Singapore's Retiring Hangman and His Next Victim
Unfortunately, this is a true story.
photo by journalist Alan Shadrake,
Darshan Singh is Singapore's official executioner. He has hanged more than 850 people in his 43 years on the job. He wants to retire. But he can't find a replacement.
"He tried to train two would-be hangmen to replace him, a Malaysian and a Chinese, both in the prison service," [his] colleague said. "But when it came to pulling the lever for the real thing, they both froze and could not do it.
The pot-bellied grandfather and former Singapore caner has an all-time record of hanging 18 people in one day. He hangs his victims while wearing very casual attire, usually a t-shirt and shorts.
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, 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....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.
As a caner, he earned 50 cents a stroke. His colleague provides this in his defense:
Mr Singh reportedly spends time getting to know the condemned prisoners, especially those who do not receive visitors or religious support. "He is a very kindly man and although it's his job to end their lives he does feel for them," his friend said. "Mr Singh tries to comfort them if they are completely alone in the world at such a horrible time."
Who's next for the as yet unretired hangman? A 25 year old drug Australian drug trafficker with no prior record named Nguyen Van Tuong :
Van Tuong Nguyen, no previous criminal record, born in a refugee camp in Thailand, moved to Australia [with] mother and twin brother when six months old. Van told investigating officers he had agreed to carry a packet of heroin in order to pay off debts owed by his twin brother. He said he did not know how much he was being paid for the trip. It was his first trip outside Australia. He was such an amateur he ran through Changi airport.
Amnesty International Australia has taken up his cause. He is to be hanged in two weeks. You can go to StopHanging.com and sign a petiton to spare his life.
According to Amnesty International, Singapore executes more people per capita than any other country in the world. Anyone caught with 15 grams or more of heroin faces a mandatory death sentence. Alas, the high rate of executions for drug-traffickers has not reduced drug-related crimes in Singapore.
There's more at the Reach Out campaign (pdf) Please take a moment to trace your hand on a piece of paper and fax it. Why? His friends explain:
Amnesty International Australia features a PDF, where two of his friends Kelly Ng and Bronwen Lew are asking people who care about Van's life to trace a copy of their hand as a gesture of solidarity. Why the hand? Because placing your hand against a glass window, on the other side of which a condemned prisoner sits and places their own hand, is probably the most poignant memory for those of us who have gone through this experience of contact to death row inmates. It is at once a gesture of solidarity hope and frailty.
Kelly and Bronwen ask that you send the copy of the hand to them at the postal address given at the bottom of the flyer on the Amnesty Australia site. They will collect the hands and send them to President Nathan. As postage to Australia may take some time, please also fax a copy of the hand directly to Van at:
Condemned Prisoner C856 Nguyen Tuong Van
Telephone confirmation: 65469141
There's more at ThinkCentre.org
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