Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, told a friend his life was in danger six months before he was assassinated, a court heard.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong are on trial accused of smearing his face with the poison VX at Kuala Lumpur Airport.
Four North Korean fugitives were also charged with murdering the 45-year-old dissident on February 13 last year as he waited for a flight to Macau.
Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong is escorted to her trial for the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un
Indonesian woman Siti Aisyah was also on trial accused of smearing his face with the poison VX at Kuala Lumpur Airport on February 13 last year
Mr Kim (pictured) died in agony minutes after the poison was put on to his face at the airport
Defence lawyers said the two women thought they were playing a prank for a Japanese YouTube channel, as they had been paid to do elsewhere at airports and shopping centres, and didn’t know they were poisoning Mr Kim.
The court heard they were paid £72 ($102) after being approached by a man called ‘James’, later identified as alleged spy Ri Ji-U, on January 5, 2017.
The pair aged in their 20s have been held in the Southeast Asian country since their arrest soon after the assassination and face the death penalty if convicted.
Mr Kim arrived in Malaysia on February 6 last year and was picked up at the airport by the driver of friend Tomie Yoshio, lead police investigator Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz told the Shah Alam High Court in Shah Alam on Tuesday.
The driver was instructed to take Kim to his lodgings and other places he wanted to go after Mr Kim told Yoshio his ‘life was in danger’ during an earlier visit to Malaysia.
‘Six months before the incident on February 13, Kim Jong Nam said “I am scared for my life and I want a driver”,’ Mr Wan Azirul said, citing police interviews with Mr Yoshio.
What is believed to be the moment one of the women approaches Mr Kim (circled) at the airport
Mr Kim raises the alarm with airport security minutes before he collapsed and died
He did not give any other details about Mr Yoshio or his whereabouts.
Gooi Soon Seng, Siti Aisyah’s lawyer, argued the killing was politically motivated, with key suspects linked to the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, suggesting his client was being made a scapegoat.
Mr Kim had criticized his family’s dynastic rule of North Korea, some South Korean officials said.
Under questioning, Mr Wan Azirul agreed with Mr Gooi that the two women had no motive for the killing, but denied accusations police investigations were ‘lopsided’.
Defence lawyers said the two women thought they were playing a prank for a reality show and didn’t know they were poisoning Mr Kim
The pair aged in their 20s have been held in the Southeast Asian country since their arrest soon after the assassination and face the death penalty if convicted
Security footage of one of the women at the airport on February 13 last year
Mr Gooi earlier asked about Hong Song Hac, a North Korean who paid Siti Aisyah to act on a prank show and was caught on airport video recordings fleeing the country on the day of the killing.
Hong, one of the four North Koreans charged with the murder, was an official with the North Korean embassy in Indonesia from 2016 to 2017, Mr Gooi told the court, citing records obtained from Indonesia’s foreign ministry.
Mr Wan Azirul could not confirm Mr Gooi’s assertion, admitting he had not looked into Hong’s background despite naming Hong as a suspect.
‘I state that the investigation towards the four suspects is not deep,’ Mr Gooi said. ‘Yes, correct,’ Mr Wan Azirul conceded.
The trial resumes on March 14.
Siti Aisyah’s lawyer, argued the killing was politically motivated, with key suspects linked to the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, suggesting his client was being made a scapegoat
Siti Aisyah arrives at Shah Alam High Court in Shah Alam on Tuesday under armed guard