Police officer denies he was unfair in his probe into Smit’s death

Model Ivana Smit, 18, had fallen to her death from 20th-floor condo unit in KL on Dec 7 last year. (Instagram pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A family lawyer for Dutch model Ivana Smit told the inquest into her death at the Coroner’s Court here today that the investigating officer (IO) and police tasked with handling the case were adamant it was a suicide.

SN Nair, who is holding a watching brief for Smit’s family, claimed IO Faizal Abdullah from the Dang Wangi district police headquarters and the police force had the “preconceived” idea from the beginning that there was nothing to indicate Smit’s death was a homicide.

Investigating officer Faizal Abdullah says there was no evidence of criminal elements.

Nair today wrapped up his witness examination of Faizal this afternoon at the inquest’s 21st and last day. The inquest is to determine how Smit died on Dec 7, 2017.

Nair told Coroner Mahyon Talib there was “sufficient evidence” it was a murder.

“In my opinion, based on all the evidence, I wish to tell you there is sufficient and reasonable evidence for the IO to have converted (the police’s sudden death report or SDR) to a homicide investigation.

“The police would then have been able to hold back the couple (Alex Johnson and Luna Almaz) and, if satisfied, only then let them go.

“They could have even gone further (with the investigations). But now, the couple have flown out of the country.”

An SDR is usually opened by the police when the deceased is believed to have died due to natural causes. Investigation papers (IPs), on the other hand, are more general and take into consideration other causes of death, such as murder or foul play.

Nair, a former IO himself, rapped Faizal for letting American-Kazakh couple Alex and Luna leave the country. The couple were the last ones who saw Smit alive and had hosted her in their 20th-floor condo unit at CapSquare Residences in the city centre on the morning of Dec 7, the day she died.

They are now said to be in the United States.

‘No criminal elements’

When asked by deputy public prosecutor N Joy Jothi why he disagreed with Nair’s contention that Dang Wangi police had the preconceived notion that the case was not a murder, Faizal, 38, said no criminal elements had emerged from the evidence.

“According to the 58 or 59 witness statements, evidence and everything else, we found no criminal elements. That’s why we continued to investigate this case as an SDR,” Faizal, who has 14 years experience as a police officer, explained.

Asked by Jothi if he was instead “siding with anybody”, including the Johnsons, based on his testimony so far in the court, which seemingly painted him as being biased, Faizal said: “Honestly, no. I am not siding with anyone and any parties.”

To this, Jothi reminded Faizal that he has since been unable to give a straight yes or no answer to some of the questions from her and Nair. This “prompted” Nair to state that the police were “probably preconceived” about Smit’s death being a suicide.

“That’s why… he (Nair) questioned your integrity,” Jothi said.

To this, Faizal said: “Your Honour, the investigations carried out were not only done by me. Many others were involved in this case from the bottom up to even the (Dang Wangi police district) chief.

“Even the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) knows about this case, I think. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad asked about this case after the general election,” Faizal said, referring to the prime minister.

According to Faizal, the Dutch government and Mahathir were briefed by the IGP.

He said he would never have been successful in hiding evidence as both governments were keeping a close eye on the case, Faizal said.

“Maybe I could hide it if I wanted to if there were no witness statements. In this case, no,” he said, reiterating his stance. “That’s why the police requested to have this inquest for us to prove (the presence of) criminal elements or otherwise.”

‘Truth of the case’

Nair then told Faizal the fact that the prime minister was keeping tabs on this case had no relation to the “truth of the case”. Faizal said he brought it up to make his point that there was no chance for the police to take sides with so much attention on this case.

“If I hid something or did something not right, it would affect me. Maybe I would not be here then,” he said.

Police had originally classified the case as sudden death and an accident, but an inquest was ordered this year due to pressure from Smit’s family who claimed there were elements of foul play and a cover-up by the police.

‘No official request from Dutch’

On why the Dutch government was not part of the police investigation despite them offering to assist, Faizal said they did not make a formal request to do this, only a verbal request.

Asked if he was aware the Dutch police asked the police to carry out their own post-mortem of Smit’s body, Faizal said there was no official request from them.

The Malaysian and Dutch pathologists tasked with the case have since disagreed on how Smit died.

Nair also told Faizal the second autopsy was done in The Netherlands eventually after Smit’s body was repatriated as they had better technologies and were more adept at the science of dating injuries.

On a police reenactment of Smit’s death at CapSquare on Jan 4 this year, Nair told Faizal it was “a waste of time” given that the dummy used was not the exact weight of Smit but 5kg more than her weight of 60kg. Faizal didn’t agree with this.

Meanwhile, on a contention that the 20th-floor condo was unlocked for a reason when the police showed up on Dec 7, Faizal said he disagreed with the theory by Nair that Alex and Luna were “pretending” to be asleep to maintain their innocence.

He also explained that the door was first locked, and later unlocked when the police arrived. Luna opened the door on the first knock and left it unlocked when she went back to sleep.

Nur Maisara Makha Abdullah, the maid, only had an access card to the elevators in the building but not a key to the 20th-floor condo unit, he said. That was why the door was also sometimes unlocked, he explained, which he added was not odd.

Today was the last day of the inquest, originally earmarked for only eight days in August. It has stretched to well over five months.

Both Jothi and Nair now have until Dec 21 to submit their written submissions to Mahyon. A decision will be reached by her on Jan 22.

Mahyon said she will need time to go through all exhibits before making a ruling on Smit’s death. This can be a suicide, homicide, a misadventure or an open verdict.

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