Jeolla woman missing, cop is prime suspect

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Jeolla woman missing, cop is prime suspect

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Kim Dae-hwan, lead detective of the Gunsan Police Station, briefs reporters yesterday about the latest details in the case of a missing woman. [NEWSIS]

A search team looking for a missing 39-year-old woman in Gunsan, North Jeolla found clothing and underwear apparently belonging to her in a local rice paddy yesterday morning, deepening fears that she was murdered.

And the prime suspect is a 40 year-old station police sergeant surnamed Jeong from a Gunsan police precinct. According to the missing woman’s family, she is pregnant with Jeong’s child.

The woman, who is surnamed Lee, was last seen on the evening of July 24 when she left home to meet the sergeant. Her family reported her as missing the next day.

The police handed out fliers with photos of both Lee and Jeong in the four days after her disappearance.

Lee was divorced. Her family said she was meeting Jeong to discuss the pregnancy.

Jeong is married, and Lee’s family said she was trying to end the relationship with him.

Because the prime suspect is an officer, the local police are taking all leads with a grain of salt, including the discovery of the clothes in the rice paddy.

“We are still not sure whether someone deliberately put the clothing in the paddy,” said a police officer from the Gunsan Police who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“But we can’t dismiss the possibility that he put the stuff there to confuse us.”

The forces also released details of text messages exchanged between the missing woman and Jeong. One text sent to Jeong on July 24 at 12:40 p.m. read: “Don’t cancel the appointment as before. It will spoil everything.”

“The text messages between them indicate that the two met on that day,” said another source at the Gunsan Police.

The missing woman telephoned Jeong four times since April.

The police questioned Jeong on July 25 but let him free due to lack of evidence.

During the initial seven-hour questioning, Jeong denied allegations that he met Lee on the day she went missing or that they were in a relationship. He said that they were just friends.

But Jeong didn’t appear at a second interview set for July 26 and police found that he deleted records on his cell phone and fiddled with the memory card of the video recorder, a kind of “black box,” of his personal car before the investigation, reinforcing suspicions that he is linked to the disappearance of Lee.

Police managed to restore the deleted part of the memory card and found a fuzzy video clip of an unidentified man with a shovel.

The Gunsan Police also confirmed that Jeong withdrew 5 million won ($4,490) from his bank account two days before Lee went missing.

But the police have yet to confirm whether the money was spent.


BY PARK EUN-JEE AND AHN SONG-YI [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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