A mentally ill man has been placed in pre-trial detention for allegedly killing his 4-month-old nephew in Sdeung Chey commune of Kampong Cham province’s Cheung Prey district on March 12.

Chan Ha, deputy chief of the provincial police’s criminal bureau, identified the suspect as Lan Lek, 27. He was remanded into custody on March 14.

“Based on the medical letter supplied, he is certified to have a mental illness, so he may not be criminally responsible. But we have to follow the legal procedure,” Ha said.

According to the suspect’s account, he had come to his sister’s house and saw his nephew crying. He then attempted to console him by picking him up, but “dropped” his nephew from his grasp.

But Ha said the child should not have died if Lek merely dropped him. The autopsy revealed that the boy’s skull was fractured.

Hean Chan Raksmey, police chief of Sdeung Chey commune, said the boy’s mother, Vin Chea, had put him on a hammock and went fishing nearby. When she returned, she found her child lying on the floor, bleeding.

Subsequently, she saw the suspect run to his motorbike and drive away. She shouted for help and neigbours rushed to her aid, bringing the child to Kanthan Bopha Children’s Hospital in Phnom Penh, but the boy died on the way.

“The mother said her brother is mentally ill and has to take medication on a regular basis. But in the past four months, he had not taken the medicine,” Chan Raksmey said.