1995: Navarat Maykha, accidental smuggler

Add comment September 29th, 2019 Headsman

A Thai national named Navarat Maykha was hanged in Singapore on this date in 1995 for drug-smuggling.

“An impoverished and uneducated woman, and also deeply religious, she swore until her death that she was unaware of the heroin that was hidden in the lining of a suitcase given to her by a Nigerian friend,” is the sad summation of this 2005 article about Singapore’s death penalty — which goes on to quote her attorney Peter Fernando on the injustice of the island

“It’s heartbreaking sometimes,” said Fernando during a recent interview from his office in Singapore. “If you are an addict, and you are simply sitting at home with more than 15 grams of heroin and you cannot prove with scientific accuracy that a portion of the drugs are for personal use, you will hang.”

This wasn’t the particular form of heartbreaking that applied to Navarat Maykha, who was persuaded by the aforementioned Nigerian friend to bring some clothes to a pal in Singapore. The luggage encasing said wardrobe had 3.19 kilos of heroin sewn into it.

* Most of the (few) citations for this case situate the hanging on September 28. However, Singapore always carries out its hangings on Friday … and in 1995, Friday was September 29.

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

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1995: Angel Mou Pui-Peng

Add comment January 6th, 2019 Richard Clark

(Thanks to Richard Clark of Capital Punishment U.K. for the guest post, a reprint of an article originally published on that site with some explanatory links added by Executed Today. CapitalPunishmentUK.org features a trove of research and feature articles on the death penalty in England and elsewhere. -ed.)

Angel Mou Pui-Peng, a 25-year-old unmarried mother, was hanged in Changi prison before dawn on Friday the 6th of January 1995. She became the 95th person (and third woman) to hang under Singapore’s strict 1975 anti-drug laws. Cheuk Mei-mei, 29, also from Hong Kong, was executed in 1994 and another three women were executed for drug trafficking in 1995 including two who were only 18 at the time of their crime. Altogether 30 people were hanged in Singapore for drug trafficking in 1995 with a further six men and one woman (Flor Contemplacion) being hanged for murder. Although there have been more women executed for murder, only one other woman has been hanged for drug offences since the end of 1995. (Navarat Maykha, a Thai national, was executed in September 1996.)

Under Singapore law, the death sentence is mandatory for anyone over 18 convicted of trafficking in more than 15 grams (half an ounce) of heroin, 30 grams (one ounce) of morphine or 500 grams (18 oz.) of cannabis. Prisoners have an automatic right of appeal to the Appeal Court and if that fails, may petition the President for mercy. However, death sentences are virtually always carried out. I know of only one case where a reprieve was granted — to a Burmese man who was completely illiterate and clearly had no idea that he was committing a crime.

Angel, a resident of then-British Hong Kong born in then-Portuguese Macau,* was arrested at Singapore’s Changi airport on August the 29th, 1991, after arriving from Bangkok with a suitcase containing 20 packets totaling over 4.1 kg of heroin according to the Central Narcotics Bureau. At her trial, she claimed she did not know the false-bottom suitcase contained heroin and thought she was carrying contraband watches instead. She was found guilty and sentenced to death in 1993 and as usual in Singapore, both her appeals were rejected.

However, she was granted a temporary stay of execution on the 22nd of December 1994, apparently to allow her family to visit her over Christmas, after a plea by her mother and nine year old son, having been originally scheduled to hang on Friday the 23rd of December with two Singaporean drug traffickers.

On the eve of her execution, her lawyer Peter Yap said that she was “normal and calm” when he saw her. He said she “was emotionally stable and prepared to die. Spiritually she was very strong.” He also said Angel was comforted by the settlement of guardianship for her son.

The day before her execution, she would have been weighed by Singapore’s executioner, Darshan Singh, to enable calculation of the correct drop. The British Home Office 1913 table of drops is still used. Unusually, Angel was executed on her own (due to the stay.) At about 5.30 a.m., she would have been escorted by her guards to a waiting room to be prepared. Shortly before 6.00 a.m. her hands would have been handcuffed behind her back and a black cloth hood placed over her head. She would then have been led the few meters to the gallows at 6.00 a.m. local time. Her legs would have been strapped together and the leather covered noose placed round her neck. Singh then told her “I am going to send you to a better place than this. God bless you.”

After execution, the body was returned to relatives and she was cremated in the early evening at Mount Vernon crematorium after a short service attended by her family and friends.

“Our sister Angel has now been taken to heaven — a place we will go and we shall hope to see her there one day,” an elderly pastor, speaking in Cantonese, told the congregation of some 25 people.

“When are you coming back to Hong Kong?” a young woman cried in Cantonese as she, Angel’s sister, Cecilia, and a few others watched the coffin, covered in black velvet, disappear into the furnace.

Her father, reportedly reconciled with his daughter during her brief stay of execution, broke down uncontrollably after the cremation.

Macau was a Portuguese province and the President of Portugal, Mario Soares and the Portuguese government appealed for clemency on the grounds of Angel’s youth and the fact that she was only a carrier. But according to Portuguese officials, Singapore said it could not differentiate between foreigners and its own people.
The Governor of Macau expressed deep sorrow and called the execution “revolting,” the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported. “For someone like me who is a citizen of a country that takes a pride in being one of the first that abolished capital punishment, the loss of human life is something that is incomprehensible and even revolting,” Lusa quoted Governor Rocha Vieira Vasco as saying in a message to Angel’s mother. Chris Patten, who was at the time the Hong Kong Governor, said the British colony had supported a plea for clemency put forward by Britain and the European Union.

* Both colonies became Chinese territories in the late 1990s.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,Other Voices,Portugal,Singapore,Women

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1975: The Gold Bar Murderers

1 comment February 28th, 2016 Headsman

On the last day of February in 1975, seven men from among a gang who authored one of Singapore’s signature murders were hanged at Changi Prison.


(cc) image from Bullion Vault.

Four days after Christmas in 1971, the phone rang for Andrew Chou, an Air Vietnam staffer who had been exploiting his security credentials to smuggle gold bars out of Singapore for several crime syndicates.

It was a fresh delivery for the Kee Guan Import-Export Co. for that evening — to be dropped at Chou’s house as usual.

Chou’s cut of these runs was lucrative, of course: hundreds of thousands in cash, out of which the able crook paid off his own muscle as well as the air crew.

But this night, he intended to take a lump sum.

As the couriers counted out the treasure at Chou’s kitchen table, Chou and associates attacked them. Later, Chou would phone his contacts to advise that the goldmen had never arrived that night: in fact, Ngo Cheng Poh, Leong Chin Woo and Ang Boon Chai had been consigned to the industrial muck of a convenient mining pool.

This incident, soon to be known as the Gold Bar Murders, went wrong very quickly but perhaps the judicial punishment visited on its perpetrators only spared them from a similar underworld revenge. An anonymous tipster had seen the bodies being dumped and police pulled them out of the ooze the next day. The smuggling-murder circle was busted immediately; a few gold bars were recovered from the office of Chou’s brother Davis, and the balance from an associate named Catherine Ang, who had received them for safekeeping from the hands of the killers.

There were 10 in this conspiracy. One, Augustine Ang,* saved his own life by giving evidence against his comrades. Two others, Ringo Lee and Stephen Lee, were minors at the time of the murder and escaped the noose on that basis.

The remaining seven — Andrew Chou, David Chou, Peter Lim, Alex Yau, Richard James, Stephen Francis, and Konesekaran Nagalingam — all hanged without their appeals availing any of them the least whiff of judicial or executive mercy.

* There was no blood relationship between the murderer Augustine Ang, the victim Ang Boon Chai, and the fence Catherine Ang.

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2003: Vignes Mourthi, framed in Singapore?

Add comment September 26th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 2003, 23-year-old Malaysian Vignes Mourthi was hanged in Singapore’s Changi Prison as a drug courier, along with his supposed collaborator Moorthy Angappan.

Mourthi vigorously maintained his innocence, and his family has done likewise in the years since, helping turn the young factory worker into a wrongful-execution poster child.

It was a Sgt. Rajkumar who arrested Mourthi by posing as a buyer of his cargo. Rajkumar would later present an undated, unsigned “confession” purporting to show that Mourthi was completely aware that it was heroin he was moving. At first read one might might indeed doubt Mourthi’s insistence that he thought he was carrying “incense stones” … but his compatriot Angappan was indeed an incense dealer and a family friend known to Mourthi as such.

British journalist Alan Shadrake‘s 2010 indictment of Singaporean justice Once a Jolly Hangman (banned in its titular city-state) calls Mourthi’s hanging “arguably one of the most appalling miscarriages of justice in Singapore’s history”.

Rajkumar’s testimony about Mourthi’s confession was instrumental in hanging the young man, but just a couple of days after he arrested Mourthi, Rajkumar himself was arrested (and then released on bail) on a rape accusation. According to the recent book Once a Jolly Hangman, whose denunciations of Singapore’s death penalty system earned its author a prison term in the repressive city-state,

Intense efforts were … made by Rajkumar’s many friends in the CNB and a police friend at Clementi Police Station to persuade ‘J’ to withdraw her statement. The bribes involved large sums of money, which she refused … There were frantic, secret meetings between Rajkumar, his police officer friends and his accuser in shopping malls and fast-food outlets during which he, his family and friends continued to offer large sums of money in exchange for withdrawing her allegations. All this intrigue was going on while Rajkumar was busy getting enough evidence together to ensure Mourthi would be found guilty and hanged.

So. That’s less than ideal.

Sadly for the accused, none of this credibility-melting information was ever known during Mourthi’s trial and appeal. After Mourthi’s execution, the bad cop who hanged him went on trial for corruption over his witness-tampering, and eventually served 15 months.

Certainty is never given to mortals. But Mourthi’s father for one has no doubt: “I know he is innocent.”

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1996: John Martin Scripps, British serial killer

3 comments April 19th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1996, the first westerner hanged for murder in Singapore got his deserts in Changi Prison.

Mild-mannered John Martin Scripps had created a sensation in the city-state for turning South African tourist Gerard Lowe into a sack full of dismembered body parts at Clifford Pier.

“The tourist from hell” argued in defense that it had all been a gay panic after Lowe came onto him. Not a bit of it.

Turns out Scripps, recently absconded from British custody after his latest in a series of drug and theft arrests,* had used the same chop-shop m.o. on a Canadian mother and son in Thailand and, as with Lowe, leached their electronic assets thereafter.

(Ever the jet-setter, Scripps was also a suspect in three other murders — of two Brits in Central America and of an American male prostitute in San Francisco.)

“John disappeared on several trips and went to the United States and South-East Asia,” his Mexican ex-wife said later. “I knew something awful was happening, but I could not believe he had started killing people.”

After conviction, Scripps declined to appeal or petition for clemency, saying he wanted the law to take its course quickly. He was hanged alongside two drug traffickers.

* He’d learned butchery in prison — so well that he’d talked about opening a shop when he got out. Which is sort of what he did.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Murder,Serial Killers,Singapore,Volunteers

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1994: Johannes van Damme, heroin smuggler

10 comments 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.

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

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2005: Van Tuong Nguyen

3 comments December 2nd, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 2005, Australian national Van Tuong Nguyen was hanged* in Singapore’s Changi Prison for smuggling heroin.

Three years before, in dire financial straits, Nguyen had agreed to act as a drug courier and been caught attempting to carry 396.2 grams — less than a pound — of heroin through the airport of the notoriously execution-happy city-state. He had no criminal history and cooperated with the authorities, but the quantity of contraband on his person incurred an automatic death sentence.

Nguyen became an international cause celebre and the Australian government appealed for clemency — though some detected tepid public notice for the young man of Vietnamese extraction in comparison with white Australians in similar situations.

His family’s two-year campaign mobilizing worldwide pressure to save him was the profile of a 2006 documentary that laid bare the continuing grief left to Nguyen’s family and friends … and their continuing work against the death penalty in his remembrance. This personal tribute of unidentified provenance captures both:

* By Darshan Singh, whose identity as Singapore’s hangman was exposed on the occasion.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Australia,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,Hanged,Ripped from the Headlines,Singapore

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