These were words that Siti Aisyah had long dreamed of hearing, spoken by the filmmaker who had plucked this naive farmer's daughter out of the dark to make her a star. & # 39; If things are going well today, you are known around the world & # 39 ;, he told her. & # 39; You can become a famous actress. & # 39;
In a sense, the filmmaker was right: Siti indeed became world famous – but not for the reasons she expected.
Instead, her name is now synonymous with one of the world's most daring murders, the murder of playboy brother Kim Jong Nam of North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un. He died in agony in February 2017 after being stained with the deadly nerve agent VX at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
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The name of Siti Aisyah (photo) is now synonymous with one of the world's most daring murders, the murder of playboy brother Kim Jong Nam of North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un
He was murdered in broad daylight – by two young women who claimed they believed they were taking part in nothing more than a simple joke for the video exchange site YouTube.
Despite their protest against innocence, Siti and her co-actress Duong Thi Huong saw the very real prospect of the death penalty and spent more than two years in prison – many of them in solitary confinement – before being released dramatically earlier this year in which the charges against them were unexpectedly withdrawn.
Since then, Siti has determinedly kept a low profile, returning to her remote home village in rural Indonesia to try to pick up the pieces of her life. Only now, traced by The Mail on Sunday, did she decide to fully tell her extraordinary story for the first time.
Repentant, angry and bewildered, Siti describes what it feels like to be so ruthlessly exploited by murderers who didn't care whether she would live or die. Indeed, it is only by chance that she did not succumb to the deadly poison itself.
& # 39; I had no idea what I had done & # 39 ;, Siti says and fights tears. & # 39; They told me they would make me a star. I feel so foolish that I believe them so easily. I didn't know who Kim Jong Un was for this. I didn't even know where North Korea was. I feel bad about what happened to Kim Jong Nam and I wish I had never been involved. If I could turn back the time, I would never have agreed.
& # 39; When I got out of jail, I looked up my name on the internet and finally realized what it was all about. I thought: & # 39; How could I have become entangled in such a major murder case involving these important people? & # 39; I'm just a girl from a small village. I just believed I was playing jokes. That is all I have ever thought. & # 39;
He was killed in broad daylight (camera images show the time of the attack) – by two young women who claim they believed they were participating in nothing more than a simple joke for the video sharing site's YouTube
Certainly few can deny that Siti makes the most unlikely of murderers. Small and much younger than her 27 years old, it's hard to believe she's the mother of a ten-year-old boy, Rio, who was only seven when she was imprisoned.
Her story reads like something from a far-fetched paperback thriller: a beautiful young woman is recruited by secret agents to fulfill a deadly and clandestine mission. Her excuse – that she knew nothing about the plot of the murder – is even stranger. But meeting her in the modest house she shares with her devout Muslim parents in an impoverished village, explains that somewhat. Their simple, single-storey house is on an unpaved road flanked by coconut and mangrove trees and the living room wall is adorned with precious family photos and verses from the Koran.
The victim complains to officials at Kuala Lumpur International Airport just after he was smeared with the nerve agent
Siti & # 39; s interest and knowledge of the rest of the world is sketchy at best: for example, she couldn't tell you who Donald Trump is.
The youngest of three children left school at the age of 12 and was married to a son at the age of 17. & # 39; I was only happy for the first three months. I soon found out that my husband loved gambling and women and never supported me financially, "she says.
The marriage failed and she left her son in the care of her in-laws to become one of the thousands tempted to make a living in the sex industry in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
In 2017, she worked as a masseuse at the city's Flamingo hotel and picked up nightly customers at the sleazy Beach Club Cafe, where she met a taxi driver in the early hours of a January morning who spent the rest of her life forever. & # 39; He told me he had a Japanese client who was looking for someone to act in a reality TV show and he said that I had exactly the right look & # 39 ;, she recalls.
Flattered, Siti went to a meeting in an upscale shopping mall the next day where she & # 39; James & # 39; met, who told her that he was a Japanese TV producer who made Candid Camera-style shows for YouTube.
In fact, James – real name Ri Ji U – was a 30-year-old North Korean agent. He could not speak Indonesian and communicated via Google Translate. Siti & # 39; s first & # 39; job & # 39; was simple, though a bit odd – and for £ 80 the wage was lucrative: she only had to approach three random men in the local mall and apply baby oil on them before apologizing and running away while James filmed it on his iPhone.
& # 39; He told me afterwards that I had done well and that there would be more work for me & # 39 ;, she recalls.
Kim Jong Nam (photo) died in terror in February 2017 after being smeared with the deadly nerve agent VX at Kuala Lumpur International Airport
& # 39; I was nervous at the start making jokes in case someone reacted badly or struck, but I was very happy that I had the job. I wondered why anyone would want to watch things like this, but they told me that the Japanese audience loved it and the videos were edited in Singapore for a big TV show.
& # 39; I had earned 400 ringgits (£ 80) for 15 minutes of work. In the hotel where I worked as a masseuse, I only earned 20 ringgits (£ 4) for each customer. & # 39;
In the following weeks, Siti was summoned by James to perform similar jokes in other shopping centers and at Kuala Lumpur airport.
The exercise was always the same: James put lotion on Siti & # 39; s hands before approaching her bewildered victims from behind and wiping her hands on their faces.
Siti said: & I didn't know who Kim Jong Un (right, next to his brother Kim Jong Nam, left) was before all this. I didn't even know where North Korea was & # 39;
Then, after a quick apology, she would make a quick exit and deposit a payment – now raised to £ 100 – for every successfully completed & # 39; joke & # 39 ;. She has never ever questioned the nature of her new work, which she now knows was actually a training for just one single murderous mission. & # 39; James told me he would take me to America, & # 39; she remembers. & # 39; I even gave him my passport so he could arrange a visa for me. I was very excited. I thought this would change my life and I could leave my old life behind. & # 39;
Siti admits that she developed feelings for James – and that may have made it easier for her to dispel all persistent doubts.
& # 39; I liked him because he was handsome, but he was shy about women & she said. Their friendship did not last long: within a few weeks, Siti was flown over to Cambodia and connected with another & # 39; producer, Mr. Chang – in reality another Korean handler named Hong Song Hac.
Chang spoke fluent Bahasa, the native language of Siti, but she says: & I didn't like him. When he got serious, I was a little scared of him. & # 39;
However, the work was the same and Siti continued to film jokes for money in both Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpur. Behind the scenes, the North Koreans desperately tried to follow Kim Jong Nam – who was constantly on the move – to implement their deadly plan. His brother's only credible rival, they had long since dropped out, and for years he had been a dead man while the regime suspected that he spent secrets to the US.
When the North Koreans approached their goal, they followed him when he returned to Malaysia, where police sources confirmed to The Mail on Sunday, he met a CIA agent and exchanged a laptop full of data for a packet of $ 100 bills. Two days before the murder, Siti, now back in Kuala Lumpur, recalls a $ 200 bonus from Mr. Chang. & # 39; When I asked what the money was for, he said it was because I worked very well in Phnom Penh and his boss was very happy with me. & # 39;
She was told that her next job could propel her to international fame. & # 39; I didn't think I'd become famous & # 39 ;, she insists. & # 39; I liked the money. & # 39;
However, it is clear that she was flattered and convinced enough to tell her friends on a 25th birthday at the Hard Rock cafe in Jakarta the following night. In what turned out to be a creepy visionary clip captured on her cell phone, a friend of Siti claims that & # 39; Siti is going to become a celebrity & # 39 ;. They could not imagine the reason.
I didn't know who Kim Jong Un was for this
The following day, Siti arrived at a coffee shop at Kuala Lumpur airport at & # 39; Mr. Chang & # 39; to meet for a briefing about her last joke. He told her that this would be something else: he not only had a certain goal in mind, but Siti would also do it with another & # 39; actress & # 39; who would approach him from a different direction at the last minute.
As with any previous joke, the & # 39; filmmaker made & # 39; then a small container, the size of a hotel shampoo bottle and liquid on Siti & # 39; s hands, pointed to her target in the busy airport departure hall and steered her in his direction. & # 39; Mr. Chang told me that the man was a big boss in his company & she said. & # 39; He said he was very arrogant and might get angry, so I had to perform the joke and then leave as quickly as possible. & # 39;
It is one of the reasons that Siti admits that she was unusually nervous when she walked over to the man she now knows, Kim Jong Nam.
She remembers that she was only two steps away from him when her accomplice Huong suddenly cut her path from another direction and laid her hands over his eyes. & # 39; He seemed irritated and upset, & # 39; says Siti. & # 39; I thought: & # 39; He looks like a rich man and he is clearly angry and he can report us to the police. & # 39; & # 39;
Initially, intelligence officials thought that each woman might have different chemical components that, although harmless in themselves, would form a lethal connection if mixed.
In fact, both women carried the deadly VX poison on their hands and were almost committed suicide.
Siti and Huong fled in different directions after the attack and both went directly to different toilets to remove the sticky liquid from their hands – an operation that would almost certainly save their lives.
A few meters away, Kim Jong Nam writhed in terror in the hallway, his vital organs being eliminated one by one.
It would later turn out that Kim Jong Nam was carrying an antidote to VX in his backpack, but in the grip of blinding pain would not have thought of using it. After approaching airport officials, he was taken to a clinic and died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Siti Aisyah (photo) smiled when she left the Supreme Court of Shah Alam in Malaysia in March after prosecutors had unexpectedly dropped the indictment of murder against her
Unaware of the unfolding horror, Siti then wandered around the airport mall for three hours, bought clothes, and had lunch before returning to the city's Flamingo hotel, where she worked as a masseuse between filming assignments.
Siti of the international drama was so unaware that when the police arrived two nights later to arrest her, she initially thought it was a different YouTube joke. & # 39; They said: & # 39; Where were you on the 13th? Were you at the airport? & # 39; I said yes, I made a video. They asked why I did not request permission and said: & # 39; Come with us to the police station. & # 39; I thought it was just a random police check on foreign workers.
& # 39; Then they said at the police station that I had been involved in the murder of a president's brother. I just laughed and said & # 39; You're kidding & # 39; and asked them to give me my passport and my phone and let me go home. But they got mad at me and put me in handcuffs. & # 39;
Siti was taken to the hospital, where traces of VX were found on the top she was wearing at the airport.
It took fourteen days for her to see a lawyer for her first trial where she was accused of murder – a crime that has a mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.
& # 39; I was absolutely terrified when I realized that I could be executed, & # 39; Siti says, her eyes are full of tears again. & # 39; I was so confused. How could I be in this situation? I cried for three months every day. I could not eat and I could not drink. I thought I'd never see my son again. & # 39;
With an approaching trial hanging over her, Siti spent the first year of her imprisonment in solitary confinement, visiting her only company alongside legal and embassy prison guards who watched her room and brutally taunted her.
& # 39; They asked me if I wanted to commit suicide because it was such a big thing that I was involved. Another time one of them told me that if I didn't plead guilty, North Korea would bomb my homeland, Indonesia, & # 39; she says. Her only contact with her parents in the meantime was a weekly telephone call of 15 minutes.
& # 39; The first time I called them, I just cried & # 39 ;, she says. & # 39; Even now my parents never asked me about the case. They've seen it on TV news, so they know what it was about, but they don't want to think about what I've been through. & # 39;
After several months of painful delays, the Siti trial would begin in March. Then, in another dramatic development, the murder case was canceled. No reason was given, while Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad maintained that there had been no negotiations, but that the decision had only been in accordance with & # 39; the rule of law & # 39 ;.
Her charge was limited to & # 39; administering a poison & # 39 ;, a crime for which she had already exercised the necessary imprisonment.
Siti & # 39; s lawyer Gooi Soon told The Mail on Sunday that the real killers should be brought to justice. & # 39; It was a brilliant plot if you think about it. The plan was that Kim Jong Nam walk straight to his flight (not knowing he was poisoned) and die on the plane. It would have been classified as a heart attack and everything would have gone unnoticed.
& # 39; They have brought VX into the country – that comes down to a declaration of war & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; The people who planned this murder must absolutely be brought to justice. & # 39;
Perhaps it is a final irony that her own role in this political murder helped Siti reach the celebrity she longed for: on her release treated as a VIP, she was flown home with a private jet and taken directly to the Indonesian president. For two months she was guarded in a safe house until the security risk was reduced.
There are more tears when Siti remembers how, during her absence, her son Rio had grown so large that she could no longer shake him in her arms with their emotional reunification as in the past. & # 39; We had been apart for more than two years. I told him that I was so sorry and that I could not have reached him while I was in prison. He didn't answer. He just smiled and hugged me tightly. & # 39;
She adds: & # 39; I have to accept that I was gullible. I'm angry and angry with James and Mr. Chang for telling them so many personal things and taking them into confidence – then they put me in a terrible situation where they didn't care if I lived or died. & # 39;
Today, six months later, she is studying to become a beautician and claims to want to leave her fame behind. & # 39; I want a better future & # 39 ;, she insists. & # 39; I want more children and maybe someday I'll get married if I find a good man. & # 39;
Nevertheless, she still seems strangely seduced by the fame she found in the most deadly circumstances. & # 39; Who would think that someone like me who went to primary school alone could become world famous? & # 39;
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