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Myuran (Myu) Sukumaran (1981–2015)

by Harriet Veitch

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan went to the same school, but a few years apart, and could never have known then how their lives would become intertwined. That they would smuggle drugs together, be sentenced to death together, appeal together and finally end together.

Myuran Sukumaran was born on April 17, 1981 in London, the first of three children of Sri Lankan parents, Sam and Raji Sukumaran. The family came to Australia in 1985 and Myuran attended Homebush Boys High School, where he was known as "Myu" and was considered courteous, reserved and quiet.

After leaving school, he was a mail-room clerk at a finance company, studied martial arts – although he was often described as an "expert", he claimed to have studied for only three months – and drifted into drug use. He admitted that he had an explosive temper. He met Andrew Chan at a party and soon they were smuggling drugs home from Indonesia.

In April 2005, Sukumaran was part of the group that became known as the Bali nine, young Australians in Bali attempting to transport back 8.3 kilograms of the drug taped to their bodies. The group didn't know that the Australian Federal Police had already alerted the Bali police with the names of eight of them.

The only name not known to the police was Sukumaran. In Bali they called him "the black one" or "the negro" and thought he was Chan's bodyguard, as Chan seemed to be doing most of the organising.

Once Sukumaran was arrested, on his 24th birthday as the group was trying to leave the country, the others dobbed him in. He gave no evidence, even in court, and claimed to have suffered amnesia. He often hinted at threats to his family if he ever spoke.

At their trials in 2006, Sukumaran and Chan were sentenced to death by firing squad. The judges said that neither Sukumaran nor Chan had shown any regret for trafficking enough heroin to kill, the judges estimated, 8200 people. Sukumaran and Chan were the first Australians to be sentenced to death in Indonesia, and the first death sentences given by the Bali court. Their many appeals were rejected over the years and they stayed on in Bali's Kerobokan Prison.

Inside Kerobokan, Sukumaran mentored other prisoners, helped to teach English and ran computer, graphic design and art classes. The computers, without internet access, were funded by a number of Melbourne criminal lawyers.

In a new scheme at the prison, Sukumaran was also appointed a "kelian banjar", the leader of a group of about 20 prisoners, including some who had also been given death sentences, in the maximum security wing. His role was to give out tasks, talk with the guards, try to resolve disputes and have some part in overseeing less serious penalties given to other prisoners.

Sukumaran also took up art, becoming a proficient painter. He sold his work outside the prison, as inmates were allowed to raise money to feed themselves and buy necessities. Australian artist Ben Quilty became a supporter of Sukumaran and said of his art progress, "In my life I've only ever seen one other artist make this seismic progress at such dizzying pace but she was living in Melbourne with money, a beautiful home and studio."

Sukumaran had a solo show in Melbourne in 2014 and was studying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts by correspondence through Curtin University. He was due to finish at the end of this year.

Myuran Sukumaran is survived by his parents, Sam and Raji, and siblings Brintha and Chintu​.

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Citation details

Harriet Veitch, 'Sukumaran, Myuran (Myu) (1981–2015)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


17 April, 1981
London, Middlesex, England


29 April, 2015 (aged 34)

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.