Foul play thought in man’s death

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Foul play thought in man’s death

A local team of investigators that was dispatched to the Philippines earlier this week to look into the recent killing of a 57-year-old Korean national suggested Friday that their Philippine counterparts may have downplayed the case.

The four officials from the National Police Agency said they found a number of clues to indicate that the incident may have been a contract killing, contradicting a previous statement from Philippine authorities suggesting the man had been shot in a burglary.

The statement Friday was made upon investigators’ arrival back in Seoul early Christmas morning. They left for the Philippines on Monday afternoon.

The local delegation, which consisted of a criminology expert, a professional identification expert, a weapons expert and a surveillance analyst, marked the first time the National Police Agency has ever dispatched investigators overseas to take part in a joint investigation.

Philippine police, who had been investigating the case on their own conclusions, admitted to the lapse and have broadened the scope of the investigation to track down more suspects, the Korean team said.

The victim’s acquaintances, including his wife, have become subject to the extended investigation. The victim and his wife reportedly broke up several years ago and were involved in a divorce suit over property division at the time of the killing.

The victim, a 57-year-old surnamed Cho, became the 11th Korean killed in the Philippines this year alone following his death on Sunday. The man was known to have operated a construction business in the central province of Batangas, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Manila, and was fatally shot six times by a group of four unidentified men who broke into his temporary house on the work site at around 1:30 a.m.

Cho’s maid, girlfriend and 8-month-old son were all in the house when the men stormed in. They tied each of them up with ropes and demanded money from Cho, later taking other objects, including an electric rice cooker.

Moments after they left, one returned to the house and fired six shots at Cho. Four of the bullets penetrated the body before exiting and two were still lodged in when police arrived. No one else in the house was harmed.

Philippine police previously said the crime appeared to have been a burglary, pointing out that the robbers stole some 250,000 won ($214) and several other home appliances.

The course of the investigation changed once Korean investigators discovered that the victim had been involved in an ongoing divorce suit and various financial disputes.

Korean investigators additionally found two empty cartridges and a bullet at the crime scene. CCTV footage from the site also showed that the suspects fled in a white SUV.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, PARK MIN-JE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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