Five seconds was all it took to poison him

A South Korean watching TV showing breaking news about the alleged assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do, South Korea, on Feb 15, 2017.
A South Korean watching TV showing breaking news about the alleged assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother, in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do, South Korea, on Feb 15, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

KUALA LUMPUR • It took no more than five seconds to poison Mr Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage seen by the New Straits Times (NST) revealed startling details of how two female agents carried out the smooth operation on Monday morning.

The 45-year-old was standing in front of the self-service check-in kiosks on Level Three of Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 when the women struck.

"They had been watching him... and when opportunity presented itself, they moved in," the newspaper reported yesterday.

Within five seconds, one of them stood in front of him to distract him, while her accomplice approached from behind, pulled a cloth drenched in some chemical from a blue handbag, reached around his head and clamped it onto his face.

The cloth is believed to have been laced with poison.

CCTV footage showed the woman who administered the poison wearing a dark-coloured glove on her left hand as she made her escape.

  • Previous high-profile poison attacks

    SEPTEMBER 1978

    Mr Georgy Markov, a Bulgarian dissident living in exile in London, is stabbed with a ricin poison-tipped umbrella as he is going home from his job with BBC World Service radio. He dies four days later.

    SEPTEMBER 1997

    Israeli agents working in Jordan administer poison to the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, Mr Khaled Meshaal, who is living there. But the agents are captured and, to obtain their release, Israel is forced to provide an antidote. Mr Meshaal survives after falling into a coma.

    SEPTEMBER 2004

    Ukrainian politician Viktor Yushchenko, campaigning against Russian-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovych for his country's presidency, is diagnosed with dioxin poisoning which disfigures his face. His supporters accuse the Russian secret service of being behind the incident. Mr Yushchenko survives and goes on to win the election.

    SEPTEMBER 2004 

    Indonesian human rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib dies of arsenic poisoning after a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam. A pilot is convicted of killing him on behalf of his country's intelligence services, but in October 2006, the sentence is quashed by the Indonesian Supreme Court.

    NOVEMBER 2004 

    Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat dies in a French military hospital. French experts are unable say what killed him, fuelling accusations that he was poisoned by Israel.

    Following a murder probe, French prosecutors dismiss claims he was poisoned, after Swiss experts said they found high levels of radioactive polonium on his personal effects.

    NOVEMBER 2006

    Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko dies in agony after drinking tea laced with highly radioactive polonium-210 at a London hotel, in a case which plunged Moscow-London relations into a deep chill.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

By the time she reached the taxi stand on Level Two, the glove was no longer on her.

She was wearing a skirt and a white top with "LOL" emblazoned across it. There was not much information about the other assailant in the NST report.

The assassins' deadly act and their subsequent movements were captured by surveillance cameras positioned throughout the departure hall and other parts of the international airport.

In one CCTV video, the woman in the white top was seen heading towards the escalator leading to the taxi stand on Level Two.

NST learnt that the two assailants moved separately.

As for the victim, he appeared to be steady on his feet at first.

Mr Kim then headed for the nearest washroom but turned back to seek help at the airport information counter.

A female employee, understood to be an AirAsia staff member, accompanied Mr Kim to a clinic on Level Two of the airport.

"At this point, he was experiencing a headache and was on the verge of passing out," said Selangor state criminal investigation chief Fadzil Ahmat.

"At the clinic, the victim experienced a mild seizure. He was put into an ambulance and was being taken to the Putrajaya Hospital, where he was pronounced dead," Mr Fadzil told reporters on Wednesday.

The NST reported that Mr Kim was wearing a dark blue polo shirt, light blue jeans and brown shoes.

A source close to the post-mortem process at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital told NST that there were no puncture wounds on Mr Kim's body or face.

Several reports had suggested that his assailants could have injected him with a lethal poison.

It is understood that Mr Kim had suffered from high blood pressure.

The authorities are now waiting for the results of an autopsy that was completed on Wednesday.

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2017, with the headline 'Five seconds was all it took to poison him'. Print Edition | Subscribe