August 27, 2009 11:29
A month-long, widely publicized manhunt has led police to a man who says he stole the ashes of Choi Jin-sil because he was possessed by the actress' spirit. Acting on a tipoff from Daegu after more images of the suspect from CCTV footage taken near the grave were released, police on Tuesday arrested a 41-year-old man identified as Park at his home in Daegu. The man is being questioned at Yangpyeong Police Station in Gyeonggi Province.
Another suspect arrested on Monday, who telephoned Gapsan Park Cemetery several times demanding the reward money for the ashes, turned out not to be an actual thief and apparently lied because he urgently needed money, police said.
Park is suspected of destroying Choi's tomb with a hammer on Aug. 4 and stealing the urn. Police said he confessed to destroying the urn and putting the ashes in another container he kept in his room. He buried the original urn, which had Choi's name on it, near the esplanade in Daegu's Apsan Park.
Park allegedly told police he became possessed by Choi's spirit last year, and she constantly spoke to him. Police quoted him as saying the spirit asked him to take her out of her stuffy stone tomb and bury her in the soil. He said despite never having been to Yangpeyong, he found the tomb without difficulty by following "Choi's" direction.
There is no precedent for a theft of ashes, though convictions have been brought for grave robbery. Park, who works for a kitchen furniture manufacturer in Daegu, has no record of mental illness and is married with two sons. Police said he was neither an ardent fan of Choi's nor bore her any ill will.
Police have delivered the urn to Choi's mother, but it will be difficult to verify whether the returned ashes are really hers. The National Institute of Scientific Investigation and the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency rule out DNA testing as the cells were destroyed in cremation.
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