Suspect arrested from Paro within days of the murder

Chencho Dema

Police detained a  26-year-old man in connection with the alleged murder of a 13-year-old girl in Pamtsho, Thimphu. The suspect from Mongar is said to be employed in one of the shops in Thimphu. 

The victim’s body was discovered on the afternoon of May 24, following her disappearance on May 23. She was a class VI student living with her mother and stepfather in Dechencholing. 

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Colonel Namgay, said both the suspect and the victim were not known to each other. He said the incident might have happened after 9 am on May 24. “The suspect was on his way home from town when the victim was also walking towards her friend’s house, which was about 1.5 kilometers away from her house. The victim along with her friends were on their way to visit Dechencholing lhakhang,” Colonel Namgay added. 

The victim had walked to her friend’s house and upon realizing her friends had left, she followed her friends on foot, towards the Lhakhang.

The suspect was seated on a culvert, smoking, when he met the victim. They had only walked a few meters before the suspect forcefully directed the victim towards the forest. The suspect had dragged the victim into a nearby forest, gagged her with soil to silence her. 

Before the suspected allegedly strangled her to death, the suspect hurled a stone on the forehead of the victim who lay motionless on the ground. The victim’s body was concealed with tree branches to prevent it from being seen before leaving the scene. 

A source told Kuensel that the police were able to identify the suspect through CCTV footage from a privately-owned building in Pamtsho. The camera had captured the suspect walking alone shortly after the victim.

Following the incident, in an attempt to avoid arrest, the suspect had fled to Paro. A manhunt for the suspect was conducted for days, concluding his location at Ramthangka in Paro, where he was arrested at around 8pm on Thursday, May 30. 

Colonel Namgay said that they managed to track him down using mobile tower location. During the interrogation the suspect had confessed to murdering the girl. Police say that the suspect has claimed that he was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol during the time of the incident.

A missing person report

Around 8 pm on May 23, the victim’s sister filed a missing person report with the police. The girl had reportedly left for Dechenphu lhakhang alone in the morning and did not return.

Search parties were deployed, and around noon on May 24, one of the search party members discovered the body of the girl along the Pamtsho-Dechencholing road concealed by leaves. On examination of the victim’s body, police discovered marks indicating strangulation and head injuries. Suspecting foul play, the body was sent to the National Referral Hospital for a post-mortem examination.

Doctor Gyan Gurung, a forensic specialist with the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology said that the cause of death was asphyxia due to ligature strangulation of the neck, coupled with choking from the gagging of the mouth with soil particles. Additionally, the report indicated traumatic brain injury resulting from blunt force on the head.

Police are still confirming if the victim was raped before she was strangulated. A DNA analysis report is awaited.