Saudi prince found guilty of murdering his servant

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The Independent Online

A Saudi prince who battered his manservant to death could seek asylum in the UK because of fears for his safety as a homosexual if he returned to his home country.

Prince Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al-Saud, a grandson of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah through his mother, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering Bandar Abdulaziz with whom he had a gay and abusive relationship. The jury took just 95 minutes to reach its verdict following the two-week trial which heard how the 34-year-old prince led a playboy lifestyle outside of Saudi Arabia fuelled by champagne, fine dining, holidays and male escorts.

While Prince Abdulaziz showed no reaction to the verdict, his father, who watched from the public gallery, appeared visibly shaken and was attended to by the court matron before being driven away.

Before the trial, the prince's lawyers argued he would face execution if he were ever to return to Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality remains a capital offence, and sought to exclude details of his gay relationship from the evidence put before the jury, claiming it was not "probative" of the murder allegations.

John Kelsey-Fry QC said the prince has already faced abuse from Islamic fundamentalists being held alongside him at Belmarsh prison.

Saud and Mr Abdulaziz lived a lavish lifestyle in London, frequently shopping at Harrods, spending £500 on meals and visiting exclusive clubs such as Chinawhite.

However, the court heard that behind closed doors the two men had a "deeply abusive" master-servant relationship in which the prince treated his lover "like a slave" and frequently attacked him "for his own personal gratification". Mr Abdulaziz's badly beaten body was discovered on 15 February lying in the prince's bed at the Landmark Hotel near Regents Park, an area of London popular with the wealthy Arab elite. Saud claimed that he had simply woken up to find his manservant dead.

A post-mortem examination found that Mr Abdulaziz, who came from a lowly background compared to his master, had suffered heavy blows to the head, injuries to the brain and ears and severe neck injuries consistent with strangulation by hand.

Throughout the trial the prince, who was described by one gay masseur who visited him in hotel room as a cross between Omar Sharif and Nigel Havers, maintained his innocence and spent much of his defence trying to persuade the court that he was not homosexual.

Following his arrest, the Saudi authorities said that the prince was covered by diplomatic immunity, but that claim was rejected by the Foreign Office. Those involved in investigating the case also said they faced a wall of silence from the Saudi authorities, with requests for information about the backgrounds of the prince and his servant going unanswered.

Speaking outside the court after the verdict, Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane said: "The defendant used his position of power, money and authority over Bandar to abuse him over an extended period of time. This verdict clearly shows no one, regardless of their position, is above the law."