eyes on the British hostage,” Mao said. Mao is named as a suspect in a report presented by Yard detectives to the Cambodian authorities, who have been urged by the Foreign Office to take action against Howes’s killer. Howes, a former soldier who worked for the Mines Advisory Group, a British charity, was engaged in an operation to clear some of Cambodia’s estimated 10m mines when he was kidnapped with his interpreter two years ago near the temples of Angkor Wat. They were marched through the jungle for three days before his interpreter, Houn Hourth, was killed.
Khmer Rouge defector named as Briton's killer - by Tom Fawthrop, Sunday Times, 14/06/1998
Scotland Yard detectives investigating the murder of Christopher Howes, the British mine clearance expert, by the Khmer Rouge, have been told that the killer was a former guerrilla commander who has since defected to the Cambodian army. A witness who took the detectives to the murder scene has claimed that Howes, 37, from Bristol, was shot by Loch Mao, an officer in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng.
Howes was taken to a school at Anlong Veng, where he is said to have been interrogated by General Khem Nguon, the Khmer Rouge’s deputy chief of staff. According to Nget Rim, 48, the general’s chief bodyguard, Howes was killed shortly afterwards. He said Mao, sitting behind Howes, pulled out a Chinese-made .54 calibre pistol, firing once in to the back of his neck without warning, and once into his back. It is understood that Mao has been identified as the killer by at least two other witnesses, including the general’s driver. The witnesses accompanied detectives and George Eggar, the British ambassador in Cambodia, to the school and showed them the spot where Howes’s body was later burnt.