TWO women suspected of fatally poisoning the half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un were trained to coat their hands with toxic chemicals then wipe them on his face, according to Malaysian police.
A police spokesman also named senior North Korean embassy official Hyon Kwang Song as one of three North Koreans they want to question in connection with the killing of Kim Jong Nam. One of the others is a state airline employee.
However, the North Korean embassy has ridiculed the police account of Nam’s death, demanding the immediate release of the two “innocent women” and insisting that the pair could have poisoned Nam.
Loading article content
It has been alleged the women daubed liquid on Kim “for a joke”.
Referring to the report that the women had been trained to cover their hands with the poison, a statement from North Korea’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur read: “Then how is it possible that these female suspects could still be alive?”
Police said the women – one of them Indonesian, the other Vietnamese – washed their hands soon after poisoning Nam.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters that authorities are searching for Song, the second secretary of North Korea’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and an employee of state-owned airline Air Koryo.
“We hope that the Korean embassy will cooperate with us, allow us to interview them and interview them quickly,” said Bakar. “If not, we will compel them to come to us.”
Police said the substance used remains unknown, but acknowledged that it was potent enough to kill Nam before he made it to hospital. A spokesman said the women knew they were handling poisonous materials and “were warned to take precautions”.
Bakar said the women had practised the attack at two Kuala Lumpur shopping centres. “We strongly believe it is a planned thing and that they have been trained,” he added.
He could not confirm whether North Korea’s government was behind Nam’s death but added that it was “clear is that those involved are North Koreans”.
Bakar also said a heavily armed special police force was deployed to the morgue holding Nam’s body this week as a precaution, with police having detected attempts to break into the morgue.
Local media reported that a South Korean cameraman was detained briefly outside the morgue after he was found without any identification documents or a passport. He was released after a colleague confirmed his identity.
The North Korean embassy’s statement attacked the credibility and fairness of the Malaysian investigation, which it has alleged is based on lies and biased presumptions, as well as being tainted by the influence of foreign governments.
Police have arrested four people in connection with the attack already: a Malaysian, a North Korean and the two women.
The Malaysian was to be freed yesterday on bail.
At least one of the women has said she was tricked into attacking Nam, believing she was taking part in a comedy prank TV show. Bakar rejected that claim. He said: “This is not just like shooting a movie.”
The North Korean statement insisted the women were telling the truth, without revealing how officials knew that.
“The liquid they daubed for a joke is not a poison and... there is another cause of death,” the statement read.
Police are looking for another seven North Korean suspects in connection with the attack, including the two announced yesterday. The embassy official and the airline employee are among three North Koreans believed to be at large in Malaysia.
The four others are believed to have fled Kuala Lumpur shortly after the attack. Bakar confirmed that authorities believe they are back in Pyongyang, and that they provided the toxin.
“That’s why we asked the North Korean embassy to trace them and hand them over to us,” he said. He added that Malaysian authorities had received no help so far from North Korea.
Determining the cause of Nam’s death has proven difficult. Malaysian authorities say he did not suffer a heart attack and had no puncture wounds – such as those a needle would have left – but they were still awaiting laboratory reports.
Identifying specific poisons can be difficult, especially if only a small amount was used. The case has perplexed leading forensic toxicologists who study murder by poison, who have questioned how the two women could walk away unscathed after using such a deadly agent.
Nad had spent most of the past 15 years living in China and south-east Asia. He is believed to have had at least three children with two women. No family members have come forward to claim the body.