Suspect held in 1998 rape of student

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Suspect held in 1998 rape of student

After pleas becoming more desperate over the course of 15 years, the parents of a woman who was killed after having been hit by a truck succeeded in having the case reopened. As a result, prosecutors have now indicted a suspect on rape charges.

The Daegu District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday they had indicted a 46-year-old Sri Lankan on charges of participating in the gang rape of the 19-year-old college student on Oct. 17, 1998, in a rural area of Dalseo District, Daegu.

Prosecutors said three Sri Lankans, in Korea as industrial trainees, saw the victim on her way home from school. They raped the woman, a first-year nursing student at a college in Daegu, and fled the scene. The girl staggered for about 100 meters (328 feet) down a road before she was struck and killed by a large truck.

During the initial investigation, the police discovered a pair of panties near the accident site. Forensic experts examined the underwear and concluded that there were traces of semen on it.

But puzzlingly, the police decided that the underwear did not belong to the victim; they decided that the panties were too old and threadbare to have belonged to the victim. They wrapped up the matter as an automobile accident, saying the woman had wandered in front of the truck.

There things stood, until pressure from the victim’s parents became too strong to resist. The couple had bombarded the Blue House with pleas, and set up a Web site devoted to their daughter and the mysterious circumstances of her death.

Investigators obtained DNA from the semen traces on the panties and began searching for a suspect in the DNA database of people convicted of sexual crimes. It took less than four months to find a match, allegedly the 46-year-old suspect from Sri Lanka who now runs a grocery store for foreigners in Daegu. Prosecutors said they had the suspect’s DNA because he had been convicted in 2010 of paying a teenager to have sex.

The suspect, whose identity was withheld by the prosecutors, entered the country in 1996 as a trainee and has been married to a Korean woman since 2002, the authorities said.

“The suspect had over 320 photos of nude women on his cell phone,” said Lee Hyung-taek, the prosecutor leading the case. The investigators said the other two alleged rapists are now in Sri Lanka, a country that has no extradition treaty with South Korea. They are considering their next steps in an attempt to have the men returned here for trial.


BY KIM YUN-HO [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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