KUALA LUMPUR: A witness testifying in the inquest into Ivana Smit’s death last year told the Coroner’s Court today that she was “clueless” as to what she was supposed to do with some of the Dutch model’s clothes handed to her for DNA testing.
Dang Wangi police sergeant Haliza Hamdan, the initial investigating officer (IO) for the case, testified that she instead took these items and some of Smit’s personal belongings to her office and gave them to the deceased’s family when she met them later.
Asked by deputy public prosecutor N Joy Jothi why these were not sent for DNA testing as she had done with other items she mentioned previously, including bathrobes and pieces of glass found at the scene, Haliza said it was “not her job”.
She said she was not instructed to do anything else by ASP Faizal Abdullah, who later became the IO for the case, except to take from him Smit’s belongings, which included her ID, a white blouse, miniskirt, branded wallet and purse, and some small cash.
Jothi rapped Haliza for this blunder and asked why she did not have the “foresight” to consider these items as evidence, saying they should have been sent to the Forensics Department that day.
“As the IO, how could you not understand that this was material evidence? These are clothing items. Why did you give it to the parents before testing them? Don’t you think you should have taken these to the Forensics Department?” Jothi asked Haliza.
When Haliza responded again that this was not what Faizal had asked her to do, Coroner Mahyon Talib chimed in to remind her that she was the IO for the case at the time, not Faisal. Both Jothi and Mahyon then demanded an explanation.
Asked again if this was expected from an IO handling a high-profile case and whether these items were considered by Haliza to be “important evidence”, she replied in the affirmative and explained that she “just didn’t know” where to send them for DNA testing.
“I didn’t know where to send them. I brought the items to my office to check them, then I put them under lock and key and on Dec 9, gave them to the deceased’s family and next-of-kin,” she repeated.
She said the items seized and sent for sampling previously were found at the 20th floor condo from where Smit is believed to have jumped. The other items given to her by Faizal were handed to her at his office, she said, adding that she didn’t think much of it at the time.
Asked once more by Jothi if this meant she was clueless as to what should be done when receiving and processing evidence for sampling, Haliza replied that that was the case, to which Mahyon, shaking her head, remarked that it was quite peculiar of her to say so.
Earlier, Haliza told the court that she had travelled by motorbike when transferring the specimens she had received from Faisal to the Chemistry Department for sampling on the day Smit was found dead.
Asked by Mahyon why she had not taken a police car instead, given that she had several items to transport, Haliza explained that the cars needed to be booked in advance, and admitted that she had not done so for that day.
She also said she had placed most of the smaller items in her handbag, while the other larger sealed specimens were kept “in the basket”.
She added that on Dec 8 last year, one day after Smit’s death, she was in the Dang Wangi police station from 6pm to 11pm to assist in taking down statements from witnesses involved in the case. She said she did not leave at any point.
However, later Haliza said she went out for dinner briefly during that time, causing Jothi to tell her off for contradicting herself under oath. Jothi also told Haliza to be upfront with her testimony.
“Remember, this is not a trial. There is no right and wrong. We are just concerned with finding out the facts of this case, so please help us get your facts in order for the court to make an informed decision,” Jothi said.
Haliza testified that she had also arranged for Smit’s parents to come to the Hospital Kuala Lumpur morgue to identify Smit’s body, but said there was a brief commotion at the police station later when they came to give their statements.
This was because there was no Dutch interpreter available for them, and the Dutch embassy did not return Haliza’s calls that day to ask for a translator to be sent over as it was a weekend.
The parents were adamant on this and refused to give their statement until then, she said.
Today is the 14th day of the inquest.
Smit fell on the afternoon of Dec 7 last year from a 20th floor condo belonging to an American-Kazakh couple she had befriended at the time, Alex Johnson and Luna Almaz.
The police originally classified the case as sudden death, but it was re-opened this year after pressure from Smit’s family who claimed there were elements of foul play and cover up.
The inquest is underway to determine the facts and events leading up to Smit’s death and whether there is enough evidence to reopen the case and eventually bring it to trial.
The inquest continues later this afternoon with Haliza taking the stand once more.
She will be examined this time by SN Nair, the lawyer holding a watching brief for the Smits.
Haliza is the 20th witness to testify.
Smit moved to Malaysia when she was three years old and lived for 13 years in Penang with her paternal grandparents.
Her body was repatriated to the Netherlands where she was laid to rest in her birth town of Roermond on Dec 30 amid international coverage and scrutiny.