A Nepalese man has been convicted for the murder of a young American woman who stayed at his house in Pokhara, Nepal, after seeing his profile on Couchsurfing.com, a website that connects people looking for free lodging with hosts willing to take in lodgers. Twenty-five-year-old Dahlia Yehia had decided to spend the money she’d saved from working as an art teacher to travel for a few months throughout Southeast Asia.
After a successful trip to Thailand, Yehia left for Nepal with the hope of volunteering in a country still reeling from the 2015 earthquake that killed 9,000 people and left 2.8 million homeless. Upon completing her volunteer work, she left for Pokhara where she planned to stay with Narayan Paudel, now 32, a Couchsurfing user rated highly by other users — Paudel was even featured in a Nepali Times article on Couchsurfing in 2014.
Shortly afterwards, Yehia dropped off the radar. Yehia’s family reached out to Apple, who tracked her phone only to discover that someone had inserted a new SIM card into Yehia’s phone weeks after Yehia had gone missing. The new SIM card, it turned out, was registered to Paudel.
Police arrested Paudel for theft of the phone. After initially insisting that he didn’t know where Yehia had gone, Paudel admitted that he had “[thrown] her from the bridge.” Questioned further, Paudel admitted that he had smashed her in the forehead with a hammer while she slept, stuffed her corpse into a burlap sack used for storing rice, and dumped the body into the nearby river, police said.
After a bizarre series of events that included accusations of torture against the police and an alleged suicide attempt by Paudel, DNA evidence would identify blood found in Paudel’s apartment as belonging to Yehia. Paudel was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in early July. Yehia’s body is still missing.
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