1776: Nathan Hale, with regrets 1652: Captain James Hind, royalist highwayman

1994: Johannes van Damme, heroin smuggler

September 23rd, 2008 Headsman

At dawn this date in 1994, Dutch citizen Johannes van Damme was hanged at Singapore’s Changi Prison for drug trafficking.

The first westerner hanged under Singapore’s draconian anti-drug law, the engineer had been nabbed at the airport with 4.32 kilos of heroin.

Van Damme, 59 at his death, claimed ignorance of the illicit contents and his case drew appeals from the Dutch government — to no avail.

The city-state’s severe criminal code and comprehensively ordered society — “Disneyland with the Death Penalty” in cyberpunk author William Gibson’s formulation — is somewhat notorious at this point.

But while foreign migrants and guest workers had regularly faced the gallows for similar offenses, van Damme’s hanging marked a significant ramping-up of enforcement. According to Amnesty International, Singapore carried out 54 drug-related hangings in 1994 and another 52 in 1995, after an early-90’s pace of under ten per year. It’s maintained rates in the dozens of executions per annum since then, making it the heaviest per-capita user of the death penalty in the world.

And it doesn’t mind making its visitors sweat about it.

Welcome to Singapore. You’ll also see the warning on your embarkation card.

An intensified pace perhaps came with a new resolve on the part of the former British colony to forswear juridical perks to European offenders — at least to some extent. Van Damme’s fate makes an interesting contrast with that of his countrywoman, Maria Krol-Hmelak (the link is to her scanty Dutch Wikipedia page). Krol-Hmelak had been arrested a few months before van Damme also for possessing enough heroin to be presumed a smuggler and incur an automatic death sentence; at her trial a few months after van Damme’s, she received a surprise acquittal.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Hanged,Milestones,Netherlands,Singapore

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10 thoughts on “1994: Johannes van Damme, heroin smuggler”

  1. JCF says:

    Beheadings in long-drop hangings are common. The hangman’s trying for a sweet spot (?!) of enough force to break the neck, but w/o severing the surrounding tissue. Difficult to do.

    One of the least reasons to abolish capital punishment, to be sure…

  2. sophia says:

    They killed an innocent man, leaving his children without a father and wife without a husband and I pray on day every one who had a hand in it would be punished and also killed. What a sad story and the dutch government could not even do any thing about it order than a stupid appeal that came late.

    1. rob says:

      he was quilty as the devil himself and i can know it…

  3. Danny says:

    The execution of Johannes seemes to have gone horribly wrong because if his high weight. According to Joe (Joseph) Malta he was beheaded.

  4. London says:

    The execution from van Damma could have been prevented if the Dutch government was not much to late with the appeal to save his life. Also in his case there was no evidence that he realy knew about the drugs and his partner could have set this up.

    I beleive that its more worse to hang an innocent person then someone who commits a crime gets away with it…because those will for sure do it again…and get caught sooner or later.

    And then…if you realy want to smuggle drugs (and know it) …why take singapore in the first place if you have the choice….it all makes no sense.

  5. Nison says:

    Thank you very much for infu. The author RESPECT and uvazhuha.

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