Family implicates wife's lover in journalist's murder

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Anew twist has been added to the murder of Le Hoang Hung.

Last week, papers all over the country (including this one) carried stories announcing that Hung's wife, Tran Thuy Lieu, had confessed to sneaking into her husband's bedroom on January 19 and setting him on fire.

Ten days later, the former Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reporter died from his severe burns.

According to media accounts, Lieu told investigators from Long An's provincial police that she acted alone.

She claimed that she was motivated by a desire to sell their family home to cover her gambling losses and put an end to her husband's growing awareness of her extramarital affair.

Since then, the couple's children and members of Lieu's immediate family have claimed that Lieu's lover played a role in the crime. They have even shown Thanh Nien copies of anguished notes, allegedly written by Lieu, and delivered to Nguyen Van Tam as police closed in.

Tam was suspended from his job as a market management official in Thanh Hoa District when police began to question his involvement in the case.

He has denied all charges of wrongdoing and insisted that his relationship with Lieu is purely platonic.

"I don't know where the newspapers got that information," he told Thanh Nien. "I confirmed that I don't have [a romantic relationship with Lieu]. We are only friends."

An accomplice?

Lieu's father, Tran Van Men, said that Tam visited Lieu's house several days before the murder. Tam also visited his daughter in the days following her first interrogation session with the provincial police, he says.

Men added that the front door to Hung's home had been unlocked on the night he was set on fire.

The couple's youngest daughter, Le Hong Chau, 13, recalled hearing the sound of someone rushing down the stairs when she was awoken by her father's screams.

Tam has maintained his innocence.

"I told the investigators I never accompanied Lieu to Cambodia for gambling," he told Thanh Nien.

He admitted to meeting Lieu at cafe's on several occasions. "I knew she loaned money to people so I gave her VND150 million (US$7,190) to earn [interest]," he said.

Family evidence

Following her father's murder, Le Hong Nhung, 17, claims that her mother instructed her to deliver letters to Tam, every day, as police began their interrogations.

A handwritten letter, supposedly written by Lieu and provided to Thanh Nien read: "What have they asked you? Write it down for me! Don't tell them I gave loaned money to others... They doubt that I harmed Hung because I love you. I am so tired but I won't leave you."

At the same time, Tran Thuy Nga, Lieu's older sister, said she was well aware that Tam was conducting a romantic affair with her sister.

"I was very frustrated when Tam told the media that he had no relationship with [my sister]," she said. "Everybody in my family is aware of her love affair with Tam. He used to come to her house whenever Hung was away. If she didn't have such a relationship, the [murder] wouldn't have happened."

Nga also confirmed that Tam had visited casinos with Lieu and other members of her family more than ten times.

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