"I just said kind of quite nervously, 'Well, that's the last we'll see of you.'"
Danny Gratton, Otto Warmbier's roommate in North Korea, recently detailed the final moments he had with Warmbier, the American student who died Monday after being in a yearlong coma during his imprisonment in North Korea.
Gratton, a sales manager from England, spent four days in North Korea with Warmbier, according to a Thursday Washington Post article. During that time, Gratton said, the two bonded over drinks.
"Otto was just a really great lad who fell into the most horrendous situation that no one could ever believe," Gratton told The Post. "It's just something I think in the Western world we just can't understand, we just can't grasp, the evilness behind that dictatorship."
Warmbier was accused of entering a staff-only section of his hotel during the second night of his stay and removing a propaganda poster from a wall. North Korean officials said they had footage of the incident, and during an emotional court hearing Warmbier eventually confessed to stealing the poster. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
"I've got nothing from my experiences with him that would suggest he would do something like that," Gratton said, rebutting Pyongyang's allegations. "At no stage did I ever think he was anything but a very, very polite kid."
When the two attempted to get through an immigration officer at the Pyongyang International Airport on January 2, 2016, two North Korean officials reportedly took Warmbier. At the time, Gratton believed it was merely a routine procedure or a tactic designed to intimidate an American; however, he told The Post it ended up being "the last physical time I saw Otto, ever."
"No words were spoken," Gratton said. "Two guards just come over and simply tapped Otto on the shoulder and led him away. I just said kind of quite nervously, 'Well, that's the last we'll see of you.' There's a great irony in those words."
"Otto didn't resist," Gratton continued. "He didn't look scared. He sort of half-smiled."
Though Gratton expressed doubts on Warmbier's charges, he maintained that even if Warmbier had intended to steal the propaganda banner, the ramifications for the act was disproportional.
"No one deserves that. He was just a young lad who wanted a bit of adventure," Gratton said. "Every once in a while they single out someone to make a point, and this was just Otto's turn. It's so sick and warped and unnecessary and evil."