KUALA LUMPUR: The Vietnamese woman suspected of helping to kill Kim Jong-nam was a keen singer whose Facebook pages featured pouting portraits and pictures of parties.
Four days before Jong-nam’s murder at KLIA2, she appears to have posted a picture of herself wearing a shirt emblazoned with the acronym “LOL”, similar to the one on the fleeing suspect caught on CCTV cameras.
Doan Thi Huong worked at an entertainment outlet, according to police, who have arrested her over the murder.
At a rice farm in northern Vietnam, the family whose daughter’s details match those from police said they rarely knew where she was since she left home a decade ago aged 18.
The last post on a Facebook page in the name of “Ruby Ruby”, which family members confirmed to be one of Thi Huong’s accounts, is dated Feb 11 from Kampung Besut.
“I want to sleep more but by your side,” the post reads above a picture of her, eyes closed and wrapped up in bed.
Police have said Thi Huong and an Indonesian woman wiped a liquid, containing an as yet unidentified toxic substance, on Jong-nam’s face at KLIA2 on Feb 13.
Thi Huong was described by police as an “entertainment outlet employee”, but they did not give details of where she had been employed or what her immigration status was.
Among the links on another FB account, which the family said also featured pictures of Thi Huong, was one to the page of the Vietnam Idol talent show.
This account was in the name “Bella Tron Tron Bella” – Chubby Bella. There were no posts after November.
A woman bearing a close resemblance to Thi Huong sang on the show as contestant number 67816 on June 3, 2016.
Facial recognition tools give a match to the pictures released by the police of Thi Huong in custody.
The contestant gave Nam Dinh as her hometown – the same as Thi Huong’s according to passport details from police – but her name was given as Dinh Thi Khuyen. She left the show in the first round.
A member of the Vietnam Idol casting team declined to comment on the appearance and its spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.
“Can I sing you a song tonight?” Thi Huong wrote in a Facebook post on March 24 last year.
“Reply the fastest and put your phone number in the comment. I will call and sing for you.”
Family members said Thi Huong, 28, only visited occasionally, and was vague about where she had been.
Her father, who fought for the North in the Vietnam War, lost part of his leg in the fighting. Vietnamese authorities had been in touch since the arrest, he said.
“They only say they will support Thi Huong as she is Vietnamese, but did not tell me if she is really a suspect,” he told Reuters.
“Even though I am her father I cannot control things that happen when she is out there. I cannot know,” said Doan Van Thanh, 63, who works as a security guard in the local market.
Family members said they only found out she was abroad from the media. They thought she was working in Hanoi.
So far, Vietnamese officials have only confirmed to media that investigations continue and they are in touch with Malaysia.
A South Korean police official said Thi Huong visited the holiday destination of Jeju Island in November for four days and they were looking into what she could have been doing there, but declined to provide further details.
Of 65 friends on the “Ruby Ruby” Facebook page, 27 have Korean names and 56 of the friends are men.
One status update on the first account was posted in the Korean language on March 23 last year, saying “I love you, I miss you”, although it did not use words that would be expected for someone familiar with the language.
Most photographs in the accounts are of Thi Huong attending parties, in hotel rooms or portraits. In many she blew kisses to the camera.
Cosmetics, clothing and fast food shops were among Thi Huong’s likes on Facebook. Her place of education was given as Harvard, although the family did not believe that was true.
On Jan 3, Thi Huong posted a picture of a boarding pass from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur. Family members said she was last at home in Nam Dinh from Jan 25-29.
Thi Huong also appears to feature in another online video.
Posted last April, it is on the channel of a Vietnamese YouTuber who gets women to kiss him in the street.
The woman in that video matches the one in the latest police photo from Malaysia.
In the video she is shown giggling before a kiss with the man on a park bench.
In the photo, she wears no makeup and stares uncertainly towards the camera.
Meanwhile, AFP reports that the Vietnamese suspect was renowned for her fashion, funky hairstyles and foreign boyfriends.
Thi Huong’s arrest has caused fevered interest inside Vietnam, despite attempts by security officials in the communist nation to control the information flow.
Her family recalls a girl who broke the conservative conventions of Quan Phuong village with her dyed hair, edgy clothes and foreign boyfriends since she left aged 18, apparently to study.
“At first we doubted it was her when we saw the picture with the ‘LOL’ shirt,” stepmother Nguyen Thi Vy, 54, was quoted as saying.
“But when someone bought a clearer picture here, we knew it was our Huong.
“If she committed the crime, she has to suffer, we can’t do anything ... but I think she must have been set up by someone,” she added.