Kim murder suspect thought VX was baby oil: Jakarta official

Left: Malaysian investigators off to check an apartment unit related to the Kim Jong Nam murder. One of the suspects in custody is Siti Aisyah (above)
Malaysian investigators off to check an apartment unit related to the Kim Jong Nam murder. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Left: Malaysian investigators off to check an apartment unit related to the Kim Jong Nam murder. One of the suspects in custody is Siti Aisyah (above)
One of the suspects in custody is Siti Aisyah (above)PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Both women accused over murder insist they were hired to take part in TV prank show

An Indonesian suspect detained in Malaysia over the death of North Korean Kim Jong Nam yesterday told officials she was unaware the liquid wiped across the victim's face was the lethal VX nerve agent, thinking it was baby oil.

Officials from the Indonesian embassy, who met Siti Aisyah, told reporters that she said she had been roped in for what she believed to be a reality TV programme.

"According to her, those persons gave her around RM400 (S$126) to do these activities," said Indonesian deputy ambassador Andreano Erwin, after meeting Siti.

Based on CCTV footage, two women assaulted Mr Kim - the elder half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un - at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13 while he was waiting for a flight to Macau. He died en route to hospital. Siti and Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese, were arrested for the attack.

Siti assumed the liquid she was given was harmless.

  • Police probe into killing

  • Feb 19: Police release names and images of suspects linked to the death of Mr Kim Jong Nam on Feb 13, including four men believed to have returned to North Korea. Feb 20: Malaysia recalls its ambassador to North Korea and summons North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol to its Foreign Ministry.

    Feb 21: Health officials say the victim had no puncture wounds and did not die of a heart attack.

    Feb 22: Police identify two more men wanted for questioning: a second secretary at the North Korean Embassy and an employee of North Korean national airline Air Koryo. Police extend remand order for main female suspects Doan Thi Huong and Siti Aisyah until March 1.

    Feb 23: Police raid a condominium in Kuala Lumpur.

    Feb 24: Police say the VX nerve agent, a lethal chemical weapon, was used in Mr Kim's murder.

    Feb 25: Siti Aisyah tells the Indonesian ambassador she thought what she wiped on victim was baby oil. Police say they will issue an arrest warrant for the North Korean diplomat wanted for questioning if he doesn't voluntarily cooperate.

    Feb 26: A team comprising police forensics, the fire department and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board will sweep the terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport for toxic chemicals.

"She only said that it's a kind of oil, baby oil, something like that," said Mr Andreano, when queried over Siti's knowledge of the poison.

But Malaysian police have said both women were aware they were dealing with a poisonous liquid. On Wednesday, police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the women had practised the attack beforehand.

"So she knew very well that it is toxic and she has to wash her hands," Tan Sri Khalid said, referring to CCTV footage showing one of the two women holding up her hands and heading to the washroom after the attack.

Mr Andreano said Siti told embassy officials that she is not acquainted with Doan, and was introduced to two men who "looked like Japanese or Koreans". They invited her to take part in a reality prank show.

"She only said she had been introduced to them by someone… Their names are James and Chang."

Among the seven North Korean suspects who remain at large, one of them, Ri Ji U, 30, goes by the name of James. He is believed to still be in Malaysia.

Results from Mr Kim's autopsy show traces of the nerve agent VX. It is an amber-coloured oily liquid.

Mr Khalid on Friday said one of the two women showed side effects, repeated vomiting, while in custody. But Mr Andreano said Siti looked healthy.

Yesterday, officials from the Vietnamese embassy met Doan, and Hanoi's Foreign Ministry said she also thought she was taking part in a prank video.

"Her health is stable. During the meeting with embassy officials, Doan Thi Huong said she was being taken advantage of and thought she was starring in a comedy video," Reuters quoted the ministry as saying.

A third suspect, North Korean Ri Jong Chol, was also nabbed, leading to accusations by the North Korean embassy that Malaysia's investigation is targeted, triggering a diplomatic row between both countries.

A remand order for both women expires on March 1, and the Malaysian authorities would have to either release or charge them.

Separately, a police forensic team, the fire department and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board will conduct a sweep of the airport early today for toxic chemicals, Malaysian police said in a statement. The airport will remain open.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 26, 2017, with the headline 'Kim murder suspect thought VX was baby oil: Jakarta official'. Print Edition | Subscribe