Police question Saudi 'prince' over hotel death

A man who said he was a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family was being questioned by detectives in London last night after an assistant was found strangled.

The body of a 32-year-old man with serious head injuries was found by staff at the five-star Landmark Hotel in Marylebone. Police were called to a third-floor suite at the hotel and officers arrested the Saudi Arabian man, 33, several hours later at an address in Westminster.

A post-mortem examination found the victim died as a result of "manual compression of the neck" and that he also suffered head injuries. Detectives have applied for a warrant to extend the period of time the suspect can be held in custody. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Officers believe they know the identity of the deceased, who is from Saudi Arabia but await formal identification before releasing his name. Inquiries to trace his next of kin are under way."

The Saudi royal family, known as the House of Saud, has about 7,000 members, with the most influence wielded by about 200 closest to King Abdullah. It is understood the suspect, who travelled to Britain as a tourist, cannot claim diplomatic immunity from prosecution. Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, only senior royals and diplomats may qualify and a suspect's government can waive immunity. Sources said his link to the Saudi royal family might be "minor".

Rooms at the Grade II-Listed eight-storey Landmark hotel, built in 1899, can cost more than £2,000 a night.

Francis Green, hotel general manager, said: "Unfortunately The Landmark Hotel, London, can confirm the death of a guest staying at the hotel.

"Police were informed immediately and have launched an investigation surrounding this incident and we are co-operating fully with them and therefore unable to comment further.

"This is an isolated incident and our thoughts are with the relatives of the deceased."

A Saudi Embassy spokesman said: "We have no information on the issue and the matter is currently with police."