Found: the missing girl who lived in the jungles of Cambodia for 19 years

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The Independent Online

A woman who disappeared in the jungles of north-eastern Cambodia as a child has apparently been found after living in the wild for 19 years.

The woman - believed to be Rochom P'ngieng, who would now be 27 years old - was described as "half-human and half-animal" by a local police chief. She cannot speak any language, so details of her saga have been difficult to confirm.

But Sal Lou, a 45-year-old villager in the Oyadao district in Rattanakiri province, where the woman was found last Saturday, said he was her father.

"When I saw her, she was naked and walking in a bending-forward position like a monkey... She was bare-bones skinny. She was shaking and picking up grains of rice from the ground to eat. Her eyes were red like tigers' eyes," he said.

Rochom P'ngieng, then eight years old, disappeared in 1988 when she was herding buffalo in a remote jungle area, Chea Bunthoeun, a local police chief, said. The province is 200 miles north-east of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh.

Sal Lou, a village policeman who is a member of the Pnong ethnic minority, said he recognised his daughter by a scar on her right arm, the result of a cut from a knife she played with when she was young.

The woman was discovered after a villager noticed that food disappeared from a lunch box he left at a site near his farm, Chea Bunthoeun said. "He decided to stake out the area and then spotted a naked human being, who looked like a jungle person, sneaking in to steal his rice," he added.

The villager finally caught the woman on 13 January.

Sal Lou said it was virtually impossible to communicate with her because she could not speak the local Pnong language. "If she is not sleeping, she just sits and glances left and right, left and right," he said.

Sal Lou said his family were watching the woman after she took off her clothes last week and acted as if she was going back into the jungle. Sal Lou, his wife and the woman are now expected to take DNA tests.

Many questions still remain unanswered about the circumstances of her disappearance.