Murder charge in Namgay Dolkar case hinges on key CCTV evidence

The Namgay Dolkar (24) case which had been charge sheeted to court on 1st December 2023 by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) as a murder case against 38-year-old Sonam has undergone at least three hearing so far.

A key evidence to prove it was a murder case with pre-meditated malice and not a voluntary manslaughter case is some CCTV footage of Namgay Dolkar’s movements and also of Sonam above the NPPF colony.

The OAG is arguing that there are two CCTV cameras on the stretch of the road above the NPPF colony with both facing in two directions but there is a blind spot in the middle.

The CCTV footage shows Namgay coming out of her house and walking down the street on the pavement on the road above NPPF. The footage from the other camera does not show her continuing on the road or exiting the street.

Since there was a fence there Namgay would have to have boarded a vehicle.

Within 2 minutes of Namgay leaving her house then Sonam’s car can be seen driving in the direction she went and she never exits the road on the other side on the CCTV footage which meant she entered Sonam’s car.

Even after Sonam’s car picked up Namgay, Sonam does a curious thing by pretending to wait at a point that the CCTV camera can see. He waits there for 5 to 6 minutes and then drives off.

The OAG is arguing that Sonam who frequently came to pick up and drop Namgay knew where the cameras where and their blind spot. Sonam picked up Namgay in a blind spot of the camera area and then he deliberately waited in the area where the camera is to show he waited for Namgay and then drove off as if she did not show up.

But the OAG argued that Namgay was already in the car hidden by the tinted windows of Sonam’s car.

The OAG argues that this sequence of events and planning by Sonam showed that there was pre-meditated malice and planning to kill Namgay.

This aspect and evidence of the case is important as if the OAG cannot prove that Sonam killed Namgay with prior intent and planning then it can turn into a voluntary manslaughter case with lesser sentencing.

The murder charge is a felony of the first degree with the minimum being 15 years and the maximum being life imprisonment.

Voluntary manslaughter is a felony of the second degree with a prison term ranging from a minimum of nine years to a maximum of under 15 years.

So far in the case being litigated in the Criminal Bench of the Thimphu District Court there has been an opening statement where the charges by the OAG was laid out. In a second hearing Sonam though a private law firm gave a rebuttal to which the OAG gave a rebuttal.

More hearings are expected after which the case will reach the evidence stage.

The evidence so far is stacked against Sonam as apart from the CCTV footages, changing statements to the police on his whereabouts and meeting with Namgay on the day of the murder, the OAG has one of the clearest forensic reports to date that show Namgay was violently killed before her body even hit the Thimphu Chu.

On the defence side Sonam through his lawyer who comes from a reputed private legal firm maintains his innocence stating that he and Namgay were having an affair and that she killed herself after he refused to leave his wife.

He says that he picked her up near the Post Card hotel junction road and went for a ride to Khariphu, where they drove below the road towards the bridge and parked at a parking area just before the Khariphu bridge.

Sonam claimed to the police that there Namgay tried to strangle herself with the car seat belt, and he tried to stop her and shook her. He said she then came out of the car and jumped into the river.

However, when the police initially got in touch with Sonam based on call records he changed his story three times. He first claimed to never have met her after she did not show up at a hotel he booked and so he cancelled the booking. He said on the evening of Sunday he went to Pamtsho to see his wife’s sick mother, and then he went back home to Changzamtog.

Sonam changed his story the second time when the police confronted him with CCTV evidence of his car moving towards her house and exiting Thimphu gate and coming back around 9 pm. He said he was looking for her at their dating sites since she did not turn up.

Sonam changed the story the  third time when Namgay’s body was luckily found in the swollen river which had not been able to carry her body away as her body got stuck on a log.

Sonam changed his story saying he met Namgay Dolkar at a road intersection to Postcard Dewa Hotel just around 500 meters before Khasadrapchu, and from there they went on a drive to Khariphu, where they drove below the road towards the bridge and parked at a parking area just before the Khariphu bridge.

Sonam’s suicide story about Namgay was disproved by the post mortem report which showed her death being caused due to strong pressure on the neck along with strong pressure over her mouth and that her death happened before her body even hit the water.

She had multiple bruises on her neck, jaw, upper chest, shoulder, left hand, left thigh and inner thigh, signs of smothering, and strangulation marks all showing a violent and forced death.

Namgay’s father Singye Wangchuk  and a female friend both maintain that Namgay was in a happy state of mind and she in fact had made plans to go to Kathmandu with her friend and later had plans to even go for studies to Australia.

Namgay’s father Singye Wangchuk has repeatedly said his daughter did not commit suicide and instead she was murdered by Sonam.

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