Doris van der Stratten died in August 1943, having either fallen or been pushed from an upper-ﬂoor window of the Japanese military police – Kempetei – headquarters in central Kuala Lumpur following three days of interrogation. She was a 39-year old Australian housewife and the mistress of a senior ranking Japanese military ofﬁcer. Before the war she had lived in southern Thailand with her Eurasian husband Philip van der Stratten. In the ﬁrst days of ﬁghting she survived a massacre of civilians by Japanese soldiers at Kampong Toh, and then endured an epic ﬁve- month journey through the jungles of enemy-occupied Malaya. Finally, emaciated and diseased, she gave herself up to the Japanese and was interned with POWs and civilians in Taiping Prison. Here she was spotted, isolated and brought to Kuala Lumpur by the garrison commander, Colonel Koda. Under his ‘protection’ she lived as his mistress in a spacious colonial property, while claiming to be an Italian national. But then she came to the attention of the dreaded Kempetei, who decided she was a British spy.
Doris lived most of her life in Adelaide. She came from a broken home and had a rough and ready up-bringing. By the time of her death, she had long lost contact with her father, and was estranged from both her mother and the two daughters from her ﬁrst marriage. She also thought, wrongly, that her second husband – Philip – had been killed at Kampong Toh. During her interrogation by the Kempetei she must have felt very alone and that she had nothing to lose: her temper snapped – and uniquely – she fought back.
Some three years later, in July 1946, Doris’ interrogator, Lt Shuzi Murakami, stood smartly to attention in the dock of Kuala Lumpur’s High Court. His was one of the ﬁrst ‘Small War Crimes Trials’ to be heard in Malaya. With the public baying for justice, if not revenge, and with eye-witnesses attesting that they had seen Murakami throw Doris from the window, he was a clear candidate for the gallows. This is the story of the life and sad death of an exceptional woman.