Teen model’s death inquest: Smit dead before 14-storey fall, family seeks answers

Coroner rules out criminal causes while model's family seeks who threw her body down.

Screenshot from Facebook. A picture of Ivana Smit

Kuala Lumpur – Questions about the mysterious death of teen Dutch-Belgian model, and former Malaysian Supermodel Search runner-up Ivana Smit are closer to being fully answered. Last Fri, the Kuala Lumpur Coroner’s Court agreed with a second post-mortem report by Dutch pathologist Frank van der Gutter who had found that Ivana had already been dead before her body fell 14 floors from the city’s luxury CapSquare Residence condominium.

Although coroner Mahyon Talib ruled that no one was criminally involved in causing the model’s death and classified it as a “misadventure”, Smit’s family and their lawyer Sankara Nair plan to legally request a re-opening of homicide investigations.

In Dec 2017, the 18-year old model was found dead and naked on the sixth floor balcony of the condominum. She was believed to have fallen from the 20th floor where she had been residing in an unit occupied by US Bitcoin tycoon Alex Johnson, 45, and his Kazakhstani wife Luna Almaz, 32. The three had earlier enjoyed a night out and group sex — the second threesome they had shared since having first met in Oct, according to the UK’s Daily Mail’s Apr 2018 interview with the couple.

Local police at first ruled Ivana’s death as suicide but held an inquest in 2018 after her family suspected murder. By this time, too, lurid details of drugs, alcohol and group sex had gained the case global attention.

Handing down her ruling, Coroner Mahyon Talib acknowledged there might have been a struggle between Smit and the couple Johnson, and Almaz: “Grip marks on her arm, the trauma at the back of her head, the broken bottles and Alex Johnson’s DNA under Smit’s nails suggest that there might have been a struggle.”

On her findings she explained, “We cannot know what actually happened between the three of them.”

The Smit family lawyer Sankaran Nair quetioned the verdict, asking court reporters: “How is it that her body was eventually found at the bottom of the condominium — surely a dead body can’t walk over and take a dive? Somebody threw her body down.”

Smit’s Background

Smit was born in The Netherlands but spent most of her childhood cared for by her grandparents in Penang, Malaysia where she started modelling at the tender age of three. After spending a few of her teen years with her parents in The Netherlands, she returned to Malaysia and moved to Kuala Lumpur in November 2017 to freelance as a model.

Smit’s Penang childhood friend Natalie Woodworth told the BBC, “She had better opportunities back here.”

“I still remember her saying to me: “I’m back to where I should be.” She was extremely happy to be back in Malaysia.”

Scandals in the modelling industry

BBC.com quotes a veteran KL model Ms Shz who says that a concern is not the modelling jobs but the other kinds of jobs going around for models.

For instance, there are many offers such as being a “party girl”, which could earn $1,200 (£900) for five hours. (It is not known if this is the case for Smit).

In these situations, drugs and alcohol are a major problem as most of the models left home early to start their modelling career. Resulting insecurities and related issues propel them towards drugs, parties and alcohol as a form of escape.

The pressure is immense and these juveniles can struggle to cope with the glittering world they are thrown into.

According to an article published by BBC in 2017, this tragedy has led to many passionate calls for change within the modelling industry, where a popular hashtag #truthforivana was circulated online to rally support and attention to her case.