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Following speculation he was murdered for high-profile reporting, the Vietnamese journalist was now found to be probably killed by his wife who was apparently lying and in debt.
Lieu (second from Right) at her husband's funeral
Although police said they have identified the murderer of Le Hoang Hung, 51, of Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper, they are yet to release his/her identity.
However, they implied that the victim's wife - Tran Thi Thuy Lieu, 41 - is the mastermind.
Police confirmed that Lieu did owe VND1 billion (US$51,000) from gambling in Cambodia.
A source told Tuoitrenews that she wanted to sell the house to settle the debt but Hung refused.
They had a big argument just before Hung was set on fire.
However, Lieu denied, telling the press she owed only VND30 million at the maximum.
Lieu would receive VND1 billion from Hung’s death
Tuoi Tre also found out that the victim had bought a life insurance with a payout of VND1 billion several months before his death.
Lieu, as his wife, is of course the main beneficiary.
When questioned by Phap Luat newspaper about the insurance issue, Lieu avoided the question, replying “When I bought it [insurance] for me, Hung was the beneficiary. When I bought it for little Chau [their daughter], I am the beneficiary”.
Police found out Lieu lied to them when she said she did not gamble in Cambodia. She claimed she went there only to sell napkins.
According to conclusion from the investigation, Lieu made 22 trips to Cambodia to visit casinos there in December last year alone.
According to a source, police have concluded that the crime scene where Hung was soaked in petrol and set on fire is fake, indicating that some insider(s) did commit the crime.
Earlier, rumors had it that Hung was killed out of reprisals for his high-profile reporting on government corruption and underworld gangs.
Lieu denied this, saying she only asked Hung to sell the house once.
Drivers of taxis and rental cars she used to on her gambling trips to Cambodia said that Lieu carried along VND30- 100 million (US$ 1,500- 5,100) in cash per trip.
One regular driver even saved her number on his cell phone as “ZKC L.Casino”.
The house which Lieu wanted to sell. Hung was set on fire on the second floor here
He committed suicide: Lieu
According to Lieu, "a stranger broke into their house" and doused her husband in petrol before setting him on fire while he was sleeping on the second floor on January 19.
Hung died 10 days later.
Lieu said she and her children were sleeping in a separate room that day.
Hung suffered from up to 50% burns. The mattress, blanket and pillows on which he was sleeping were burnt to ashes.
According to Lieu, Hung rushed into the room screaming: “Help me! Someone tried to kill me!”. His body was on fire at the time.
Lieu also told police Hung had received threatening messages on his mobile phone before the incident.
However, she now strangely told the press that her husband committed suicide.
Just before his death, Hung told investigators that he was sleeping when he felt someone pouring something cold on his body which immediately started to burn.
The bed, pillows and mattress on which Hung was sleeping were burnt to ashes
Fake crime scene: conclusion
A rope was found hanging from the second story where Hung was burnt, indicating that the culprit could have climbed up on that rope.
However, police confirmed that the rope is just a ploy to distract investigators.
Senior Lieutenant Colonel Pham Van Tien was quoted by Cong An Nhan Dan (people’s police) newspaper as saying that a normal criminal could not climb to the second story on a rope while carrying with him a bottle of petrol.
The police officer said that it is very difficult to attach the rope to the balcony [on the second floor] from the ground floor without insider’s help.
“Criminals are not professional commandos”, he added.
Also according to the newspaper, there was no evidence showing the rope had been climbed on.
It is also suspicious when Hung went to sleep that night alone without closing the main door and the windows although the night was very cold.
As Hung was an active reporter on social issues and recently wrote about land corruption, official wrongdoings at the Long An Province Market Control Department and trans-border smuggling, the press initially turned to reprisals as the main motive.
Lieu claimed that Hung committed suicide
Le Hoang Hung
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