An internal audit has found failings in the police investigation of a woman’s alleged murder of her ex-husband in May on Jeju Island, the National Police Agency said Sunday.
Police said internal auditors filed a report with the investigation bureau listing inadequacies in the investigation of the murder of a 36-year-old Jeju man surnamed Kang. His former wife Koh Yu-jeong is accused in his murder.
The police agency formed a fact-finding committee on July 2 to review the investigation as public denouncement over the police response grew.
Jeju Dongbu Police Station in Ido-dong, Jeju City (Kim Arin/The Korea Herald)
A petition posted June 26 on the official Cheong Wa Dae website called for disciplinary measures against Jeju police for inadequate handling of the case. The petition had earned 19,779 signatures as of Sunday morning.
Three divisions at the Jeju Dongbu Police Station -- the detective division, identification division and women and juvenile affairs division -- which were on the case for two weeks before it was referred to prosecutors on June 12, were audited.
Auditors said police failed to preserve the crime scene.
The police did not cordon off the murder site, a vacation rental home in Jocheon-eup, located 20 kilometers northeast of Jeju City. They also permitted the home’s owner to clean up after the preliminary investigation, reducing the possibility of collecting any remaining evidence.
An official at Jeju Dongbu Police Station told The Korea Herald that police did not tape off the area as they had rented the entire house for about 10 days, leaving little to no likelihood of outside interference. He also said investigation was kept low-key due to complaints by the town’s residents, causing police to inspect the place in plain clothes. He, however, admitted the cleanup of the site by the owner should have been held off.
The audit also noted a failure in acquiring key evidence during a search of Koh’s home on June 1. Police left out sedative-hypnotic drug zolpidem, believed to have been used in the crime, which was later handed to police by the suspect’s current husband. This is possibly due to limitations in the scope of the search allowed by the court warrant, auditors added.
Auditors found no mishandling in police’s procurement of CCTV footage, which had been raised as a point of contention.
Police did not get their hands on the private security footage at a house near the murder site until the victim’s brother made a request for it on May 29. However, police reviewed the public surveillance cameras installed in the streets following the protocol on a missing person search, auditors said.
The auditors viewed as justifiable the police conducting their investigation as a missing person search in the first three days, as initial clues lacked criminal possibilities.
The internal audit team conducted the probe for five days, during which it met with the victim’s family, surveyed the scenes of the incident and examined the timeline of police action.
A division chief at Jeju Dongbu Police Station said while the audit was carried out properly as per manual, a third party should have conducted it for public to have confidence in the results. He also added he sees administrative measures against police officials who took charge of investigation as “unlikely.”
The police agency said the audit results are not final, as verification procedures remain.
Koh’s pretrial proceedings are slated for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Jeju District Court, with the victim’s remains yet to be found.
By Kim Arin (firstname.lastname@example.org