KUALA LUMPUR: A witness who testified today in the inquest into Dutch model Ivana Smit’s death last year said he found traces of cocaine, cannabis and alcohol in her body, but could not determine how long it had been in her system prior to her death.
Chemist Govinda Raj Balakersnan, 35, told the Kuala Lumpur Coroner’s Court here that there were inconclusive means of providing an exact timeframe for the two drugs, although there were high levels of it recorded in her blood and urine samples.
“I’m sorry to say Madam Coroner, but from my understanding, Ivana was taking a number of drugs before she died, regularly in fact.
“There were high levels of ethyl alcohol and THC-COOH (a metabolite of cannabis) in her body. This would not be present if she was not taking alcohol or drugs.
“I’m not sure how she got cocaine. As far as I know, it’s very rare to get in Malaysia, although it is a popular drug at the moment.
“It’s so rare even we at the Chemistry Department don’t find it (when we receive specimens to analyse),” he said when questioned by deputy public prosecutor N Joy Jothi earlier today.
Today is the seventh day of the eight-day inquest into Smit’s death on Dec 7 last year. The inquest is being conducted before coroner Mahyon Talib at the Kuala Lumpur High Court complex.
Smit’s body was found sprawled in the nude on a sixth-floor balcony at CapSquare Residences, off Jalan Dang Wangi, in Kuala Lumpur.
She is believed to have fallen from a 20th-floor condo belonging to an American-Kazakh couple she had befriended at the time.
Police had originally classified the case as sudden death, but it was re-opened this year after pressure from Smit’s family, who claimed that there were elements of foul play and a cover-up.
The inquest is to determine how Smit had died and whether there is enough evidence to eventually take the case to trial.
Govinda was the 14th witness to take the stand.
Govinda’s toxicology report stated that there was an unusually high amount of ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, in Smit’s blood and urine samples provided by the police — 77mg per ml and 101mg per ml respectively.
The report, which Govinda read out today, stated that there were traces of Benzoylecgonine and Ecgonine Methyl Ester (major metabolites of cocaine), cocaine itself, and 0.03mg per ml of THC-COOH (cannabis) in Smit’s blood.
“But I can’t say when the drugs were consumed by the deceased, sorry to say,” Govinda said when questioned by Jothi on this.
“With cannabis or cocaine, we generally can’t go back to the exact date that the drugs were first consumed, although we can identify which drug was taken and how much.”
Asked if it was safe to say Smit was relatively new to drugs, despite Govinda’s earlier comments that Smit must have been using for some time, Govinda admitted there was insufficient data at the Chemistry Department on this.
“At this time, we can’t tell you whether she was a regular drug user or not as the certified reference material we have is insufficient for quantitative analysis of cocaine and cannabis,” he told Jothi.
He later added that cocaine would usually remain in the system for about one to three days, although this would differ slightly based on factors such as the person’s metabolism rate and fitness level.
Asked by SN Nair, the lawyer holding a watching brief for the Smits, if it was possible Smit’s blood and urine samples could have been contaminated before he received it, Govinda said this was not possible as the samples he received from the police on Dec 12 were sealed.
“But I have no knowledge of this. What you are suggesting is an alteration of evidence, but I am not aware of this. All I know is I received the specimens in good condition.
“The seals were not broken,” he said.
Later, Hospital Kuala Lumpur pathologist Dr Zunaizah Hilmi, who performed the post-mortem on Smit’s body last year, testified that she carried out Smit’s autopsy at the hospital mortuary on Dec 8 at noon.
Asked why there was a delay in the post-mortem, Zunaizah said it was standard protocol to carry out the autopsy within the first 24 hours after a request had been filed in writing by the police for the hospital to examine bodies.
Smit was found dead on the afternoon of Dec 7.
Zunaizah, 30, said she requested the police investigator to provide details surrounding the death before she started her autopsy.
Asked by Jothi why she needed to do so, Zunaizah said thorough investigations by the police would “help” her when she began her autopsy.
The inquest continues tomorrow morning.
Although the inquest was originally supposed to end tomorrow, three additional days have been added next week.