A former prison official who presided over 130 hangings across five Malaysian jails has given Daily Mail Australia an extraordinary insight into the final hours of a death row inmate.
In an exclusive interview in Kuala Lumpur, the retired former chief hangman, 61, said the executions always begin at dawn, just after the morning prayers.
‘People wake up, their mind is always at peace.’
It’s very quiet, the whole prison is very quiet, especially the Muslims, they pray.’
People in the death knell are praying for the inmate about to be hanged, the Christians, the people in the other blocks are praying for them too and they know that.
The ex-hangman opened up about the country’s secretive execution process after a Malaysian court sentenced Sydney woman Maria Exposto, 54, to death.
Like many before her, in 2014, Ms Exposto was caught at Kuala Lumpur international airport carrying a bag laced with drugs more than a kilogram of crystal methamphetamine.
She claimed she was ‘duped’ into carrying the substance by an online romance scammer.
Drug smuggling carries a mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.
Activists have long criticised the hardline policy as ‘barbaric, cruel and inhumane’, but it has broad public support.
This week, the former prison chief outlined a grim future for Ms Exposto if a final appeal against her death sentence fails.
Exposto was sentenced to death on May 24, more than three years after she was first arrested.
The former executioner explains to journalist Daniel Piotrowski what the final moments of Exposto’s life will be like inside the Malaysian prison.
There are estimated 1346 Malaysian prisoners currently on death row face a long wait, the executioner said.
It can take up to 11 years of queue behind bars for inmates to step into the gallows.
The prison starts preparing for the hanging one month before.
The chief executioner chooses an appropriate date and time and selects a support team to prepare the chamber, place the noose around the inmate’s neck and pull the trapdoor lever.
‘We inform the family one week earlier, for preparation by the family (with) what they want to do with the body,’ the hangman said.’
We inform the family that the execution will be carried out, in this prison, between this time, at this date.'(We say), please be there one day before this.’
But the inmate does not learn they will be put to death until 24 hours before they are hanged.
That morning, the prisoner is summoned to a meeting with the prison director and told it is their last full day on Earth.
The jail has received a death penalty warrant, the director tells them, and ‘yes, your family knows already’.
‘Immediately after seeing the director, they (are) taken out to a room, then the family comes in,’ the official said.’
Anyone from the family can come, no problem.
That part is always very emotional.’
Exposto is currently being held inside the notorious Kajang prison (pictured) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.
A summoned prisoner speaks at a table as dozens of other inmates sit in large holding cages behind him.