Singapore Expats Forum

Hangem Up By the Toes Lah

Discuss about the latest news & interesting topics, real life experience or other out of topic discussions with locals & expatriates in Singapore.

User avatar
Bafana
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 1393
Joined: Sun, 11 Apr 2004
Location: Singapore

Hangem Up By the Toes Lah

Postby Bafana » Fri, 28 Oct 2005 10:49 am

Macabre legacy

Australian heroin mule Nguyen Tuong Van will be hanged in Singapore using a method devised in 19th-century Britain, writes Nick Cater
October 26, 2005

THE hangman's craft calls for a good stout rope with enough tensile strength to withstand a force of about 570kg, which is sufficient to snap the neck of a condemned prisoner, putting them in a coma for the six minutes or so it takes the brain to shut down.

If the pressure on the side of the neck from the noose is less than 570kg when the body's fall is arrested, the prisoner will probably suffer prolonged death by strangulation.

Should the hangman miscalculate the length of the rope, allowing the body to fall too far, the force will be too great and, unless the rope snaps, death will be by decapitation.

Hanging grew in popularity from the 5th century onwards in Europe as a means of execution, partly because it provided a spectacle. The body of a murderer, witch or thief was strung high above the crowd, giving everyone a perfect view.

But judicial hanging is never tidy, even when professionally executed, and these days in pristine Singapore executions are carried out quietly, with a minimum of publicity, behind the walls of the rebuilt Changi Prison.
The Singapore Government stopped announcing executions five years ago and refuses to give out any information about life on death row. Although it is happy to publicise the death penalty in abstraction, believing its existence to be a deterrent to drug traffickers, the details of the execution, using a method devised in 19th-century Britain, are never officially discussed.

Nevertheless it is possible to piece together a detailed picture of how convicted Australian heroin trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van's life will end, using accounts obtained from relatives of prisoners by Amnesty International and from a rare interview I conducted in 1996 with the Malaysian hangman who executed Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers, also for heroin trafficking.

Before their post-colonial separation in 1965, Singapore and Malaysia had a joint prisons department and, despite their technological advances in many other areas, the Singaporeans have been unable to improve on the long-drop execution technique introduced to British prisons in 1872. The mechanics and rituals of this macabre colonial legacy have barely altered since the mother country hanged its last prisoner 41 years ago.

A week or so before the twin trap doors open beneath her son's feet, Kim Nguyen can expect to receive a terse letter from the superintendent of Changi Prison. "You are advised to make the necessary funeral arrangements," the letter will say. "If you are unable to do so, cremation will be carried out by the state."

Nguyen Tuong Van was about to fly to Melbourne when he was caught in transit at Changi airport in December 2002 with almost 400g of heroin strapped to his body and in his hand luggage. He said he had been pressured by loan sharks to act as a drug mule to help pay off his twin brother Khoa's legal debts of $25,000. The sales executive from Glen Waverley, a middle-class suburb east of Melbourne, has no previous criminal record. He was sentenced to death in March last year. After Singapore's President S.R. Nathan refused his clemency petition last Friday, Nguyen is set to become the first Australian to be executed in 12 years, since Sydney barman Michael McAuliffe was hanged in Malaysia in 1993 for heroin trafficking.

Nguyen, 25, will spend the final days of his short life in an isolation cell approximately 3mx3m, furnished with a toilet and a bed mat but no bedding.

In Nguyen's final few days, the regulation restricting family visiting time to 20 minutes a week will be relaxed, although physical contact will be strictly forbidden.

Nguyen is also allowed a television in his cell to receive the sanitised entertainment provided by Singapore's Channel Five English-language service.

Finally, on the night before his execution, he will be allowed to eat a takeaway meal of his choice, within the prison's budget.

Earlier that day Nguyen will meet his executioner, who will weigh him and examine his physique. After subtracting 6.3kg from the body weight, the notional weight of the head, the executioner will consult the Official Table of Drops, last revised in 1913, to calculate the length of the rope.
British Home Office regulations, adopted by Singapore, stipulate that the drop will be between 1.83m and 2.44m. For a condemned man weighing 66kg, for example, the rope should be 2.03m, with an additional 33cm added for the circumference of the neck.

Before Britain abolished the death penalty in 1964, the rope was specially made at a factory in Wellington, Somerset, woven from Italian silk hemp, chosen because it did not stretch. Elasticity in a rope reduces the deceleration force on the victim's neck, making death more painful. Today the favoured rope is made of Terylene, the least elastic of all the synthetic fibres used in rope making.

Friday is execution day at Changi, and before the sun rises, the hangman and his assistant will test the lever operating the twin trap doors and recheck the measurement of the rope.

Once the prisoner is collected from his cell shortly before 6am, speed is of the essence. The longer it takes, the greater the opportunity for panic and struggle.

A hood is placed over the prisoner's head and his hands are pinioned behind his back, usually with handcuffs. His legs are bound together with wire to prevent him kicking out and catching them against the sides of the trapdoor. The rope, attached to a concealed beam, is positioned around the neck and the trapdoor lever on the execution platform is pulled. The clunk of the wooden doors echoes around the chamber. Before the prison was modernised, the sound could be clearly heard by other prisoners on death row. If everything goes to plan, the strike force of the noose will dislocate the neck at the second and third cervical vertebrae, the classic hangman's fracture. The prisoner will enter complete neurogenic shock, unable to process pain, although electrical activity may continue in the brain for several minutes after the spinal cord is cut.
The body is left for 30 minutes. A doctor will perform an autopsy and issue a death certificate. By mid-morning the cadaver is ready for collection by relatives.

When prime minister Goh Chok Tong was asked in a BBC interview two years ago if he knew the precise number of people executed in 2003, he replied dismissively: "I've got more important issues to worry about."
Amnesty International claims more than 400 prisoners were hanged in Singapore from 1991 to 2003, the highest per capita rate of executions in the world by a considerable margin. More than half of those executed were drug traffickers.

In Singapore the issue is rarely debated, the country's low crime rate being seen as sufficient justification for capital punishment. Abolition, it is said, would send the wrong message to criminals who may interpret it as an indication that the Government is going soft on crime.
Albert Pierrepoint, Britain's hangman for 25 years, saw things somewhat differently in his 1974 autobiography. "All the men and women whom I have faced at that final moment convince me that in what I have done, I have not prevented a single murder," he confessed. "I do not now believe that any one of the hundreds of executions I carried out has in any way acted as a deterrent against future murder. Capital punishment, in my view, achieved nothing except revenge."

User avatar
k1w1
Reporter
Reporter
Posts: 680
Joined: Mon, 30 May 2005

Postby k1w1 » Fri, 28 Oct 2005 11:17 am

That is hideous... [no emoticon for "puke"...]

dot dot dot
Manager
Manager
Posts: 2308
Joined: Thu, 21 Oct 2004

Postby dot dot dot » Fri, 28 Oct 2005 11:33 am

I would advise 'independant' organization Amnesty International to start concentrating on the battle against the horrendous drugs like heroin and others. That I could respect. And in the end reporter Nick Cater could comment on this war on drugs, lead by Amnesty International.

In the meantime I cheer Goh Chok Tong for his brave reply to those questioning him: He is absolutely right.

I feel quite sad for the 25 year old drugtrafficker convicted, but I feel much more empathy for those suffering from criminals like this idiot.

He knew it, now he has to face it.

Eric

User avatar
Bafana
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 1393
Joined: Sun, 11 Apr 2004
Location: Singapore

Postby Bafana » Fri, 28 Oct 2005 11:37 am

Eric from the Netherlands wrote:I would advise 'independant' organization Amnesty International to start concentrating on the battle against the horrendous drugs like heroin and others. That I could respect. And in the end reporter Nick Cater could comment on this war on drugs, lead by Amnesty International.

In the meantime I cheer Goh Chok Tong for his brave reply to those questioning him: He is absolutely right.

I feel quite sad for the 25 year old drugtrafficker convicted, but I feel much more empathy for those suffering from criminals like this idiot.

He knew it, now he has to face it.

Eric


I'm with you Eric - The real sufferers are those lost to drugs not some bastard who took out a lone for stuff he could'nt then decided to smuggle drugs to cover his debts.

Though I have to admit the last comment from the UK Hang Man being about it all just revenger deos ring true...

dot dot dot
Manager
Manager
Posts: 2308
Joined: Thu, 21 Oct 2004

Postby dot dot dot » Fri, 28 Oct 2005 12:09 pm

hmm... not sure Baf,

What about those murderers in countries where there is no capital punishment and who after getting back to freedom, decide to do the same old thing: molesting, murdering and/or raping more people?

The only arguments against the deathpenalty for me is the fact that you could send the wrong person to death (but I have confidence in Singapore's justice system for those capital punishment cases) or the fact that as a state you are telling people it is wrong to kill, and as an answer to that the state kills itself (hard to digest, but one cannot allow the state authorities to suffer from not being (morally) able to put death upon those who do not respect life of others).

It is and will always be a very sensitive issue, the deathpenalty.

Eric

User avatar
Vaucluse
Director
Director
Posts: 3443
Joined: Sun, 10 Jul 2005

Postby Vaucluse » Fri, 28 Oct 2005 5:21 pm

Let's see . . .

One drug mule dies . . .

vs


countless young people injecting this shit into their veins, spreading AIDS through sharing syringes - becoming addicts to this crap, giving birth to drug addicted babies, addicts destroying property, robbing people to get money to buy this shit . . .
Absolute misery for countless people, enrichment for the few.


Ok, he knew the pitfalls, and I guess if I weigh it up = sorry, dude!
......................................................

'nuff said Image

Plavt
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 4289
Joined: Wed, 18 May 2005
Location: United Kingdom

Postby Plavt » Fri, 28 Oct 2005 6:03 pm

It is all very well hanging Nguyen Tuong Van and I do not for one moment condone his actions. However, let's not lose sight of the fact that the real culprits are rarely if ever around to get caught. The usual method is to use somebody else and if they get caught as far as the real peddlers are concerned that is just a lost consignment. I cannot speak for Singapore but here in the UK far more goes undetected than actually gets stopped depending on what kind of drugs are involved. The customs themselves will tell you that. More specifically Police in general pay little attention to drugs such as marijuana since in Europe it is rife although still illegal in Britain although downgraded to a class 'B' drug.

Although I sympathize with the Singaporean authorities being on the edge of the 'golden triangle' and the judiciary is efficient and as I am told by Singaporean residents most police officers are reliable.

I personally would not like to see the death penalty re-introduced in the UK, as those of you who follow the English news will know there have been numerous wrongful convictions. No good saying as some do 'it only a few lives amongst millions', they would not be so keen if it was there neck!


Plavt.

Plavt
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 4289
Joined: Wed, 18 May 2005
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Hangem Up By the Toes Lah

Postby Plavt » Fri, 28 Oct 2005 6:58 pm

Bafana wrote: it is happy to publicise the death penalty in abstraction, believing its existence to be a deterrent to drug traffickers


Hardly a deterrent since drugs still enter Singapore and not everybody gets caught. Although once again I do sympathize with Singapore's government and it is true to say travelers are given fair warning. Unfortunately there is always somebody who does not read up on such matters. Has anyone reading this ever wondered about the landing cards on the aircraft which carry the caption 'Death for drug trafficking under Singapore Law'. I have never had reason to be concerned but often wonder if that is some kind of suggestion to those who might be carrying such items to get rid of them or suffer the consequences?

Plavt.

Wham
Chatter
Chatter
Posts: 384
Joined: Tue, 12 Apr 2005
Location: Singapore

Postby Wham » Sat, 29 Oct 2005 7:55 am

i agree with Goh Chok Tong. It IS very sad - but worse for those suffering from the effects of drug addiction. I would also point out to anyone critical of Singapore's harsh punishments that Sing has an extremely enlightened approach to the rehabilitation of small time users and addicts and does not just hide behind the harsh penalties.
"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." Samuel Johnson

User avatar
Vaucluse
Director
Director
Posts: 3443
Joined: Sun, 10 Jul 2005

Postby Vaucluse » Sat, 29 Oct 2005 9:03 am

Strange, but I agreed with the author up to a certain point, but then he lost me:

Shouldn't we be boycotting Singapore?
Friday, October 28, 2005 - 05:03 PM
If all else fails, as seems the case, what can we do to vent the fury that many of us feel about the impending execution of Australian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van in Singapore? I know what I'll be doing: following the advice of my colleague Mark Baker in The Age, and having as little to do with this quasi-democracy as possible.

The country seems deeply precious -- in the bad way -- its leaders devoid of any sense of humour, always attempting to censor and silence anyone who disagrees with them. As Reporters Without Borders highlights, the Singaporean media are cowed and compliant. It all occurs under the spurious cloak of "Asian values" and respect for the wisdom of elders. What hogwash.

It is a petty dictatorship, where after a suitable interregnum, the ruling family has been restored to power. It is effectively a one-party state, where the government uses its iron grip on the legal system to drive any opponents from office.

First it was Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, who in 1981 smashed 16 years of one-party rule when he was elected to Parliament as the sole representative of the Worker's Party. Then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who has since put his son on the throne, said the courageous Jeyaretnam should be "destroyed" for bucking the system.

Lee family regent, Goh Chok Tong, also tried to drive another opposition figure, Chee Soon Juan, from office, by suing him with the aim of bankrupting him, thereby making him ineligible to run for office.

Lee was also an apologist for the tyrants of Burma -- or Myanmar, as he acquiescingly calls it -- and its brutal suppression of Aung San Suu Kyi.

And, of course, it has a politicised legal system, which always seems to find in favour of the whinging government minister suing the opposition into oblivion, and now imposing the death sentence on an unfortunate young Australian. Yes, Nguyen Tuong Van was carrying drugs, not into Singapore, but through Singapore and into Australia, and only to raise enough to pay the debts of his imperiled brother.

Was he aware of his crime and the disastrous impact of heroin addiction? The answers are, respectively, yes and probably. But should his penalty be judicial murder in a country with, according to Amnesty International, the highest per capita execution rate in the world? (More than 420 people have been executed since 1991, the majority for drug trafficking.) I think not but maybe you disagree.

Some correspondents have responded to Mark Baker's call for a boycott -- both as a travel destination and of its companies, such as Singapore Airlines and Optus -- by asking why single out Singapore.

I tell you why. Because it is a petty dictatorship that pretends to be so much more.



Maybe it is selfish/heartless/mean of us to sit back by the pool in our condos, leading a good life to say - off with his head. I do remember, however, living in Oz, the US and Europe and shaking my head and at times getting quite upset about criminals receiving 6 years in jail for murder, 2 years for rape, 6 months for bashing an 80-year old lady to take her jewellery. I detested the sanctimonious defence attorneys and judges talking about how bad the crims childhood had been - therefore the leniency he got for leading a gang-rape against a 14-year old girl - and the list goes on.

He was a drug trafficker to help out with family debts. Well, fcuk a duck! I have debts . . . My brother has debts . . . My parents had debts at one stage in their lives . . . I actually cannot think of anyone without debts; car, house etc . . .

Anyway, the death penalty is abhorrent, but so are many crimes.
......................................................



'nuff said Image

User avatar
Mary Hatch Bailey
Manager
Manager
Posts: 1579
Joined: Thu, 06 Oct 2005
Location: Bedford Falls

Postby Mary Hatch Bailey » Sat, 29 Oct 2005 3:13 pm

Probably not to anyon'e's surprise, I am staunchly opposed to the death penalty and mandatory minimums for that matter.

As a card carrying member of Amnesty International, who has written her fair share of letters to foreign leaders around the world holding political prisoners of conscience, I believe that the death penalty:

Is barbaric, and not the reflection of a humane society

Is not a deterent.

As we continue to pass the 'hot potato' of blame from pusher, to Drug Czar, to opium growers, we forget to look inward, and ask why at times it is the human condition to self-anesthetise.

User avatar
k1w1
Reporter
Reporter
Posts: 680
Joined: Mon, 30 May 2005

Postby k1w1 » Sat, 29 Oct 2005 9:25 pm

Agree with MHB. Don't like with what this guy did, but I think death is far too high a price, and simply barbaric. I also think it's a damn shame for him that he not a pretty young beautician.

User avatar
Vaucluse
Director
Director
Posts: 3443
Joined: Sun, 10 Jul 2005

Postby Vaucluse » Sat, 29 Oct 2005 11:24 pm

I used to be dead against the capital punishment (pardon the pun), but I have seen so many ugly things since my student days that I am wavering. Possibly seeing all the druggies with syringes sticking out of their arms or legs, propped up against the entrance to my student digs - had a few die there - made me a bit more conservative on this issue.

I do agree that the punishment does not fit the crime, but I have seen the results of people like him delivering his packages of death and in too many cases the result is death.
......................................................



'nuff said Image

User avatar
tiki
Reporter
Reporter
Posts: 684
Joined: Mon, 22 Aug 2005
Location: third guy from the left
Contact:

Postby tiki » Sat, 29 Oct 2005 11:52 pm

'If you can't do the Rope...
...don't do the Dope'

dot dot dot
Manager
Manager
Posts: 2308
Joined: Thu, 21 Oct 2004

Postby dot dot dot » Sun, 30 Oct 2005 10:13 am

Or:

'If you deal the Dope, better face the Rope'.

Eric


  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Return to “General Discussions”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests