Swede's deadly cocktail prompts murder claim

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30 Aug, 2012 Updated Thu 30 Aug 2012 16:02 CEST
Swede's deadly cocktail prompts murder claim

The family of a 28-year-old Swede who died after drinking a "poison mojito" while holidaying on an Indonesian island wants to warn others about the dangers of downing moonshine-tainted drinks.


"It's so damn important that this comes out. This is a crime. He was murdered," Anna Lundin, the older sister of 28-year-old Johan Lundin, told the Aftonbladet newsaper.

Johan died in June 2012 while vacationing with his fiancée Michaela on Gili Trawangan, an island in southeastern Indonesia popular with backpackers and divers.

What was supposed to be a relaxing vacation on a paradise island quickly turned into a nightmare, however, a few hours after Johan drank a mojito served up at a popular local watering hole.

"I've never felt so awful," Michela recalls Johan telling her when they returned to her hotel.

After an extended fit of vomiting, Johan later lost consciousness while his fiancée took to the streets outside their hotel frantically calling for help.

"Paradise was transformed into hell," Michaela told Aftonbladet.

Eventually, she was able to commandeer a horse-drawn wagon in a futile attempt to get Johan to hospital.

"It was already too late. When he got to the clinic, they tried to revive him. I held his hand and could tell it was cold," she told the paper.

"You don't want to see someone you love die in front of your eyes. It's the most awful thing that can happen."

Instead of a run-of-the mill rum cocktail, Johan had downed a drink mixed with local moonshine which contained methanol, a form of alcohol which is toxic to humans.

His autopsy report confirmed that he had extremely high levels of methanol in his body, but that he was otherwise free of traces of other drugs or foreign substances.

"I don't know if it's a lack of knowledge that makes them use methanol in their spirits instead of ethanol, or if it just boils down to money," Johan's mother Monica, told Aftonbladet.

Methanol is normally used in fuels, as a solvent, and is found in antifreeze. If consumed, it can cause blindness, coma and death.

Excise taxes on alcohol imported into Indonesia can be as high as 200 percent, which has resulted in home distilling operations which can yield moonshine containing methanol.

Back in 2011, another Swedish tourist, Rasmuss Lindholm, died from methanol poisoning after drinking locally-produced moonshine.

Lindholm's death prompted the Swedish foreign ministry to add language to its travel information about Indonesia referencing recent fatalities and urging Swedes to be cautious about consuming alcohol in the country.

But according to foreign ministry spokesperson Anders Jörle, there isn't much more the Swedish government can do.

"There's no way to eliminate the risk with information," he told The Local.

He explained that the deaths of Lindholm and Johan Lundin are the only two cases he's aware of in which Swedish citizens have died from methanol poisoning in Indonesia.

"But there have been cases of citizens from other countries who have also died," he added.

He emphasized Swedish tour operators also have a role to play in keeping travelers informed about the risks they face while on holiday.

"But we can't dictate how they choose to do this," said Jörle.

Nevertheless, Johan's family is adamant that better information about methanol poisoning deaths in Indonesia would have likely saved the holidaying Swede's life.

"If Johan and Michaela had known about this, it never would have happened," said his sister Anna.

"He can't have died for nothing."

David Landes

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