Questions remain over model Ivana Smit’s death

Dutch model Ivana Smit was found dead on a balcony of a condominium in Kuala Lumpur.(Instagram pic)

PETALING JAYA: A year ago today, Dutch model Ivana Smit was found dead on a balcony of a condominium in Kuala Lumpur.

Her death hogged headlines after it was revealed that the 18-year-old model was found in the nude at about 3pm on the balcony of a sixth-floor CapSquare Residence unit off Jalan Dang Wangi – 14 storeys below where she had spent the night.

Salacious details of threesomes and frequent drug use added to the intrigue.

Police initially classified the case as sudden death, to the dismay of her family.

Smit had stayed at the home of American businessman Alex Johnson and his Kazakh wife Luna Almaz on the 20th floor. Almaz claimed that she had sex with Smit on the day the model died. The couple also claimed that they had occasional intercourse with her.

The couple said they first met Smit at a nightclub on Oct 31 last year, and even arranged overnight babysitting for their daughter so they could spend time together with Smit at a 5-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

The Johnsons said they were out at a nightclub with her on the night of Dec 6. Footage shows the trio returning to the condominium in a drunken state.

The following morning, on Dec 7, Almaz claimed she had gone out to send her daughter to school, returning home at 8.15am. She and Smit then proceeded to have intercourse, and Almaz said she went to sleep at 10.15am.

She told the UK’s Daily Mail that when she woke up some three hours later, she saw Smit’s belongings in the house, but did not see her around. She assumed that the model had gone for a photoshoot.

However, she and her husband were shocked when later that afternoon, police informed them that Smit, who moved to Malaysia when she was three and lived for 13 years in Penang with her grandparents, had been found dead.

An inquest was ordered after pressure from Smit’s family, who claimed that there were elements of foul play.

A post-mortem by Dutch pathologist Dr Frank van der Goot found bruises on Smit’s upper arms, suggesting a struggle likely took place before she fell over the balcony. However, two Malaysian pathologists disagreed.

Forensics medicine specialist Dr Nurliza Abdullah and her junior Dr Zunaizah Hilmi from Hospital Kuala Lumpur testified that Smit had died because of blunt-force trauma consistent with falling from a height.

Zunaizah has since retracted all her “opinion-based” testimony from the inquest.

There were also traces of cocaine, cannabis, alcohol, polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), among others, the combined effect of which could have knocked her out, the inquest heard.

The inquest has also heard conflicting testimonies from witnesses and also the police investigating officer (IO) who contradicted what was said about the events of Dec 7.

Among others, the occupant of the sixth-floor condominium unit had testified that he found Smit’s body on the balcony when he returned home but a police witness said he had told her that he was mopping and was in the unit when the body fell.

In another instance, one of Smit’s close friends testified that Smit had asked him, through Johnson, about getting drugs. He was later reprimanded in court for “fibbing” as Smit could not defend herself against these claims.

Meanwhile, the second and final IO for the case, Faizal Abdullah, said he never saw a broken glass bottle captured on camera by a police photographer in the living room of the 20th-floor condo unit, despite being the first to arrive on Dec 7.

During the five-month inquest, several police witnesses were rapped for not doing a good job or not being forthcoming in their testimonies.

The inquest has also seen witnesses retracting their testimonies, and police officers admitting they did not use gloves or protective wear when they entered the crime scene, or use police tape to cordon off the area.

Faizal and SN Nair, the lawyer holding a watching brief for Smit’s family, have argued in court over whether a Sudden Death Report (SDR) or an Investigation Paper (IP) would have been more appropriate. Nair believes the latter would have been better.

However, an SDR, which is usually opened by the police when the deceased is believed to have died due to natural causes, was used in this case. IPs are more general and take into consideration other causes of death such as murder or foul play.

Another contention put forth by Nair in court was that Johnson and Almaz could have been further investigated if an IP was opened, given that a DNA report in April found Johnson’s DNA sample underneath Smit’s fingernails.

The couple has since left the country. They have also not shown up at the inquest to testify.

The inquest came to a close on Dec 5 and Coroner Mahyon Talib will deliver the verdict on Jan 22 on how Smit died.