Police couldn’t detain American-Kazakh duo for long, says cop in Ivana case

Luna Almaz (left) and Alex Johnson were detained for eight days after Smit’s death.

KUALA LUMPUR: A police witness told the inquest into Ivana Smit’s death last year that the couple who last saw the Dutch model alive could not be detained much longer while the authorities were awaiting the reports of various investigations.

Faizal Abdullah, a senior investigating officer (IO) from the Dang Wangi district police headquarters, confirmed that American-Kazakh couple Alex Johnson and Luna Almaz were detained for eight days following Smit’s death.

Faizal Abdullah.

Their urine tested positive for drugs and they were subsequently charged for drug use, Faizal said.

However, immediately after the toxicology, DNA and post mortem reports from Smit’s case were released earlier this year, Alex, Luna and their daughter left the country.

They are currently reported to be in the United States.

They have not shown up in the Coroner’s Court to testify despite an order for a subpoena to be issued. The duo have expressed concern about testifying here.

Smit’s family has questioned the police’s decision to free Alex and Luna, who hosted the girl on the morning of Dec 7, 2017 at their condo.

SN Nair, the lawyer holding a watching brief for the Smit family, asked why Alex and Luna were not detained longer after some of the reports implicated them, such as the final DNA report.

Faizal, 38, who has 14 years of service in the police force, said the investigation, which was reopened this year after allegations of foul play and police cover-up by Smit’s family, did consider all three reports but concluded the case was sudden death.

On Nair’s remark that Alex and Luna should have been remanded pending the release of the three reports, Faizal said: “The incident happened in December. Do I hold them for three months?”

The first of the three reports was finished by March 15, 2018. The Johnson family left Malaysia on March 29, 2018.

Smit, 18, is believed to have fallen from a 20th floor CapSquare Residence condo off Jalan Dang Wangi in the city centre belonging to Alex and Luna sometime in the afternoon of Dec 7. She was found in the nude on a sixth-floor unit balcony.

Drugs were found in her system.

The police originally classified the case as sudden death and an accident.

The inquest, now in its 20th day, is to determine how she died – whether it was suicide, accident, homicide or murder.

Faizal said when the sudden death report (SDR) was opened following a 999 distress call about the death, there was no evidence to show criminal elements were involved.

Investigations later showed there were normal elements, he told coroner Mahyon Talib.

To this, Nair reminded Faizal that Dang Wangi police sergeant Haliza Hamdan, the original IO in the case, previously testified that she opened a SDR after being instructed by a superior officer prior to the investigation.

Faizal said this was Haliza’s testimony and he could not confirm nor deny if this was what happened.

He reiterated his stance on the need for an SDR during the initial stage of any investigation. To this, Nair said this was a “ludicrous policy” that is “utterly illogical”.

“My contention is the decision was made by your department without an investigation taking place (first to determine the criminal elements).

“The order was made… to the sergeant (Haliza) to investigate this under an SDR from the beginning,” Nair said.

Faizal said he disagreed with this.

He also denied that it was the department policy to open only SDR reports, clarifying an IP would be opened if the police could prove elements of criminal nature were present, unlike the Smit case, he said.

Nair, a former police officer himself, then told the court that the current police standard for opening an SDR “caused problems today” in the Smit case.

He insisted all sudden deaths be treated as homicides in the beginning, to which Faizal disagreed again.

The inquest is expected to end tomorrow after five months of hearing.

Faizal, the last of 22 witnesses, will continue being examined by Nair.

Smit moved to Malaysia when she was three and lived for 13 years in Penang with her grandparents. Her body was repatriated to the Netherlands where she was buried in her birth town this year.