Ivana inquest: Police witness rapped for ‘not doing good job’

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KUALA LUMPUR: A police witness who testified today in the inquest into Dutch model Ivana Smit’s death last year was criticised in the Coroner’s Court for “not doing a good job” during the initial crime scene investigation.

Earlier, Bukit Aman forensics officer Yam Tze Yong, the 17th witness to take the stand, said no police tapes were used to cordon off the condo balcony where Smit had fallen from when he was checking for footprints on Dec 14.

Yam also said forensics officers in his team did not cover their feet with plastic before stepping on the balcony – including himself – nor did they dust the whole balcony for footprints, only the areas they could make out imprints.

SN Nair, the lawyer holding a watching brief for Smit’s family, said during his examination of Yam that his testimony proved that a number of internationally recognised “good practices” for crime scene work were not followed by the police in Smit’s case.

“You should have put the magnetic powder you used to dust for the visible footprints all over the balcony. You did not cover your shoes with plastic before you went to the crime scene either.

“This is good practice, don’t you agree?” Nair asked Yam.

Yam, 38, said he dusted for footprints for the “most part”, but admitted he might have missed some prints.

“You only dusted what you saw,” Nair reminded Yam. “You could have missed other prints that were not visible to the naked eye, correct?” Nair asked again, to which Yam agreed once more.

Yam also said he did not wear shoes when he stepped onto the crime scene, or wrap his feet with plastic.

Today is the tenth day of the inquest into Smit’s death on Dec 7 last year.

Smit’s nude body was found sprawled on a sixth floor balcony at CapSquare Residences shortly after 2pm that day.

She is believed to have fallen earlier in the day from a 20th floor condo which belonged 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 Smit’s family claimed 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.

Yam said he found six sets of footprints on the 20th floor condo balcony, but was unable to determine who the prints belonged to or if they were of six different individuals or one, although one sample was swabbed for DNA profiling.

He said he did not know what the DNA profiling revealed as he was not the officer tasked to handle this, and added that it had been sent to the lab for testing.

Asked why DNA samples were not taken from all six footprints, Yam said swabbing them would have “destroyed and contaminated” the prints, to which Nair chuckled and said sampling would never “spoil” imprints as Yam suggested.

“This was a misjudgement on your part, don’t you agree? You failed to do this (a good job for DNA sampling).

“Is this a good or bad practice here?” Nair asked Yam, but Yam did not respond.

“It’s not good to not answer in court,” Nair said and continued with his examination of the witness.

Yam also said that no measurements of the balcony were recorded by the police forensics and crime scene units, and could not confirm if notes were taken from that day as he was not tasked to do so.

He agreed with Nair that the crime scene was not secured by the police as it was not cordoned off, but did not comment further.

This was also relayed to the court by a previous police witness who testified in the inquest earlier this month.

Yam, who holds a Master’s in Forensic Science and has about 11 years of experience working in the police force, told the court he was not sure if the footprints could have been planted at the scene.

He said many factors were at play for the depth and shape of the footprints he found, and could not answer deputy public prosecutor N Joy Jothi’s questions on whether some of the deeply imprinted footprints were caused by carrying a heavy weight.

The inquest continues this afternoon.