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Former Malaysian hangman gives rare insight into death row inmates' final hours

The ex-hangman asked his name not to be published for safety reasons.
Notorious Malaysian hangman who has killed 130 criminals reveals Australian grandmother caught smuggling meth will be given just one day's notice before she is put to death

An Australian grandmother will be given just 24-hours notice before she is hanged for smuggling drugs into Malaysia, the country's self-described 'number one' executioner has revealed.

A former prison official who presided over 130 hangings across five Malaysian jails has given Daily Mail Australia an extraordinary insight into the final hours of a death row inmate.

In an exclusive interview in Kuala Lumpur, the retired former chief hangman, 61, said the executions always begin at dawn, just after the morning prayers.

'That is the best time,' said the officer, who asked his name not to be published for safety reasons. 'People wake up, their mind is always at peace.

'It's very quiet, the whole prison is very quiet, especially the Muslims, they pray.

'People in the death knell are praying for the (inmate about to be hanged), the Christians, the people in the other blocks are praying for them too - they know that.'

The ex-hangman opened up about the country's secretive execution process after a Malaysian court sentenced Sydney woman Maria Exposto, 54, to death.

Like many before her, in 2014, Ms Exposto was caught at Kuala Lumpur international airport carrying a bag laced with drugs - more than a kilogram of crystal methamphetamine. She claimed she was 'duped' into carrying the substance by an online romance scammer.

Drug smuggling carries a mandatory death penalty in Malaysia. Activists have long criticised the hardline policy as 'barbaric, cruel and inhumane', but it has broad public support.

This week, the former prison chief outlined a grim future for Ms Exposto if a final appeal against her death sentence fails.


The estimated 1346 Malaysian prisoners currently on death row face a long wait, the executioner said. It can take up to 11 years behind bars for inmates to step into the gallows.

The prison starts preparing for the hanging one month before. The chief executioner chooses an appropriate date and time and selects a support team to prepare the chamber, place the noose around the inmate's neck and pull the trapdoor lever.

Maria Exposto
'We inform the family one week earlier, for preparation by the family (with) what they want to do with the body,' the hangman said.

'We inform the family the execution will be carried out, in this prison, between this time, at this date.

'(We say), please be there one day before this.'

But the inmate does not learn they will be put to death until 24 hours before they are hanged. That morning, the prisoner is summoned to a meeting with the prison director and told it is their last full day on Earth.

The jail has received a death penalty warrant, the director tells them, and 'yes, your family knows already'. 'Immediately after seeing the director, they (are) taken out to a room, then the family comes in,' the official said.

'Anyone from the family can come, no problem … That part is always very emotional.'

The prisoners say their final goodbyes. They can ask for a last meal, although they are by no means guaranteed to get what they asked for, the hangman said.

'Some people ask, is there any chance to drink, smoke?' the executioner laughed. 'There's no such thing as 'one for the road! Let's have a drink before we go!'

The next day the prisoner wakes and is led into the gallows. The jail is, usually, quiet and still. Sometimes, the executioner said, it's all over 'ten seconds' after the prisoner steps into the chamber.


The executioner who spoke to Daily Mail Australia killed his first inmate - a drug-smuggling Thai actor - when he was 26-years-old. Over his career, he directly hanged 70 people, and supervised about 60 more.

Sometimes, the hangman executed multiple people at once. There were six people all together on one occasion, three on another. 'Ninety per cent' of prisoners were peaceful in their final moments, he claimed.

The rest were distressed. One notorious mass-murderer even spat in the hangman's face as the cover was placed over his head. 'He killed women, he killed children,' the executioner said.

'I had no regret, I had totally no regret. I can still make his face, he's looking at me, spitting in my face'.

Malaysian hangman
Another prisoner affected the hangman in a different way.

The inmate left a heartbreaking letter to his son saying 'please do not do the same thing I did… selling drugs, doing this, it's not going to get you anywhere. I made this mistake, I'm very sorry son.'

The doomed prisoner asked the hangman to give it to his boy.

'I shook hands with (the son) and said: "I'm very sorry",' he recalled.

Most of the damned were men. A 6 ft 5 Nigerian man cried for his entire final day after being told he would die, the hangman recalled.

'Woman (sic), I think, are tougher than men,' the executioner said. About six women were hanged under his watch and, 'women are always (more) well prepared than men, I noticed that.'

Hangmen are handpicked from existing jail staff by a selection panel. 'You must have a very good record, physically you must be fit, mentally you must be strong,' he said.

'You have to be very, very strong. It's not easy to become an executioner. You must be able to control your emotions.'

Executions do not happen every day, or even every month. In 2016, Malaysia put nine people to death, while its courts handed down more than 36 death sentences, according to Amnesty International statistics.

But why do people follow such a career in the first place? The hangmen said he did his work out of a sense of duty to the nation. 'Of course there is emotion there,' he said. 'I only (see it) as part of my work.

'I feel like this is my work, to serve the country, and nothing more than that.

'I do not hold any grudges. I do not hold any ill feelings towards the opposite, even if it is a murderer, even if they are drug (smugglers)… because I know the process of law has been done, has been carried out.'

The hangman said he has 'no regrets'. 

Source: Mail Online, Daniel Piotrowski, June 1, 2018

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