Seven years ago, on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2014, Siem Reap resident and Canadian expat Dave Walker walked out of his room at the Green Village Angkor Guesthouse and was never seen alive again, creating a whodunit mystery that remains unsolved today.
Well, in most people’s minds anyway.
Ten weeks after his disappearance, on May 1 that year, Walker’s badly decomposed body was found near the Angkor Thom Victory Gate, and autopsy details released to date reveal no clear cause of death.
But now, one of the many people who ‘investigated’ Walker’s death says there is no mystery.
Walker’s long time Canadian friend Peter Vronsky, a prolific author and “historian of pathological serial homicide,” assiduously and aggressively delved into the Walker case, maintaining a detailed website.
In February 2015, a year after Walker’s disappearance, Vronsky, told Khmer Times: “My belief is that there are multiple circumstances that could have led to Dave Walker’s death by foul play. But knowing Dave for 20 years, there is a very good chance that Dave fled those circumstances to avoid their escalation and might have died of natural causes that afternoon while avoiding a confrontation, perhaps even from the stress of the looming hostility.
“We just don’t have any substantial clues or evidence. Nothing but rumour,” he adds.
Now he says the killer is a Khmer man who had close business dealings with Walker.
“Not really an Ellery Queen ‘whodunit’ mystery here,” Vronsky told Khmer Times last week. “There is no search for answers as to who murdered Dave, because it had been patently obvious since the day he disappeared.”
Vronsky bases his theory largely on the behavior of his main suspect on the day Walker disappeared, being the first to raise a hue-and-cry about not being able to find Walker. But Vronsky’s evidence is circumstantial and the suspect himself may have spoken up because, as he later told investigators, he had warned Walker on several occasions not to do business with certain criminal elements in town. And, as it emerged, Walker was not shy of mixing it with the rougher trade in life.
Walker’s known CV as such is intriguing in itself. He served briefly as a Toronto Police constable, then joined the British Army serving in Northern Ireland fighting the Provisional IRA.
Following this, he became a private investigator in Canada, and worked with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service identifying Khmer Rouge members who had sought refuge in Canada. He also began travelling to Southeast Asia. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he apparently trained Karen National Liberation Army insurgents, worked as a movie fixer among other things, and in 1998, coedited a book of Bangkok bar girl letters with Richard S Ehrlich, a renowned US journalist based in Bangkok.
In 2009 Walker returned to Cambodia and was involved in several projects including planning a movie. But Vronsky, while investigating the case, discovered his friend was not quite the person he thought he knew.
“I did not know the full extent of his recent relationship with the Hells Angels, although I knew he was contemplating ‘striking’ with them, but in the end chose not to at the urging of a former Hells Angels sergeant-at-arms, who later turned out to be a police agent,” he says.
“I did not know the extent and scope of his outlaw cannabis grow-op [cultivation] business here in Canada, when we were hanging out together, in the years before it was legalised here in Canada,” he adds. “What I did not know, was that Dave at the time had purchased an entire house outside of Toronto, and was operating a factory-sized grow-op in it.”
“It was only at Dave’s wake in Toronto after his body had been found, when near the end of the night, some Hells Angels and associates came to pay their respects, that I learned of Dave’s grow-op and heard their stories about Dave. I realised how little I knew of all the different secret lives that my friend Dave led.”
Vronsky also noted that while Walker may not have fully been who appeared to be, the same applied to the gaggle of unofficial investigators who emerged , some claiming to be Walker’s friends and some creating a circus, tripping over each other’s evidence.
“It was something out of a Graham Greene novel,” Vronsky said. “It was quite a cast of often dysfunctional characters, many with their own agendas, sometimes helpful to the investigations, sometimes an obstacle, but always never being what they appeared to be,” he says.
“The slimiest of all characters turned out to be the burned-out husk of a former American journalist… who wreaked havoc with unfounded and obstructionist conspiracy theories, and made claims that he knew Dave was being held captive and where and that ‘my’ investigation was endangering Dave’s life. It was a horrible feeling, not knowing whether this was true or not, fearing that everything I was doing was making Dave’s possible captivity worse, rather than helping him. But apparently, Dave had been dead since the day of his disappearance,” he adds.
Another character was Siem Reap resident and supposed artist James An, aka Su Jia, who later turned out to be Australian fugitive, Guido James Eglitis, a conman who was subsequently jailed in Cambodia before returning to Australia and jailed again.
Eglitis was investigating a wealthy Australian pedophile who was suspected of involvement in Australia’s biggest unsolved mystery, the 1966 disappearance the ‘Beaumont children’, three children from the same family who vanished while at the beach.
Eglitis also turned his hand to investigating Walker’s disappearance, feeding information to Vronsky who acknowledged that Eglitis “did some very heavy lifting,” securing a suspect’s bank details and other documentation.
But all to no avail as the Walker case remains unsolved.
“Dave was a great guy, an outlaw with a golden heart, much loved by his many friends,” Vronsky said. “My biggest regret is that Dave didn’t live long enough to unleash his sense of humour on the Trump presidency and the legalisation of recreational cannabis in Canada. I think he would have had a field day with both. We all miss Dave Walker.”