Murders most foul

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Quiet 18-year-old youth confesses to killing three members of a family in failed gold heist


Le Van Luyen (C), 18, is arrested on Wednesday (August 31) in the northern province of Lang Son for allegedly murdering three people at a Bac Giang gold shop on August 24

An 18-year-old youth, described as a quiet boy who dropped out of school to help his family, has reportedly confessed to the gruesome murder of a couple and their daughter in the northern province of Bac Giang last week.

He also cut off the arm of an eight-year-old girl as he robbed a gold shop owned by the family.

Border police from Lang Son Province which neighbors Bac Giang, on Wednesday (August 31) arrested Le Van Luyen as the main suspect in the murder committed at a local gold shop cum residence a week earlier. 

Luyen was arrested Wednesday afternoon at Na Hinh, a border village in Lang Son, as he was returning to Vietnam from China.

He was accompanied by Le Van Nghi, the husband of Luyen's aunt, who previously declared to border guards that he was going to China to buy fertilizer for his farm.

Nghi and Hoang Van Trai, a man suspected of having helped Luyen enter China earlier, were also arrested.

Police said Luyen did not resist the arrest and was quite calm. He was taken to the Na Hinh Border Guard Station to record his initial testimony. Luyen was also brought back to Bac Giang for further interrogation on Thursday morning, the police said.

The place where Luyen was arrested was about six kilometers away from his aunt's house where police found some gold and jewelry items that are believed to have been stolen from the gold shop where the murder was committed.

Local police had issued a warrant against Luyen on charges of robbery and murder a day earlier.

At around 9 a.m. on August 24, when neighbors did not see Trinh Thanh Ngoc and Dinh Thi Chin open their gold shop in Bac Giang's Luc Nam District in the morning as usual, they knocked on the door but there was no reply. The shop was located on the ground floor of the house.

Meanwhile, relatives of the couple received a brief phone call from the couple's nine-year-old daughter, Trinh Thi Bich, saying her parents had been robbed. There was no answer when the relatives tried to call back.

The relatives rushed to the couple's house and along with the neighbors, entered it through a window and found that the couple and their 18-month-old daughter had been killed. Bich was lying unconscious, her right hand chopped off.

They called the police, who broke the door down to get into the house. There was blood everywhere and all the gold in the shop, estimated at 1,875 grams in total, (worth US$96,000) had been taken.

The body of Ngoc, 37, was found on the stairs of the first floor. He was lying face down with multiple stab wounds on his body, including a deep cut into the nape of his neck.

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The body of his wife Chin, 35, was found in the altar room on the third floor with two stab wounds in her belly and neck, but Luyen has reportedly said that he had killed her on the second floor.

Trinh Phuong Thao, the 18-month-old daughter, was found dead in the bedroom on the second floor with a deep cut on her neck.  

Bich also had multiple stab wounds on her body. She was reportedly hiding under a wardrobe in her second floor bedroom at the time of the murder.

She was rushed to the local hospital with her severed hand and later to the Viet Duc Hospital in Hanoi where doctors managed to reattach the arm to her body.  She is now in stable condition, police said.

Ngoc and Chin had run the gold shop for two years after returning from South Korea where they'd worked for nine years, according to their neighbors.

They said the couple also worked as moneylenders in the area.

The Bich Ngoc Gold Shop is located in a crowded residential area near National Highway 31.

According to police, wires supplying power to the house and cameras in the gold shop had been cut. It had also rained heavily that morning.

Testimony

After his arrest, Luyen confessed to the police that he had committed the robbery and murder by himself.

Luyen said he had entered the house and killed Chin on the second floor. He ran up to the third floor to kill Ngoc. When he got back to the second floor, he saw Bich holding a phone, so he slashed at Bich's hands and head, and took the phone.

When he saw the 18-month-old child crying in the bedroom, he asked her to stop but the baby girl kept crying. He slashed the baby's neck, washed the bloody knife and left.

According to one police officer, Luyen said, "I have committed a huge crime, so you can shoot me." He looked a bit scared for a moment when he said that, the officer said.

However, the police are assuming that Luyen did not act alone and had other accomplice(s).

Bich, the surviving child, also told the police she had seen two men in the house.

After the murder, on August 24, local police assigned hundreds of police officers to investigate it.

On Monday, they raided Luyen's house but he was not home. They combed the house and found a plastic bag with gold jewelry buried in the garden. The bag contained 199 rings, 63 necklaces, and 13 bracelets. They also found a knife with blood stains in the house.

The same day, police arrested Luyen's parents Le Van Mien, 42, and Truong Thi Thom, 38 for covering up their son's crime.

According to the police, on the morning of August 24, Luyen arrived home with several wounds on his hands and later visited a local medical clinic to treat them.

Nguyen Thi Lien and Hoang Thi Hung, staff of Thanh Lam Commune Medical Clinic who examined and treated Luyen's wounds, later told the police they'd asked what had happened to him, and he smiled and told them: "Only God knows."

After getting his wounds bandaged, Luyen came home and left shortly after.

In the afternoon, he called home from Lang Son Province, telling his father Le Van Mien he had left a plastic bag of gold in a wardrobe and asked him to hide it.

Mien dug a hole behind the pig pen and buried the bag in it. Both Mien and his wife are butchers by trade, local media reports said.

When police searched the house, Mien decided to show the police where he'd hidden the bag.

Mien confessed to the police he had gone to Lang Son Province to find Luyen a day after he left, but failed.

Luyen's mother, Thom, confessed she had washed blood stains out of Luyen's clothes on the day of the murder.

On Monday, the police also arrested Truong Thanh Hong, Luyen's 19-year-old cousin, and Truong Van Hop, Hong's father, on suspicion of helping Luyen escape.

Luyen is described by his neighbors as a quiet, cool-tempered and dedicated son to his family. He dropped out of high school and worked as a construction worker to support his family, according to the police.

The Ho Chi Minh City-based Phu Nu (Woman) newspaper quoted a source as saying Luyen used to work at a car wash owned by his relatives near the Ngoc Bich gold shop.

He must have studied the shop meticulously before hatching the robbery scheme, the source said.

Lone survivor

Bich has been informed of the deaths of her parents and sister, police said.

She is being treated in a quarantined room at the Viet Duc Hospital guarded by police officers. 

According to the doctors, Bich seems to be a brave girl; she has not cried much and has remained calm.

Health officials said they try to talk with her regularly to help keep her mind off what must be terrifying memories.

Dr. Ngo Thanh Hoi, director of Hanoi-based Mai Huong Psychiatric Hospital, said Bich should be taken to a psychiatric clinic after recovering from the physical trauma.

Following Luyen's arrest, several local news websites quoted sources as saying Luyen may not face the death penalty or the life sentence, given the fact that he was not fully 18 at the time of the murder. Under Vietnamese law, an offender cannot be sentenced to death or for life if he/she is less than 18 years old. Luyen was born on October 18, 1993, while the murder happened on August 24, 2011, which means he is two months younger than 18, the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.

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