Cambodia’s war crimes court has ordered that Ieng Thirith, the 80-year-old sister-in-law of brutal Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, should no longer face accusations of war crimes because she is seen to be unfit to stand trial.
The UN-backed tribunal said in a statement this week

Khmer Rouge First Lady

Khmer Rouge's 'First Lady' and Pol Pot's guerillas

that there was no prospect the accused woman could be tried in the foreseeable future.
Her release from what would have been penetrating questions about any role or support she gave to Pol Pot’s mass-murder regime from 1975 to 1979 came after health experts said she was suffering from a form of dementia and memory loss and her ‘cognitive impairment is likely irreversible.’
Yet the conclusion of experts working for the prosecution contrasted sharply with testimony from Ieng Thirith’s psychiatrist, Chak Thida, who has told the court that her patient did not have the symptoms of dementia.
Miss Thida said Ieng Thirith was a ‘polite and neat’ lady who could read French accurately, although she did experience ‘some loss in memory’ due to her age.
Ieng Thirith, who is married to former foreign minister Ieng Sary, was accused of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity for her role in ‘Brother Number One’ Pol Pot’s communist regime, during which an estimated two million Cambodians were killed.
The goal of the Khmer Rouge regime was to create a communist utopia through social engineering, and saw million of people forced out of their homes in cities and towns to work in fields in the countryside.
The country was re-named Democratic Kampuchea and during the four years of Khmer Rouge’s reign, Cambodians died of starvation and torture at the hands of brutal ‘re-education’ guards as they were forced to work in fields, or were tortured and executed in prison camps.
In a bid to make all Cambodians equal, the regime slaughtered intellectuals, professionals, foreigners and artists who were all seen as ‘enemies’ of Democratic Kampuchea.
Three elderly former regime leaders remain on trial: Former prime minister Nuon Chea, also known as ‘Brother Number Two’ , former head of state Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith’s husband Ieng Sary.
Although released, Ieng Tirith has been warned by the prosecution not to interfere in the investigation and to remain in the country.
As recently as last November judges announced that Ieng Tirith should be released, however that ruling was overturned on appeal the following month.
Medical experts working for the prosecution said her mental state had since declined – opinions that were not shared by her psychiatrist.
Pol Pot died in 1998 of a heart attack in a jungle hut at the age of 73 without ever being brought to trial.

 

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Desmond Campbell, wife killer

Des Campbell, who murdered his wife for her money. Supplied file pic.

As a former British policeman and an ambulance officer in Australia, he should have been both protector and saviour. But today Des Campbell was sentenced to 33 years in jail for murdering his wife by pushing her over a cliff to get his hands on her money.

Justice Megan Latham said in in a Sydney court that that his crime had ‘deception, duplicity and manipulation’ at its heart.
Campbell, 52, who served in the Cranley, Surrey, police force in the mid to late 1990s, sat stoney-faced as the judge told him he would serve a minimum of 24 years without parole, meaning he would be an old man when he was released.
Referring to the time in 2005 when Campbell took his wife of six months on a camping holiday and pushed her from the 170ft cliff south of Sydney, the judge said: ‘Janet’s death must have been truly awful.
‘The position of her shoe print and the broken tree branch…suggests that she was conscious and aware of her fate for some short period of time before she fell.’
The court had heard previously that Campbell, who emigrated from the UK to Australia with his parents as a child but returned as an adult to join the police force, had murdered his wife in a calculated and greed-fuelled crime to get hold of her money.
Describing Campbell’s culpability for the crime as ‘extreme’, the judge said: ‘The circumstances under which Janet Campbell met her death demonstrates the offender’s sustained callousness toward her for nothing more than monetary gain.’
During his trial, the court had heard from one of Campbell’s former lovers, 59-year-old former Surrey traffic warden June Ingham, who claimed he had kept money she had invested in a house with him in Australia – and that he had broken off their relationship in a text message.
Later while working as an ambulance officer in Australia he married Janet Fisicaro, from a farming community in the New South Wales outback town of Deniliquin. Janet, 49, had been left well off when her first husband died – and it was her money that Campbell had targeted, the court heard.
Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC, compared Janet’s murder to a contract killing and asked the jury to reject Campbell’s claims that she fell to her death accidentally after leaving their cliff-edge tent in the hours of darkness to go the toilet. The jury returned their guilty verdict of murder in May this year.
During his relationship with Janet, the court heard, Campbell had carried on affairs with other women – and after her death he did not even attend her funeral.
A week after the murder, he booked a holiday with one of his girlfriends and a few months later he travelled to the Philippines where he met the woman who was to become his fourth wife.
Justice Latham, whose decision was shown live on tv, sentenced Campbell to the 24-years non-parole period ‘in recognition of the deliberate taking of a life’.
Outside the Sydney Supreme Court, Janet Campbell’s brother Kevin Neander said his sister would not hurt a fly.
‘I just hope that on that day up there, on that hill, that she didn’t suffer as long as this bloke is going to suffer for the next 24 years of his mongrel life.’
Turning to a tv camera, Mr Neander added: ‘I hope Des is watching this – I just reckon you are as low as a snake’s guts.
‘I hope you suffer and look over the top of your shoulder for the next 24 years, mate.’
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The face of serial killer Ivan Milat

The face of serial killer Ivan Milat - from the cover of my book Highway to Nowhere

On one of the many times I visited the Belanglo State Forest, south of Sydney, Australia, a priest stood in a shaft of sunlight in September 1992 and told a small group of people, including the parents of two British women whose bodies had been found there, that they had gathered to cleanse away evil.

Something wicked  had happened there, but evil, said the priest, did not have the last word. No-one knew that not far away the bodies of five other young backpackers lay undiscovered – until they were found a year later. But that, police were convinced, was all. Road worker Ivan Milat was arrested, convicted and sentenced to seven life sentences.
But evil has persisted. Another body has been found. The skeleton of a woman. The forest is refusing to allow us to forget Milat’s deeds, although we do not know yet whether this still-unidentified person is another of  his victims.
From his jail cell Milat, now 65, is taunting police by refusing to reveal whether he has a hand in the death of the woman, whose body was found just outside a vast area that police had searched in the early 90s after the last of his seven victims had been found.
The priest’s ceremony among the trees all those years ago had been conducted for the memory of Milat’s latest captives, British women Joanne Walters and Caroline Clarke, both 22. Lying undiscovered for another year were the bodies of James Gibson and Deborah Everist from Melbourne; Gabor Neugebauer and Anja Habschied from Germany; and Simone Schmidl, also from Germany.
Milat was eventually arrested after British backpacker Paul Onions managed to escape from his vehicle and give police details of his attacker – although it was several months before they moved in on Milat’s house and took him into custody.
Police always suspected Milat had killed more people who have been
reported missing, but no other bodies were found in the Belanglo
forest – until the dramatic discovery last Sunday of yet another skeleton by a group of trail-bike riders.
Local detectives have formed Strike Force Hixson to investigate the
discovery and are being assisted by the New South Wales Homicide
Squad.
‘The investigation is still in its infancy and it’s early days and
far too soon for us to know exactly what’s happened,’ said
Superintendent Quarmby.
‘Obviously there is a lot of speculation surrounding this discovery
but we definitely will not be jumping to conclusions. There are many
lines of investigation to explore.’
And so we wait. We wait for the autopsy, we wait for an identification, we think of the family and friends who will eventually learn that the woman in the forest is one of theirs. And we wonder, too, if the forest will offer up even more of its dead…