Mystery still shrouds the death of journalist Le Hoang Hung even after his wife has confessed as this mariticidal woman is now suspected of having clandestine love affair with a state official who could be behind it all.
Lieu (center) before her confession
Police are investigating if Tran Thuy Lieu, 40 committed the crime alone.
On February 20, Lieu told police she herself doused her husband in petrol and set him on fire.
Hung, 51, of Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper, died 10 days later.
She told police that she bought petrol and a 10m long rope.
She then tied the rope to the balcony on the second floor and after pouring the petrol on her husband and set him on fire, dropped the rope down onto the ground to mislead investigators into thinking an outsider committed the crime.
Did Lieu herself buy the rope?
A source said that a shopkeeper remembered selling the 10m rope to a man – not a woman. However, this is yet to be confirmed.
Police have in the past days questioned her brother-in-law Nguyen Van Sua who was present shortly after Hung was set on fire. Sua whose house is next door helped extinguish the fire on Hung’s body.
Another person being interrogated is Nguyen Van Tam, head of the market management team in Long An until he was suspended recently.
The married Tam is suspected of having an affair with Lieu.
But Tam denied this, claiming he is only Lieu’s friend and her business partner.
He claimed that prior to the crime, he lent Lieu VND150 million (US$7,500) for her to conduct some business dealings.
Debt or ransom?
According to an exclusive source from Cong An Nhan Dan, the newspaper belonging to the police, Tam did not lend the VND150 million to Lieu but that the money is a kind of ‘ransom’ Lieu paid Tam.
The source said that four days after Hung was torched, Tam forced Lieu to write a paper claiming that she owed him VND150 million.
Tam also denied he was suspended from government post, saying his bosses only made him stop work to have time to report about his trips to Cambodia. Tam was found to have accompanied Lieu to Cambodian casinos.
Tam claimed he went to Cambodia only on “field trips” to examine how goods are smuggled from Cambodia into Vietnam. He admitted to visiting casinos but only to “sightsee”.
“I sometimes gamble to drive away suspicion. I placed small stakes – VND50,000 to VND100,000”.
However, S., a friend of Lieu, is suspicious.
“Who spent his own money on official field trips in Cambodia and then failed to report them to their seniors”, he wondered.
Lover, kept man or true murderer?
According to Cong An Nhan Dan, Tam was lying and that the two are lovers.
Lieu’s eldest daughter confirmed “I know that mom certainly loves him [Tam]”.
In addition, two of Lieu’s sisters also testified to their extramarital affair.
“Why did he [Tam] not admit it [love affair]? Everyone knows that he has a close relationship, above friendship, with my sister”, said Tran Thuy Nga – Lieu’s sister.
“Tam would personally come to see her [Lieu] at her house…Everyone in my family knows that Lieu has a special relationship with him and has advised her to end the affair but she did not listen. Hung [the murdered journalist] knows about this but kept silent for the sake of their daughters”.
Nga was quoted by VietnamNet as saying that her sister is not the mastermind behind the murder.
“I am sure that there is another helping my sister in the murder. It is likely that the accomplice has a love affair with her”.
Tran Thuy Loan, another sister of Lieu, also confirmed the love affair between Lieu and Tam, adding they many times went to Cambodia to gamble together.
According to Cong An Nhan Dan, Lieu would spend her own money to pay for Tam’s gambling losses and cover other expenses for him like car rental, accommodation and food.
Similarly, Loan suspected that there is another force behind the murder because Lieu is not intelligent enough to fake the crime scene with the rope.
“My sister is poorly educated, born into a farmer’s family. Before marrying Hung, she was a factory worker”.
She said that Lieu could probably have been tipped on how to kill her husband and how to respond to police questioning by this mastermind.
After her confession, Lieu wanted to commit suicide but was intervened by her family.
But does this aborted suicide attempt stem from her remorse or is it a way to take the true identity of the murderer to the grave? Time will tell.