KUALA LUMPUR: Kim Jong Nam was dead within 20 minutes of being attacked and would have suffered a "very painful death" as his major organs shut down, Malaysia's health minister said Sunday (Feb 26).
Health minister S Subramaniam told reporters at a news conference on Sunday that autopsy findings were consistent with police reports showing the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader was killed with lethal nerve agent VX.
In leaked CCTV footage of the assassination, two women can be seen shoving something into Kim's face. In later clips, Kim is seen asking airport officials for medical help, and rubbing his eyes and stumbling as he entered an airport clinic.
"He died in the ambulance. He fainted in the clinic," Subramaniam told reporters on Sunday.
"From the time of the onset (of the attack), he died within 15 to 20 minutes."
Autopsy results suggested the 45-year-old died from "very serious paralysis" due to the nerve agent, Subramaniam said.
VX is so deadly it is listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.
"VX only requires 10mg to be absorbed into the system to be lethal," Subramaniam said.
"The absorption level was so rapid that within a few minutes, the guy had symptoms."
Nerve agents prevent the proper operation of an enzyme that acts as the body's "off switch" for glands and muscles.
Without that switch, glands and muscles are constantly being stimulated, eventually tire and become unable to sustain breathing.
Health minister tried to illustrate how VX nerve agent works when absorbed thru the skin ,it suppresses transmitters, causing contraction... pic.twitter.com/WtkCMo4B0q— Melissa Goh (@MelGohCNA) February 26, 2017
"The muscle goes into a state of permanent contraction," Subramaniam said, adding the dose was "so high" in this case that the victim's heart and lungs would have been rapidly affected.
INDONESIAN ATTACKER VOMITTED AFTER LEAVING AIRPORT
Subramaniam said authorities were also running tests to ascertain whether the Indonesian attacker, Siti Aishah, too, was affected by the chemical.
She was reported to be unwell, possibly due to contact with the chemical.
In a separate news conference, Selangor police chief Abdul Samah told reporters that Siti Aishah had vomitted in the cab immediately after leaving the airport.
She had reportedly been the first to approach Kim and swipe the liquid on him.
Siti Aishah has maintained that she was duped into committing the act, and told authorities that she thought the liquid was baby oil.
Police are also holding Doan Thi Huong - the other woman suspected of staging the attack - as well as a North Korean man.
They want to speak to seven other North Koreans, including a senior embassy official, but four of the suspects fled Malaysia on the day of the murder.
AIRPORT SWEPT, DECLARED SAFE
Overnight on Sunday, the scene of the killing at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport was swept by civil defence personnel in hazmat suits before being declared safe.
Authorities have said there have been no anomalies in medical cases reported at the clinic since the incident. They also said medical staff at the clinic are in good health.
Police are also sweeping other locations in Kuala Lumpur that suspects may have visited.
Police chief Abdul Samah said on Saturday that authorities raided an apartment in an upscale Kuala Lumpur suburb earlier this week in connection with the death, and were checking for any traces of unusual chemicals in the apartment.