Investigating officer rapped for “not doing the right thing”.
The death of Dutch model Ivana Esther Robert Smit, who fell from a condominium unit at CapSquare Residences in Kuala Lumpur two years ago, is caused by a ‘misadventure’, the Coroner’s Court ruled today.
Coroner Mahyon Talib, who heard the inquest proceeding to determine the actual cause of Smit’s death, said the court found no one to be criminally involved in the death of the 19-year-old model.
According to her, ‘misadventure’ is death caused accidentally through a legal act without negligence or intent to harm.
She said based on testimonies of witnesses, including the investigating officer, the court found that the deceased died due to a fall from a high place.
She agreed with pathologist Dr Frank Van Der Goot, from the Netherlands, that Smit died before her body was found on the balcony of a sixth-floor unit and the body began to stiffen between 10am and 11am on December 7, 2017.
She said the signs of arm grip, trauma at the back of the head, broken bottle and DNA of Alex Johnson under Smit’s nails indicated the possibility of struggle or fight among Johnson, Smit and Luna Almaz.
(Johnson and Almaz, from the United States of America and Kazakhstan, respectively, are the owners of the unit on level 20 where Smit stayed before her death).
“The court does not know what actually happened among the three of them. Therefore, the court rules Ivana’s (Smith) death as a misadventure,” she said.
Mahyon said the decision was made based on the findings of facts and provision under Section 337 of the Criminal procedure Code. No criminal elements were found in how Smit died.
Mahyon said Faizal could have done a better job when the case unfolded in 2017.
“He could have taken more evidence (with an IP). Why didn’t he do this?
“He should also have checked the unit for any alcoholic drinks and so on and passed this to the forensics department for analysis and DNA testing. This was not done.”
She also criticised Faizal for failing to further question Johnson and Luna Almaz despite their “suspicious” statements on their activities on Dec 7.
“It is a mystery and definitely a tragedy that Faizal rejected this and did not do the right thing,” she said in her written judgment, referring to their statements to the police.
The duo were the last people to see Smit alive.
Faizal had concluded, among others, that the couple was innocent and required no further investigation. Shortly after, they fled the country. They did not return to testify in the inquest.
Mahyon also criticised pathologist Dr Nurliza Abdullah whom she said had made assumptions on how Smit died based on pictures of the scene instead of going there to see it for herself.
She also reiterated her belief that Smit had been alive at 6.50am, as the latter was talking to her boyfriend, Lukas Kramer, at the time.
She said the opinion of the Dutch pathologist that the injuries at the back of Smit’s neck and on her hands were older than the rest of her bruises tied in with her opinion on when rigour mortis set in.
She said rigour mortis began at 2pm on Dec 7, estimating that it had taken four hours from either 10am or 11am to commence, based on the exterior tropical climate.
She said this, together with how Smit’s hands which looked like they were placed on a blanket when she was found, would have made it impossible for her to be dressed, which would explain why the model was found naked.
She also said Smit had died between 6.50am and 2pm, and had likely fallen to her death from a high place.
Also present in court today was Karin Mossenlechner, the Netherlands ambassador to Malaysia, and Gerard van Heerwaarde, the Netherlands police liaison for Malaysia and the region.
Smit’s family did not attend the proceeding.
Lawyer Sankara Nair, who held a watching brief for Smit’s family during the inquest into her death, said he would have preferred a ruling of homicide or murder, but that misadventure was better than suicide or an open verdict.
He told FMT that today’s decision was the “next best” as the coroner had agreed that Smit died in the apartment and that the bottles of apple cider purchased by the trio the night before might have been laced with drugs.
He added, however, that Mahyon could not say who did it or how Smit’s body ended up on the balcony of the sixth-floor condo unit.
Smit was found sprawled in the nude on the balcony of a sixth-floor unit at the CapSquare Residence condominium off Jalan Dang Wangi,
She is believed to have fallen from a unit on the 20th floor where she had been staying with Johnson and his wife.
The duo claimed to have had sex with Smit prior to her death but have maintained their innocence, saying the model died due to her own “youthful recklessness”.
They fled the country and could not be subpoenaed for the inquest.
Police originally classified the case as sudden death. However, an inquest was called after Smit’s family claimed there were elements of foul play and a cover-up.
Smit’s father complained of finding bruise marks on her neck and arms, and claimed that she had been pushed out of the balcony.
According to Mahyon, the injuries found on Ivana’s neck, the presence of broken glass bottles on the 20th-floor unit, and the DNA of Alex Johnson found under Ivana’s fingernails suggested the possibility of foul play.
However, the court could not establish what had really happened between Smit and the couple.
Meanwhile, Smit’s uncle, Fred Agenjo Weinhold, said he was curious as to why Mahyon did not rule how the model’s body came to be on the balcony of the sixth-floor unit.
He said his family would appeal the ruling after speaking with Nair, FMT reported
In a statement to FMT later, Nair also questioned the coroner’s verdict, calling it “unambiguous and contradicting”.
“She should have asked and considered the gaping question in everyone’s minds: how it is that her body was eventually found at the bottom of the condominium.
“Surely a dead body can’t walk over and take a dive,” he said.