Kim Jong-nam's Killers Handled Poison 'with Bare Hands'

  • By Lee Yong-soo

    February 23, 2017 12:27

    Police in Malaysia on Wednesday said the two women accused of murdering Kim Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur knowingly handled the poison with their bare hands.

    Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters that Doan Thi Huong and Siti Aisyah coated their hands with the toxic chemical and wiped them on Kim's face before running to wash them in the bathroom of Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

    Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar gestures at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. /Reuters-Yonhap

    "We strongly believe it is a planned thing and they have been trained to do that. It is not something like just shooting a movie or a play thing," Abu Bakar said. He added that the two women were given the liquid by one of four North Korean suspects who have since fled to Pyongyang.

    The police chief added that airport surveillance camera footage showed one of the women moving away after the attack, with her hands held up away from her body "towards the washroom." He added, "So she knew very well that it is toxic and she has to wash her hands."

    The women were also spotted on CCTV practicing the move at shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur.

    But experts raised questions about the police analysis. For instance, Kim Jong-nam is not seen in CCTV footage wiping his face or eyes after the attack. Japan's Fuji TV, which obtained the footage, quoted an expert as saying, "A person instinctively wipes his eyes or face even if only a small amount of water is sprayed on them, but Kim Jong-nam did not make such moves."

    One source said, "While the suspects drew Kim Jong-nam's attention by rubbing his face, a poisoned needle may have been used for the actual attack."

    Medical experts are also skeptical that a deadly toxin could enter the body only through someone's face but not the hands. Park Sung-hwan, a forensic specialist at Korea University, said, "I've never heard of a toxin that is rubbed on a person's face to make the victim inhale it."

    And Kim Yoo-hoon, a doctor who used to work for the National Forensic Service, said, "Judging by how the hands of the assailants and Kim Jong-nam's face are not damaged, the toxin does not appear to have been acidic or corrosive. I've never seen a toxin that is harmless to your hands but fatal when rubbed on the face."

    But others speculate that the poison may have been highly volatile and evaporated quickly after inhalation, leaving no traces on the skin. "If an entirely new chemical had been created or a compound of existing ones used to create a toxin, it may be difficult for police to discover traces," Kim said.

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