2 Dec 2005

Family mourns Nguyen at Singapore service

From ABC News Online

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Family mourns Nguyen at Singapore service
The family of executed Melbourne man Van Nguyen has held a memorial service at a church in Singapore.

Nguyen, 25, was hanged this morning in Changi Prison after being convicted of trying to smuggle heroin through Changi Airport.

It is not known who the executioner was - the chief executioner, Darshan Singh, says he was not enlisted for the task.

Since early this morning, Nguyen's mother has been supported by friends and relatives at a church chapel not far from the jail.

Her son Khoa has joined her this afternoon for a memorial service.

Both are expected to leave Singapore tomorrow night, accompanying Nguyen's body back to Australia.

Personal letters

Van Nguyen has left a series of personal letters that are to be delivered to his family and friends.

Some of Nguyen's friends are leaving Singapore tonight after his execution early this morning.

Nguyen has left behind a large number of letters for family and friends, intended to be opened after his death.

His lawyer, Julian McMahon, says the letters will be distributed once they have been received from prison authorities.

"Van's words of advice apparently fill more than one box and they'll have to be read carefully over the next week or so," he said.

Mr McMahon says Nguyen's mother is growing to accept her son's death, something that was helped by a mass at a local chapel this afternoon, where Nguyen's body was displayed in an open coffin.

Mr McMahon says the family has also thanked the Australian High Commission for their support during the past few weeks.


There were vigils for Nguyen around the country today, including one at the 25-year-old's former school.

Hundreds of mourners crowded into St Ignatius Church in Melbourne and, as the young man was led to the gallows, a bell sounded for every year of his life.

In Sydney, more than 500 people attended vigil in Martin Place.

A minute of silence was held and a Vietnamese gong was chimed for each year of Nguyen's life.

In Canberra, a vigil was held at the Singapore High Commission.

People also attended church services in Brisbane, Hobart, Darwin and Perth.

Public funeral

Next Wednesday, people can join the Nguyen family at a service at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne at 11:00am AEDT.

The service will be read in both Vietnamese and English.

Father Peter Hansen, who will conduct next the service, says he is expecting a big crowd to attend.

"To remember the fact that he was a person who sought to atone for his wrongdoing, he sought the forgiveness of the community, he sought to turn his life around, he sought to become a person of usefulness, but unfortunately the actions of the Singapore Government have prevented him from fulfilling those desires," he said.

Father Hansen says he is proud of the compassion Australians have shown.

"People realise that what's happed to Van is something that no civilised society should ever be prepared to tolerate," he said.

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