KAMPOT (Khmer Times) – For Kampot deputy prosecutor Khan Sophal, the rape case that made headlines here and in the UK is all but closed.
The crucial evidence exonerating British national Nick Laycock of the charge filed against him by a 22-year-old British tourist was CCTV footage taken at Arcadia Backpackers guesthouse on the night the incident – August 21.
After the young woman who filed the charge saw the video, she decided to drop the charge, Mr. Sophal said. “She saw the video and realized that she did not have full consciousness during that time, and she decided to drop the case.”
“In the video footage, she is wearing a sexy dress, dancing and going wild. She must have been embarrassed seeing it,” Mr. Sophal explained.
“Luckily the guy had the video, without it he would have been locked up,” Mr. Sophal said. He added, however, that if new evidence about the charge was uncovered, the case could be reopened.
That, however, is unlikely. Mr. Laycock and the young woman who accused him of rape are no longer in Cambodia. They have reportedly returned to the UK.
Mr. Sophal did confirm that police officers took the complaint from the young woman at a hospital where she was being treated for injuries she said were sustained in a violent rape.
“On August 21 we received information from Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital about the young woman being raped and hospitalized there,” he said. “She showed the police the suspect’s face and told them where he was. Then, we arrested him,” he added.
The deputy prosecutor declined, however, to show a copy of a written statement by the young woman recanting her statement, saying reporters had no right to request it.
The rape allegations were reported in local media as well as in Britain, with the country’s most widely circulated tabloid, the Daily Mail, reporting the case after Mr. Laycock was released from a two-day stint in jail.
It also uploaded snippets of video footage on its website – which Arcadia management had described as “overwhelming evidence” of Mr. Laycock’s innocence – along with captions summarizing the scenes.
The report accompanying the video, however, did not mention that one other woman has alleged that Mr. Laycock raped her, even though she had contacted the Daily Mail about this, according to an email obtained by Khmer Times.
Other reports of sexually aggressive behaviour against women by Mr. Laycock have also been received by Khmer Times.
The Daily Mail also quoted the owner of Arcadia Guesthouse as saying he was “furious” with the British embassy who he claimed had offered “no support, to either the young woman or Nick.” The paper apparently neglected to verify this statement.
Embassy Weighs In
“We don’t write rebuttals in response to media reports and accusations,” a diplomat with the British Embassy here told Khmer Times on Monday. “But in this case, we feel it’s required.”
UK embassy officials had provided consular assistance “on several separate occasions” to all parties following the alleged crime. “We also liaised with the police, prosecutors and guesthouse owners to gather information,” he said.
He told Khmer Times that the allegation that the embassy did nothing was false. When asked about this, one co-owner of Arcadia – who spoke on condition that he not be named – said the embassy was biased in its handling of the case.
The diplomat also strongly rebutted claims made by management at Arcadia to Khmer Times that embassy staff “told” the young woman to drop the charge against Mr. Laycock. (A co-owner of the guesthouse subsequently denied that he or any staff made these claims to Khmer Times.)
“No consular official working for the British Foreign Office anywhere in the world would say that,” the diplomat said. “We have strict protocols and methods in place with regards to what we can and can’t do and can and can’t say in these cases,” he explained.
“Whether the consular official is in another country or in London, it doesn’t matter, it simply wouldn’t have happened.”
The diplomat said he could not directly comment on many specifics due to confidentiality of those involved. However, he said that if a British national sought assistance from an embassy after a traumatic experience it could arrange to have the individual flown home.
“On occasions where a customer is considered vulnerable, due to their personal circumstances, local conditions or a combination of the two, we may go further by providing logistical support in helping them return to the UK,” he said.
“We consider that someone is vulnerable when they cannot protect themselves from significant physical or emotional harm, or be protected by others,” he explained.
“Victims of rape and other forms of sexual assault… are almost always treated as vulnerable,” he added.
Video Gaps and Other Allegations
A British police source, who asked not to be named, reviewed the CCTV footage and concluded that while the snippets appear to show the young woman involved in consensual interactions with Mr. Laycock initially, there is a gap of almost 20 minutes.
“If this were a case in the United Kingdom, it would be kept open and investigated further by specialist detectives,” he said. “But without further evidence and the lack of conclusive forensics, for example, it would be very difficult to prosecute.”
“The video casts some doubt on the alleged victim’s initial allegation, but it’s inconclusive,” he said.
A third woman, however, has come forward with allegations the Mr. Laycock was sexually aggressive towards her, after a second woman alleged last week that he had raped her.
“I met Nicholas when I was there with my friends,” the young Scandinavian woman who stayed at Arcadia a few months ago said.
“I was his target that night. He suggested to me to drink a couple of beers and to show me around, he was drunk and very pushy.”
“I thought the guy was so weird, and didn’t want to let me go. I tried to stay friendly to him since he seemed to not like rejection very well. He was very drunk and very into having sex and putting his hands on me.”
At one point she attempted to “push him to get him to let me go.” “He made me feel worried, I was afraid of him. I thought he might try and force me to have sex with him.”
She said she was lucky that she sober, “in control of the situation” and that her friends were looking for her. “They shouted my name and I told him I have to go.”
A co-owner of Arcadia Backpackers – who spoke on condition that his name not be used – said they had “never gotten any complaints” from women staying there about Mr. Laycock.
When asked about his criminal record for grievous bodily harm and wounding in the UK, management responded; “It’s not a big deal to be arrested. He’s a good guy, a good worker and now all this happens and he’s got to leave.”
He also said the UK embassy was partly to blame for the arrest. “All in all, the British embassy were of no help at all to Nick,” he said. They only supported the girls, he added. “The girls spoke to the British Embassy and then the British Embassy forced the police to act. That’s what happened at the start and he got arrested straight away,” he added.
“The girls were told to stay in Kampot by the prosecutor, but instead they went to Phnom Penh to hang out at the British Embassy,” he added.
The co-owner also brushed off the allegations from other women: “Another girl coming out with another story? Probably another girl who fell [while] walking back to her room.”
“Our efforts are going into moving on to a positive future. I’ve got a business to run. If my business gets tarnished by this [expletive] then we’ve got a lot of people who lose their jobs. That’s what I’m more concerned about.”
“We all look out for each other… We don’t protect rapists here,” he said. Additional Reporting by James Reddick and Pav Suy