On February 20, Tran Thuy Lieu ended nearly a month-long police investigation into the murder of her husband by turning herself in to local police.
Lieu, 41, admitted to setting her husband, 51-year-old Le Hoang Hung, on fire while he was sleeping at home in the southern province of Long An's Tan An Town on January 19. Police say she also admitted to throwing investigators off track by leaving a series of false clues behind.
Senior Lieutenant Colonel Pham Huu Chau, the provincial police office manager, said that the investigation is ongoing.
Pham Van Tien, head of the provincial investigation division, told the media on February 21 that Lieu confessed to murdering her husband for two reasons: the family's financial difficulties and his growing awareness of her extramarital relations.
Lieu also claimed to be the victim of spousal abuse.
On February 22, Long An police announced that they have taken Lieu into custody and will thoroughly investigate her confession. They continue to interrogate her brother-in-law Nguyen Van Sua, who lives next door to Hung.
A tangled web
Lieu has denied involvement in her husband's killing until February 20, leading to widespread speculation about the cause of his death.
In the last months of 2010, Lieu admitted [to police and reporters] that she was a regular patron of Cambodian border casinos.
During the ensuing investigation, a local market watchdog official, Nguyen Van Tam in Long An's Thanh Hoa District, was suspended for accompanying Lieu on her gambling excursions.
Lieu claimed to have lost more than VND1 billion (US$47,900).
According to Tien, Lieu has since confessed that she had urged her husband to sell their family home to pay off her debts but he refused.
In cold blood
Police say that Lieu killed Hung because of financial troubles, including debt from the construction of their three-story house in Tan An Town as well as loans taken to gamble in Cambodia, police said.
Lieu also confessed to a recent quarrel where the couple agreed to get divorced, but they changed their minds after their elder daughter Le Hong Nhung threatened to kill herself if they did so.
Truong Van Tem, chairman of the Vam Co Waterway Transport Cooperative also told Thanh Nien Weekly that Hung had asked to borrow money from him just a few days before he was set on fire.
In her initial confession, Lieu told police she suspected that Hung had seen her right after she set fire to his bed and rushed out of the room, according to the police.
A recent report issued by the Long An police charged that Lieu had purchased a rope and a liter of gasoline on January 17 and hid them in a wardrobe.
She tied knots in the rope, attached it to Hung's bedroom balcony and hid the rest of the rope, that same day.
At around midnight on January 19, Lieu unfurled the balcony rope to mislead investigators.
Then she returned to Hung's room, doused him in gasoline and lit him on fire before dashing into her room and pretending to be asleep.
When Hung burst out of his room, Lieu and their two daughters, who were sleeping in another room, extinguished the flames.
According to Lieu's sister, Tran Thuy Nga, police have interrogated Lieu every day, since the beginning of February.
On February 20, Lieu went to Nga's house from the police station visibly upset, Nga told the Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper. For the past nine years, Hung had worked at the paper and covered news in Long An, Tien Giang and Ben Tre provinces in the Mekong Delta under the pen name Tran Hai Nguyen.
Nga and Lieu's other sisters suspected her guilt, so they lied and claimed that the police were certain that she was the culprit.
"She hugged her children, cried and told everyone that she planned to commit suicide," Nga was quoted as saying. "When asked, she admitted to killing her husband."
After encouraging her sister to turn herself in to the police, Nga asked why Lieu killed her husband but she didn't answer.
"She only cried and said: "˜don't blame me, I can't speak out, please take care of my two children,'" Nga told Nguoi Lao Dong. "I didn't know what to say other than to encourage her to cooperate with investigators so that she might, one day, have a chance to see them again."
Lieu's sisters accompanied her to the police station where she turned herself in, Nga said.