Monday February 4, 2013
River of floating bodies
ONE MAN'S MEAT
By PHILIP GOLINGAI
The fishermen near Klang River have fished out so many bodies that they say the river should be called ‘Sungai Mayat’.
ON A Thursday, at about 6.45pm, fishermen Satarudin Kamal and Yusof Osman drank Kopi-O jantan, ate fried banana and chatted about their day’s catch at Warung Kedai Man, a food stall facing the Klang River.
Both men noticed a body floating downstream. They were not shocked as between them, they’ve fished about 20 bodies near Jetty Pasar Nelayan Kampung Sireh Tambahan 2 in Klang.
“Someone shouted, ‘eh macam mayat’ (it looks like a corpse). Then someone shouted, ‘eh budak kecil’ (it is the body of a child),” recalled Yusof.
Yusof was shocked when he realised the corpse floating about 100m from the food stall was that of a child.
“In my 10 years fishing out bodies from this river, I’ve never fished out a child,” he explained.
Yusof, 53, and Satarudin, 45, dashed to the latter’s boat to fish out the body. They discovered the highly decomposed body was stuck to his boat.
“I tied the right hand and leg of the body and we dragged it to the jetty,” Yusof recalled.
Both fishermen did not suspect that it was William Yau Zhen Zhong, the six-year-old boy who went missing in Putra Heights, Subang Jaya, on Jan 16.
“It looked different from the missing child posters. There was no wajah (image) on the face of the body,” Yusof recounted.
He and Satarudin only realised the body belonged to William when they read in the newspapers that the boy’s parents have identified it as his.
Yusof showed me the rope he had used to tie the body.
“Soon, I will destroy it as I don’t want people to use it to summon the dead,” he said.
On Wednesday, I was at Jetty Pasar Nelayan Kampung Sireh Tambahan 2 as I was curious to know why bodies were found in the river next to the jetty.
I spoke to Yusof, Satarudin and Rosdi Mat, a 41-year-old fisherman. They fished at the Straits of Malacca about 6km downstream and occasionally they fished men and women (in total about 30) from the Klang River.
The first time Satarudin recovered a body from the river was in 2002 or 2003.
“Fishermen returning from sea saw a body floating about 500m from the jetty at around 2pm,” he recalled.
Nobody dared to fish it out. Not many people dared to look at a smelly, decomposed body. So Satarudin volunteered.
“It is not that I’m brave. I was takut takut berani (afraid, but brave). But as a Muslim, it is my responsibility to recover the body,” he said.
The fishermen would tie the body and drag it with their boat. They tried not to touch the corpse.
“If you touch the water where body was floating it would be smelly. Smellier than that of an animal.
“Human fat is very smelly. Even after you wash your hands, the smell lingers for a week,” Satarudin said, adding that “or perhaps it’s just in the mind”.
There was one body – a shirtless man wearing black pants – which “disturbed” Rosdi, who has fished out a dozen corpses.
“I could not forget his smell for three weeks as it was ‘stuck’ to my nose.
“And, whenever I ate fish or fried chicken, they looked like the body,” he recalled.
The three fishermen have their theories on why bodies are found near the jetty where their boats are docked.
“You look at the position of the river here. It is like a U shape. Meaning anything tends to get stuck around this area (the flat bottom of the U) as the water swirls here as if it were a dead end,” explained Satarudin.
His second theory is that the other part of the Klang River is not active with people.
“Most of the time there are people on this jetty and they can see if there is a floating body.
“If there’s a body floating in other parts of the river nobody would notice it,” he explained, adding that there were people actively picking plastics for recycling near the jetty.
How did the bodies end up in Klang River? I asked.
The Klang River flows from Gombak, Kuala Lumpur, Puchong, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam and Klang and criminals dump people they’ve killed in these cities and towns in the river, according to Satarudin.
“We have found handbags (without the owner) floating with money (from RM250 to RM5,000), identity cards, ATM cards and jewellery.
“If they had been robbed, these handbags would have been empty,” he said.
Rosdi believes some were victims of black magic or gangster rituals.
“I’ve found about six bodies which were shirtless and wearing black pants. Strange. I don’t think it is a coincidence that they were all wearing black pants,” he said.
Yusof said some committed suicide at the Klang bridge as he has found bodies with red marks on their neck and their tongue jutting out.
“We’ve found so many bodies in this river,” he said. “I think Sungai Klang should be called Sungai Mayat (river of floating bodies).”