The Vietnamese journalist who was set on fire by a "strange intruder" and who died 10 days later could have been murdered by no other than his wife.
After rumors that Le Hoang Hung, 51, of Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper was killed out of reprisals for his high-profile reporting on government corruption and underworld gangs, police now focus on his wife Tran Thi Thuy Lieu, 41.
Police in Long An province where Hung died have many times summoned Lieu over February 2-5 to inquire into her alleged gambling activities in Cambodia and huge money loss prior to her husband’s death.
An unconfirmed 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.
Police said Lieu paid more than 20 visits to casinos in Cambodia in a short time period before Hung’s incident.
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”.
However, Lieu denied any gambling, insisting she went to casinos only to sell wet cloth tissues to gamblers there.
Two children of the couple – one 12 and the other 17 years old - were also summoned by police for further investigation.
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.
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.
She pushed him into the bathroom and sprayed water onto his body before taking him to hospital.
Lieu also told police Hung had received threatening messages on his mobile phone before the incident.
Hung in critical condition in hospital
Fake crime scene?
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 were suspicious.
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.
Cong An Nhan Dan wrote that the crime scene could be faked to mislead investigators as to the true perpetrator.
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.
Hung (left) receiving a prize for his contribution to journalism