A police investigation into a Vietnamese woman who hired a hitman to inject HIV-infected blood into the child of a love rival has been suspended after she was found to be suffering from depression.
The People’s Procuracy of Ba Ria-VungTau Province has declared the investigation of Dao Thi Thu Thao, 35, the main suspect in a recent case of "deliberate HIV transmission," suspended.
The suspension was based on the results of a psychological evaluation that confirmed Thao’s mental illness prior to and during the time of the crime.
However, suspicion has been raised on the validity of the results, as Thao was released from hospital, where she was subject to compulsory mental assessment, just two months after the suspension of the investigation, on the grounds that her illness no longer existed.
Toxic love rivalry
Thao lives in Hanoi and is a branch manager for the northern region of a company based in Ba Ria-Vung Tau.
According to a police investigation, in 2014, Thao found out that her boyfriend, who was living in Vung Tau City, had been involved in a romantic relationship with another woman.
Out of jealousy, Thao hired private detective Le Trung Linh, 32, to stalk her love rival at the cost of VND20 million (US$900) a month.
After one month, Thao paid Linh another VND20 million to acquire a sample of either the hair or nail of the woman’s child, whom Thao suspected to belong to her boyfriend.
Linh accomplished the task by playing a milk marketer and visiting the victim’s house to acquire a sample of the child’s fingernail.
In April 2015, with the intention of harming her love rival’s child, Thao paid Linh another VND240 million ($10,700) to abduct and abandon the child at a pagoda, but Linh failed to execute the plan.
In May 2015, Thao and Linh met up in Ho Chi Minh City, where the two agreed on a new plan: to inject the child with HIV-positive blood.
Linh later asked another suspect, Huynh Van The, 31, to join him on the mission.
On June 1, 2015, The bought a syringe of blood from a drug addict for VND1 million ($43) and traveled with Linh to Vung Tau the same day, with a plan in mind to inject the child with the blood at a dinner party held at the company office of the victim’s mother.
However, the plan fell through as the mother and child did not show up at the party.
Refusing to give up, Thao called Linh and The over the phone a week later asking for the men to continue with the plan.
This time, The bought another syringe of blood from an HIV-positive patient at VND200,000 ($9), before arriving and waiting with Linh at a local kindergarten that the child attends.
Upon the sight of the victim and mother, The approached the two and injected the prepared blood into the child’s right leg, before rushing away on a motorbike.
The child was immediately taken to hospital for post-exposure prophylaxis, and the most recent lab results on May 30, 2016 showed the victim HIV-negative.
Linh and The received VND120 million ($5,350) each from Thao after the crime.
Depression at play, doctors say
Thao was arrested by local police in April for her role as the mastermind behind the elaborate scheme.
However, in June, Thao’s family and her detention facility requested for a psychological evaluation of the suspect over her behavior in prison.
In August, it was concluded that Thao was under the effect of severe depression and psychosis prior to and during the course of the crime. At the time of evaluation, Thao was in "mild depression," her evaluation results read.
The results also stressed that the suspect “had no cognitive capability and control over her behaviors” currently, and at the time of the crime.
All investigations on Thao were suspended the following day after a decision issued by the provincial procuracy, which also ordered compulsory mental health treatment for the suspect.
After spending two months in the psych ward at Bien Hoa National Mental Hospital, Thao was discharged in September following a diagnosis that her conditions were “stable."
Thao has since resumed work in her previous position.
Vu Xuan Rong, deputy chief procurator at the People’s Procuracy of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Saturday that the suspension of Thao’s investigation “adhered to legal procedures,” as did her suspension from compulsory mental treatment.
In Vietnam, suspects suffering from mental illnesses at the time of the crime are not to be criminally prosecuted for their actions, said lawyer Truong Xuan Tam, who cited Vietnamese law.
However, Tam stressed that the psychological evaluation on Thao was carried out after the crime, and therefore was not evidence to determine her condition prior to and during the crime.
“The evaluation results … are deductive and subjective,” Tam said, pointing out the fact that Thao had no previous medical records proving any mental condition, and that the suspect had been going to work normally prior to the crime.
“Psychological evaluations carried out after the crime has been committed are unfounded,” Tam stressed.