Pro­ce­dure at pri­vate fa­cil­ity would have cost about RM20,000

New Straits Times - - Front Page - FAR­RAH NAZ KARIM AND ALIZA SHAH spe­cial­probes@ya­

IN a stealthy op­er­a­tion on Sun­day, the body of the half­brother of the North Korean leader was taken to a pri­vate fa­cil­ity to be embalmed. This was done be­cause the corpse was start­ing to de­com­pose. Mean­while, the health min­is­ter says a de­ci­sion on what to do with the body will be made in two to three weeks.

THE body of Kim Jong­nam has been embalmed.

The Malaysian au­thor­i­ties de­cided to pre­serve the body of the 45 year old to pre­vent

fur­ther de­com­po­si­tion, the New

Straits Times’ Special Probes team learnt.

Jong-nam’s re­mains were brought to Kuala Lumpur Hos­pi­tal (HKL) on Feb 15. He died in an am­bu­lance while be­ing taken to Putrajaya Hos­pi­tal fol­low­ing a chem­i­cal at­tack at klia2 on the morn­ing of Feb 13.

Sun­day night would be the first time from that day that his body had been taken out from the gen­eral hos­pi­tal.

His body was driven out from the hos­pi­tal at about 7.30pm. By 10.30pm, it was back at the mor­tu­ary for safe­keep­ing.

The mis­sion to get him embalmed would match a scene from a thriller, some­what in­volv­ing sub­terfuge.

This, ac­cord­ing to a source with knowl­edge of the op­er­a­tion, was to shake off the le­gion of me­dia per­son­nel stak­ing out out­side the mor­tu­ary that would read­ily tail the HKL hearse car­ry­ing Jong-nam’s body to the se­cret des­ti­na­tion.

Those han­dling the op­er­a­tion ac­com­plished their mis­sion to em­balm Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at a pri­vate fa­cil­ity of­fer­ing the ser­vice.

It is un­der­stood that this was a bet­ter op­tion, con­sid­er­ing the other body-preser­va­tion meth­ods for ca­dav­ers, of­fered by gov­ern­ment agen­cies, would in­volve soak­ing the body in formalde­hyde.

The team learnt that the pro­ce­dure would have cost any­thing in the re­gion of RM20,000. It could not be es­tab­lished who set­tled the bill.

Bod­ies stored in morgues are of­ten kept at be­tween 2°C and 4°C. While the morgues are usu­ally used to keep bod­ies for up to sev­eral weeks, they do not pre­vent de­com­po­si­tion.

Mean­while, un­claimed and iden­ti­fied bod­ies han­dled by foren­sics are usu­ally kept at be­tween -50°C and -10°C. At these tem­per­a­tures, the bod­ies are com­pletely frozen and de­com­po­si­tion is very much re­duced.

In the case of Jong-nam’s body, the NST learnt that those han­dling it in the course of in­ves­ti­ga­tion were forced to thaw and rethaw the body.

It is also un­der­stood that the last time the body was brought to the au­topsy ta­ble, it had al­ready dis­played signs of de­com­po­si­tion.

Mean­while, an ex­pert told the team that de­spite hav­ing been embalmed, there would be no prob­lems should there ever be a need for a sec­ond post-mortem to be car­ried out.

The team made a visit to the fa­cil­ity and spoke to its chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer. He re­fused to com­mit to an an­swer if the process took place there but ad­mit­ted that the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Foren­sic Medicine had in the past few days con­tacted them to get their opin­ion on the best avail­able meth­ods to pre­serve the body.

They said there would usu­ally be two ways of pre­serv­ing a ca­daver — through “ar­te­rial embalming” and “open-body embalming”.

“Ar­te­rial embalming doesn’t re­quire us to cut open the body... in Malaysia, it nor­mally takes about 10 to 15 days (be­fore the body starts to de­com­pose), but we also have to pe­ri­od­i­cally check on the body.

“Our job is about cos­met­ics... We have to make sure that the body, in­clud­ing the face, looks pre­sentable,” he said.

Page 1 pic: Health Min­istry per­son­nel re­mov­ing Kim Jong­nam’s body from the hearse af­ter the embalming.

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