Troubling questions over 18-year-old model Ivana Esther Robert Smit’s death, who partied with a “swinger” couple just before allegedly plunging naked from the couple’s 20th-floor apartment.
- Family seeking justice, turns to crowdfunding for new probe
- Plunge clouded in mystery, as teen model had everything to live for
- Cops may reclassify death after family’s allegations of foul play
- Friend starts ‘truth’ campaign
- Family wants to bring in Dutch pathologist, American investigator
- Rumours that the “wealthy swinger” couple often brought young models home to party
- Fall believed to have occurred at 10am, body discovered only at 3pm
- Mystery of model’s missing underwear
- Allegation that neighbours heard shouting and arguments from apartment prior to incident
- Father claims strangulation marks on daughter’s neck, believes she was pushed
- Couple tested positive for drugs
- Dutch and Indonesian-Chinese parentage
- Brought up by grandfather in Penang
- Played the guitar and piano, black belt in taekwando
- Spoke fluent Mandarin
- Very much a Penangnite
- Started modelling at 13
- Appeared on the runway in Korea, Taiwan, in ads for companies like Chanel
- 2nd runner-up in Malaysia Supermodel Search 2014
- Shortlisted for Top Model Belgium 2018
- Well-perceived by a large group of friends
- Described as confident, positive, bubbly
Ivana’s family have started a crowdfunding campaign to fund their own investigation into her death.
They are trying to raise €5,000 (RM24,113) to bring a Dutch pathologist and an American investigator here to determine the circumstances that led to her death.
“Donations are needed for the funding of the pathologist and researcher who will travel to Malaysia to determine the cause of death, if it was an accident or a crime,” the family wrote on the Dutch crowdfunding site, Doneeractie.
“Please help the Smit family to find out the true facts about the tragic death of their daughter, sister, and niece, Ivana Smit.”
The model allegedly fell from the window of a 20th floor unit of an apartment in The Capsquare Residences on Jalan Dang Wangi, Kuala Lumpur, and landed on the balcony of a 6th-floor unit on Dec 7.
Police are reviewing the death, classified as sudden death for now, as evidence has emerged of a booze and drug-fuelled party hours before her nude body was found.
Ivana was reportedly drinking and partying with a married couple in Bangsar until she followed them back to their apartment at around 5am.
Dutch media have identified the couple as Alexander Amado Johnson, 45, and his wife Luna, 30, who is said to be an Indonesian and not a Kazakhstan as was earlier believed.
Alexander is a cryptocurrency trader and co-founder of the company Everus World, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Luna is reportedly a model who befriended Smit.
UK newspaper The Sun quoted Ivana’s father, Marcel Smit, 55, telling reporters he had heard rumours that the wealthy couple were swingers who frequently brought young models home to party.
DutchNews said police had told the family that Ivana was intoxicated at the time of her fall and blood tests revealed traces of alcohol and ecstasy in her system.
She was said to have fallen off the balcony at around 10am.
The couple alleged to have no knowledge of the incident. They claimed that Alexander was asleep and Luna was taking their child to school at around 10am.
It was reported that Ivana’s body was not discovered until 3pm. Her clothes and bag were still in the apartment but her shoes and underwear were missing.
“We cannot believe she fell from level 20 and the body was found at level 6.
“She was found there naked. Where are her shoes and underwear?
“We believe there is a criminal element in Ivana’s death.
“Of course we don’t believe the story from the police because they can’t give us photographs or a report from the scene,” her grandfather was quoted as saying by the UK daily.
Ivana’s last communication was a selfie sent to her boyfriend at around 7.25am, in which she said she had gone home with an American couple after a night out.
Ivana’s father claimed that neighbours heard shouting and arguments from the couple’s apartment that morning.
Police interviewed him after he arrived in Kuala Lumpur.
Marcel has also alleged foul play in her death, claiming there were bruises on her neck.
Besides claims of strangulation marks, he was quoted in Dutch media as saying he believed his daughter had been pushed from the upper floor apartment unit.
Police had on Tuesday met Hospital Kuala Lumpur pathologists to review their findings and are waiting for further test results on samples obtained from the victim.
Dang Wangi district police chief ACP Shaharuddin Abdullah said the case was being re-examined by investigators because of her family’s suspicion of foul play, Malaysia’s The Sun daily reported.
“The case remains classified as sudden death for now. However, if we find incriminating evidence that indicates foul play in her death, we will reclassify the case. As of now, we have yet to find this and we are also waiting for the full post-mortem report to be ready,” Shaharuddin was quoted as saying.
The Malay Mail reported yesterday that crime scene officers had recovered Ivana’s shoes from the apartment unit.
Police investigations also discovered that the couple was under the influence of drugs. Reportedly, tests on urine samples returned positive for amphetamines.
The Smit family had requested, through the Dutch embassy, for Interpol to investigate the death.
It is understood diplomats from the Dutch embassy had met with federal police to convey Marcel’s concerns.
Ivana’s body will be sent to Geleen, the Netherlands, once it is released by the hospital, and will be cremated there, according to the model’s grandfather.
For Ivana’s grandfather, Hendrik Smit, 78, her death was too painful to bear, as he took care of her for the past 15 years and helped to build her modelling career.
“Gossip and rumours about her being a substance abuser, among others, are disturbing, as we were very close and I know she would not have done such a thing.
“She is always cheerful and positive minded. She is never depressed. You can ask her friends,” Hendrik told FMT in an interview.
At the Hospital Kuala Lumpur morgue, he said he could not bear to see Ivana’s body on the stretcher.
“It was so painful to see her at the morgue. She wanted to become a famous model. Today she is ‘famous’, but she is not alive to see it.”
The daughter of Hendrik’s second child, Marcel, who runs a used car dealership in the Netherlands, Ivana is of Dutch and Indonesian-Chinese parentage. She was born in Sittard, Limburg, the southernmost province in the Netherlands.
She has an elder brother, Randy, 31.
At the age of three, Ivana went to live with her paternal grandparents Hendrik and Ho Sioe Tjoan, 77, in Penang.
“We took care of Ivana from birth in the Netherlands, as her parents were busy at work.
“In 2002, we migrated to Penang. My son then called me to say Ivana had missed us so much, to an extent she refused to eat.
“My son then flew her to Penang and decided to let her grandparents take care of her,” Hendrik was quoted as saying.
Ivana studied from kindergarten to high school in Penang. She graduated Grade 10 at an international school at the age of 16.
According to her grandfather, Ivana was also very talented and played the guitar and piano. She also had a black belt in taekwondo.
Hendrik, who is of Dutch and Indonesian ancestry, revealed that his granddaughter had 35 different certificates from various courses she had attended.
“She also spoke fluent Mandarin and played football in school, just like me
“She had a big group of friends in Penang and was very sociable. She is very much a Penangite and less Dutch. Reports claiming that she holds a Belgian citizenship is false. She had Dutch citizenship,” he was quoted saying.
Hendrik said Ivana began her modelling career at the age of 13 and had shared the runway with other more older, experienced models in Korea and Taiwan. She had also appeared on advertisements for companies such as Chanel.
She was the second runner-up in the Malaysia Supermodel Search 2014 when she was just 15 years old.
Hendrik last met Ivana at his home in Batu Ferringhi on Nov 10, where the family had celebrated his 78th birthday.
“She told us she was very busy having to do a lot of shows. But she was very happy. There was no problem and she was in good spirits.” Hendrik was quoted saying.
In 2015, Ivana went to live with her parents and continued her studies for two years, before coming back to Malaysia in early November to resume her modelling career.
According to Hendrik, she never liked it there and was unhappy, complaining about not having friends and being relatively unknown.
Ivana had only recently moved to Kuala Lumpur to advance her career.
She was scheduled to go to Paris on Dec 21 after having been shortlisted for the Top Model Belgium 2018, which would have been her second modelling contest.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.
Meanwhile, Natalie Woodworth, 19, one of Ivana’s close friends has started a Facebook campaign to urge the authorities to give a clear picture of what happened.
She told FMT in an interview about wanting the truth to come out.
“If they say it’s a fall, then show proof that it’s a fall. Whatever it is, we just want the truth,” Natalie was quoted as saying.
Natalie said Ivana had a lot of friends and they were all devastated and wanted justice for her. In her opinion, suicide or drug abuse was highly unlikely.
She revealed that she and Ivana had been part of a group of four close friends from the time they studied together in Tenby School, Penang.
She recalled the last time she met Ivana was for dinner in July.
“I don’t know what high school would have been like without her. And I always told her how proud I am of all her accomplishments and achievements.
“She had always dreamt of becoming a model, and her dream came true because she worked very hard at such a young age,” Natalie told FMT.
Another friend, Catarina Cheah, 25, refused to believe Ivana would have committed suicide as rumoured.
She said Ivana appeared to be happy and in good spirits when she bumped into her at a grocery store in Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, last month.
“Ivana was full of confidence and not suicidal. She was street smart and would have sorted out whatever problems she might have. Impossible for her to jump off the building.
“She told me she had come back to Malaysia from Europe to start her modelling career here again. Ivana also introduced me to her German boyfriend, whom she had just started dating.
“We were supposed to meet soon. I refuse to believe that she had fallen off a building due to intoxication or drugs. I know her, she is not that type,” Catarina told FMT.
Ivana’s boyfriend, Lukas Kramer, took to Instagram to post her pictures along with a heartfelt note.
“I miss you. I miss waking up with you, talking to you, laughing and just being with you. The time we spent together was by far the best time in my life.
“You gave me love and affection in a way I never felt before. Every day I wonder where you are and when you will come back. I need you!
“Do you remember jet skiing in Penang or how we tried to teach each other our mother languages? It all just started,” he wrote.
Lukas signed off with a line in Dutch, “Ik hou van je!” which means “I love you”.
Another person who spoke of Ivana’s confidence and talent was her former teacher Raaj Ganesh, who used to be the head of physical education at the international school that she attended.
Describing Ivana as a bubbly person with great team spirit, he told The Star that when she was just 13, Ivana already knew she could make it big in modelling.
“She knew very well what she wanted in life – a career in modelling. She had that kind of aura and charisma even at a young age.
“She even learnt about the postures and how to look good in front of the camera
“She showed maturity beyond her age and outshone some of the more established models in the field.
“Two years ago, I met her and she was still her usual down-to-earth self, although she had already made a name for herself in the modelling fraternity.
“She was gifted and worked really hard towards her passion.
“It is sad that she left us so early,” Raaj was quoted as saying.
Beautiful, talented, confident and an active, happy soul, Ivana was clearly loved by all who knew her. She truly had everything to live for, and thus, nothing less than a thorough investigation into her puzzling death will do justice to her.
Earlier report: Dec 12, Father of Dutch Model Suspects Foul Play in Her Death, Interpol to Investigate