As soon as learning that his fiancée had tortured his eight-year-old daughter to death at home in Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen Trung Kim Thai removed all related images from the family camera to eliminate criminal traces, but police have recovered them to clarify what actually happened in this striking case in Vietnam.
Police of the city’s Binh Thanh District on Saturday said they had coordinated with functional agencies to restore all the videos deleted from the camera system in the apartment where the ill-fated little girl, N.T.V.A., was tortured to death by her stepmom, 26-year-old Nguyen Vo Quynh Trang on December 22, 2021.
Trang had lived with A. and the girl’s father, 36-year-old Thai, at the apartment in Binh Thanh since May 2020, a month after the man divorced his wife.
The recovered footage, which Thai had deleted after hearing Trang narrate her assaulting A., has not only provided further proof for her crime, but also showed how much he had been involved in the case, investigators said.
A day after committing the crime, Trang was arrested and prosecuted on charges of “torturing others,” following a hospital report on the unusual death of A., who had been taken to the hospital on the previous evening in a coma, accompanied by a cardiac arrest and apnea.
Doctors confirmed that the girl had died before her hospitalization.
Police have collected relevant proof from the apartment while Trang’s neighbors reported they had heard A.’s screams from there on the afternoon of December 22.
As shown in the recovered videos, from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm that day, she used a long wooden stick to hit the little girl many times in the buttocks, back, head, forehead, and chest.
She fiercely kicked the girl in different areas over the body with her feet.
Such barbarous acts caused the girl to be entirely exhausted and die later, investigators concluded.
Thai was detained eight days later on suspicion of “maltreatment or abuse of one’s grandparent, parent, spouse, child, grandchild, or caregiver,” as prescribed by the Vietnamese Penal Code.
He told police officers that Trang sometimes beat and yelled at A. while they were living together at the apartment in Binh Thanh.
His fiancée committed such acts more often since October 2020, when A. shifted to online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Thai had Trang tutor the little girl in the flat.
Trang had since repeatedly cursed at A. and brutally beat the girl with hands and feet, wooden trees, iron trees, plastic pipes, rattan whips, and others, the man said.
He admitted he had also beaten her daughter several times.
As seen in the footage, Thai applied ointment on A. after she was assaulted by Trang but took no action against the woman’s brutalization.
Thai told investigators that he did not witness Trang beating his daughter on December 22, the date of A.’s death, but he saw A. faint when he came home from work that day.
The man said he applied first aid on the girl but she remained unrecovered, so he took her to the hospital.
Before Thai’s arrest, the Vietnam Association for the Protection of Children’s Rights issued a document to local police demanding that Thai be prosecuted for not protecting his daughter from domestic violence.
The man even covered up his de facto wife’s violent acts by saying to others that they were just aimed at “educating” his daughter.
On December 11, 2021, Thai took A. to hospital for stiches over a head wound caused by Trang, but he falsely told doctors that she had been injured due to a “fall.”
Thai’s cover-up had facilitated Trang’s continued brutalization that led to the tragic death of the girl, the association concluded.
When asked why he removed the footage related to Trang’s crime, Thai said he did not want the “accident” that had happened and taken away one of his beloved ones to affect another relative of his as well, investigators said.
|A police officer of Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City is seen speaking about the case at a meeting on December 31, 2021. Photo: Son Binh / Tuoi Tre|
As seen in the recovered videos, Thai frequently witnessed Trang torturing his daughter but he did not prevent the brutalization.
He had not only acted as Trang’s accomplice but his behaviors had also constituted the offense of “concealment of crime,” according to investigators.
They emphasized that Trang’s barbarous assaults, as seen in the footage, can constitute the crime of “intentionally causing injury” or even “murder.”
The Vietnam Association for the Protection of Children’s Rights has requested that the offense of “torturing others” determined for Trang be revised appropriately since such a charge is much lighter than the crime the woman had committed.
One day before Thai’s arrest, Nguyen Thi Hanh and Nguyen Quang Vinh, the mother and the uncle of A., filed a petition to the city’s public security department and the People’s Procuracy requesting that Thai be criminally prosecuted for his cover-up of Trang’s crime that resulted in the death of the girl.
On December 30, 2021, ERA Vietnam, a Ho Chi Minh City-based real estate brokerage firm, issued a press release stating that Thai had worked there since May 2021 but the company had terminated the labor contract with him two days earlier after knowing about Thai’s involvement in the fatality.
The firm sent condolences to the family and relatives of the girl.
In addition, ERA Vietnam confirmed that Trang was recommended as a potential employee to the company by Thai in April 2021, but she failed to pass her two-month probation.
That means Trang has never been a part of ERA Vietnam, the release said.
Standing Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh has recently directed local police and authorities to strictly handle this serious case, without missing any related offenders.
The case has drawn attention from UNICEF Vietnam, whose representative Rana Flowers last Wednesday released a statement to express “its deep sadness and concern over the recent violent death of a young girl at the hands of someone who she should have been able to trust, to protect her [sic].”
Flowers emphasized that “a strengthened protection system for women and children is urgently needed in Vietnam.”
Such a system, the statement read, should consist of qualified professional social workers who can respond to the needs of children and women, should also include training for law enforcement and legal officials, such as judges, and should be centered on a zero-tolerance attitude toward violence.
On Sunday, Binh Thanh District’s police transferred all records of the death of the girl to the Ho Chi Minh City Police’s Investigation Police Agency for further investigation.