An appeals court in Korea on Tuesday found a Sri Lankan man accused of raping a South Korean college student not guilty, citing a lack of evidence, the Yonhap news agency reported.
The Daegu High Court acquitted the 49-year-old, identified only by the initial K, of charges that he sexually assaulted and robbed 18-year-old student Chung Eun-hee, who later died in a car accident right after the crime in 1998.
While the case was concluded as a mere accident at that time, prosecutors launched another investigation in 2011 as K’s DNA was found to match that of the semen found in Chung’s underwear.
Two alleged accomplices returned to Sri Lanka in 2001 and 2005, respectively.
The court, however, said there was not enough evidence to verify that the suspect committed the crime.
“The key witness’ testimony that he heard the specifics of the crime from an accomplice is not admissible and even if it is, it lacks credibility,” said Judge Lee Beom-kyun.
Lee pointed out that it is hard to believe that the suspect who did not have close relations with the witness would have told the person details of the crime.
While acknowledging the possibility that the suspects could have sexually abused the victim, the judge said they cannot be punished because the statute of limitations for rape has expired.
Prosecutors said they will appeal the case to the Supreme Court.