28 Oct 2005

Singapore executioner wants out

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."


OMFG!! said...

HangMan, 1st time in my life heard abt this job... >_<

soci said...

its not one that your usual careers guidance officer is like to point out to you.

5urge0n said...

We advocate capital punishment but no one is willing to do it. Doesn't that say much about our intrinsic nature to preserve human life if not inhibited by a shedding of responsibility to government. Singaporeans and people of the world should question deeply within ourselves if it is time to evolve as a human race, to ensure the survival of all in life's many strata.

Stele said...

>Doesn't that say much about our intrinsic nature to preserve human life if not inhibited by a shedding of responsibility to government.

I'd love to agree with you there, but one could also argue that it's because people these days are getting soft. Hard words admittedly, but if the rising crime and collapsing morals in societies all over the world are any gauge, imho we're not exactly 'evolving' either - more like 'devolving' into lawlessness. It's not a terribly great surprise either that this gradual change was accompanied by calls for and implementations of more and more lenient (or as they put it, 'less inhuman') punishments around the globe.

Some argue that the death penalty fails to eradicate crime. That however hints at a refusal to accept the cold fact that this is an imperfect world and the same could be said for any other form of punishment; it would be unreasonable to hold just the death penalty for not completely wiping out crime. The more appropriate perspective, imho, is that but for the death penalty, things could have been a lot worse. Sure, it's not definite, but are we willing to risk it, as a society and a country?

Ultimately, condemning capital punishment as 'inhuman' is a slippery slope argument - first capital punishment, then what next? Caning? As already clearly apparent in schools... and if this carries on, it's really not impossible that one day the average people would be so soft towards criminals that all that governments are allowed to do would be to make the criminals write a hundred lines of "I will not murder again". Who knows, that might be branded 'degrading' too. At that stage, crime really does pay, in all senses of the word, since criminals know that they really need not fear anything at all ... compared to the image of a rope tied into a nooze at the gallows. Stretching it? Perhaps, but not very much, if one pauses to think about it. We need severe punishments for serious crimes, especially those involving the taking or destruction of others' lives - if nothing else, as a deterrent to others who may be contemplating such crimes.

Oh that's not considering the fact that hanging isn't really inhuman at all - better than being hanged, drawn and quartered eh? Or having one's blood and guts blown clear by the firing squad. Furthermore, hanging actually requires considerable preparations and procedures - the weight charts for drop distance (used in virtually all countries and/or states that practice this form of execution) were formulated to ensure as far as possible an instantaneous and painless death. The right drop distance would cause the neck to snap and sever the spinal cord - as quick a death as it gets. Too long a drop and the convict would be decapitated - inhuman. Too short a drop and the convict would die slowly by strangulation and asphyxiation instead - inhuman. So again, hanging isn't terribly inhuman as far as executions go. Mostly just hype that certain quarters (pardon the pun) stir up for dramatic effect amongst the uninitiated... the way superstitions worked.

Some advocate that, at least, a mandatory death sentence should be turned into a maximum death sentence which would temper the apparent harshness and unfairness on first-timers, victims of duress etc. While that may be a possible compromise, it's still shaky because criminals would always find some way of worming into such loopholes to get off. As it's been often said, if one doesn't like receiving a certain kind of punishment, don't earn it. Countries that practice the rule of law do not arbitrarily condemn anyone to death (and generally are mindful of the responsibilities involved). Countries that don't practice the rule of law could execute people offhand anyway, so no discussion about inhuman treatment or otherwise would help either.

Just my 2¢ ~ =)

Anonymous said...

You cannot be serious you want out?? you have done over 500 hangings? you carried out a mass hanging?? anow you are saying you hate your job and want out?
Mr singh you are proberbly the most discusting human I hver heard of. To do what you do at such high levels I believe you to be sick! you seem to get a great pleasure from your work a pleasure you have gotten off on the last fifty years+ I hope Karma finds you as do the hundreds of mainly petty criminals you have helped expire from this world. You are no god no hero or no reputable human in the eyes of many. to kill as you do is even above charles manson, and the ripper. as is to celebrate your 500 mark!

Maybe if you are serious about getting out of the game you walk away and stop turning up for work! and see if the judges and politicians who support such a barbaric punishments turn up to take your place! I believe your actions could stop such a horrible process.

anonymously yours Karma

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