From smh.com.auOctober 28, 2005 - 7:54AM
The man due to execute convicted Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van in Singapore is a 73-year-old grandfather who can't retire because no-one will take his job.
The Singaporean government looks set to take the 25-year-old Melbourne man to the gallows, after rejecting his appeal for clemency last Friday.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has made a last ditch attempt to save Nguyen's life, but says he has little hope the Australian will be spared.
Singapore's chief executioner Darshan Singh, who has hanged more than 850 prisoners in his 46 years in the role, is due to place the rope around Nguyen's neck, The Australian newspaper reported.
He will say: "I am going to send you to a better place than this. God bless you."
The newspaper says Singh, who lives in a government-owned apartment, wants to leave his job but authorities cannot find a replacement.
Singh is not permitted by law to speak publicly about his job.
But a colleague told the newspaper: "He tried to train two would-be hangmen to replace him, a Malaysian and a Chinese, both in the prison service.
"But when it came to pulling the lever for the real thing, they both froze and could not do it.
"The Chinese guy, a prison officer, became so distraught he walked out immediately and resigned from the prison service altogether."
Nguyen was caught with 396 grams of heroin strapped to his body and in his hand luggage at Singapore's Changi airport in 2002.
He is expected to be hanged in the next four to six weeks.
The picture above and the extract below of an article from The Australian add insight into the final moments of those who face the death penalty in Singapore...
Semi-retired: Darshan Singh, Singapore's chief executioner, wants to quit, but suitable replacements are hard to find
[...]Officials rarely comment on capital punishment, which is carried out without publicity behind the walls of Changi prison.
But The Australian can reveal today that the 73-year-old grandfather, who lives in a modest, government-owned apartment near the border with Malaysia, has been asked to execute Nguyen unless the Singapore Government gives an unprecedented last-minute reprieve.
Mr Singh told The Australian yesterday that under the Official Secrets Act he was forbidden from speaking about his work.
Nguyen will meet Mr Singh a few days before he is executed and will be asked if he would like to donate his organs.
On the day before his execution, Mr Singh will lead him to a set of scales close to his death-row cell to weigh him.
Mr Singh will use the Official Table of Drops, published by the British Home Office in 1913, to calculate the correct length of rope for the hanging.
On the day of Nguyen's execution, Mr Singh will be picked up by a government vehicle and driven to the prison, arriving at 2am to prepare the gallows.
Shortly before 6am, he will handcuff Nguyen's hands behind his back and lead him on his final short walk to the gallows, just a few metres from the cell.
Mr Singh joined the British colonial prison service in the mid-1950s after arriving from Malaysia. When the long-established British hangman Mr Seymour retired, Mr Singh, then 27, volunteered for the job. He was attracted by the bonus payment for executions.
Mr Singh is credited with being the only executioner in the world to single-handedly hang 18 men in one day - three at a time.
They had been convicted of murdering four prison officers during a riot on the penal island of Pulau Senang in 1963.
He also hanged seven condemned men within 90 minutes a few years later. They had been convicted in what became known as the "gold bars murders", in which a merchant and two employees were killed during a robbery.
One of the most controversial executions in his career was the 1991 hanging of a young Filipina maid, Flor Contemplacion, who was convicted of the murder of a co-worker, Delia Maga, and her four-year-old son, on what many believed was shaky evidence.
He carries out the executions wearing simple casual clothes, often just a T-shirt, shorts, sports shoes and knee-length socks.
To mark his 500th hanging four years ago, four of his former colleagues turned up at his home to celebrate the event with a couple of bottles of Chivas Regal.
Mr Singh boasts that he has never botched an execution.
"Mr Seymour taught him just how long the drop should be according to weight and height and exactly where the knot should be placed at the back of the neck," his colleague said.
"Death has always come instantaneously and painlessly. In that split second, at precisely 6am, it's all over."