Gay prince found guilty of 'sadistic' murder

Tuesday 19 October 2010 15:34

A gay Saudi prince today faces a life sentence for beating and strangling his servant to death in the culmination of a campaign of "sadistic" abuse.

Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud was found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering Bandar Abdulaziz in a "brutal" assault at their five-star hotel suite.

The prince was fuelled by champagne and 'sex on the beach' cocktails when he bit the 32-year-old hard on both cheeks during the attack in February.

They had just returned from a Valentine's Day night out when Saud launched the ferocious assault.

When he was arrested he at first wrongly believed he had diplomatic immunity but his special status as a Saudi royal could not save him from British justice.

The 34-year-old, a member of one of the world's richest and most powerful dynasties, was found guilty of murder today by the jury after just one hour and 35 minutes of deliberation.

Saud showed no reaction as the decision was announced.

The verdict means a lengthy jail term for the prince and the end to his luxury playboy lifestyle, funded by his wealthy family, in which he dined in fine restaurants and secretly entertained gay escorts in his plush hotel room.

In court his lawyers tried to cover up evidence of his homosexuality.

If he ever returns to his home country he faces the possibility of execution - not because of the killing but because being gay is a capital offence there.

The murder of Mr Abdulaziz was the final act in a "deeply abusive" master-servant relationship in which the prince carried out frequent attacks on his aide "for his own personal gratification".

Jurors heard that by the early hours of February 15, Mr Abdulaziz was left so worn down and injured - having suffered a "cauliflower" ear and swollen eye from previous assaults - that he simply let Saud kill him without a fight.

The prince then spent hours on the phone to a mysterious contact in Saudi Arabia trying to work out how to cover up what he had done.

He calmly ordered two glasses of milk and bottled water on room service as he set about dragging the body into the bed and trying to clean up the blood.

It was only about 12 hours later, after chauffeur Abadi Abadella received a call from Saudi Arabia telling him to go to the hotel, that the body was discovered in room 312.

The prince claimed he had woken in the afternoon to find he could not revive his friend - now stiff with rigor mortis - and explained his injuries by saying he had been attacked and robbed of 3,000 euros in London's Edgware Road a few weeks before.

Detectives took him to the area to try to retrace the route but as they did so other officers were reviewing CCTV at the hotel - and found disturbing footage of Saud mercilessly attacking his aide in a lift on January 22.

When he was then taken to Paddington Green police station and arrested, Saudi officials tried to claim he had diplomatic immunity but this was scotched by a check of Foreign Office records.

Saud tried to cover up the true nature of his relationship with his servant, claiming they were "friends and equals" but a porter at the £259-a-night Landmark Hotel where they were staying said Mr Abdulaziz was treated "like a slave".

The prince also claimed he was heterosexual and had a girlfriend in Saudi Arabia, but he had booked appointments with at least two male escorts and one gay masseur, and looked at hundreds of images of men on gay websites.

Photographs of Mr Abdulaziz in "compromising" positions were on his phone.

Saud, who told detectives he was the grandson of the Saudi king, had denied killing his servant until shortly before the trial, before finally admitting that he had caused his death.

But jurors rejected a claim by his barrister John Kelsey-Fry QC that he was only guilty of manslaughter.

The prince was convicted of both murder and a second count of grievous bodily harm with intent relating to the attack in the lift.

Sources said detectives in the case had received little help after requests for information were sent through Interpol to their Saudi colleagues.

Saud was remanded in custody to be sentenced tomorrow. The defendant's father Prince Abdulaziz watched from the public gallery.

The court heard the prince lived the life of a "suave" aristocrat, dispensing £50 tips as he and his aide visited fashionable bars and restaurants and indulged in shopping trips.

He kept jewellery and 30,000 euros in cash in a safe at the Landmark hotel.

The prince and Mr Abdulaziz had previously travelled to Milan, Budapest, Prague and Marrakech.

Before coming to Britain on January 20 they had been in the Maldives where pictures of the pair were taken, later shown to the court, which seemed to be "perfectly ordinary holiday snaps".

The prince was described by witnesses as polite, well-mannered, charming and generous, said Jonathan Laidlaw QC, prosecuting.

Some assumed that he and the shy Mr Abdulaziz were gay lovers but none seemed to be aware of the sinister side of the prince's treatment of his aide.

Mr Laidlaw said: "Beneath the surface this was a deeply abusive relationship which the defendant exploited, as the assaults in the lift so graphically demonstrate, for sadistic reasons, for his own personal gratification.

"The abuse extended beyond physical abuse. There was plainly an emotional element and psychological element to it."

Those who had seen the victim described "how frightened he looked, how fragile he appeared, how timid he seemed", said Mr Laidlaw.

Photographs of Mr Abdulaziz stored on a mobile phone "plainly proved" that there was also a "sexual element" to the abuse, he added.

Mr Laidlaw said the assault leading to the aide's death "was a really terrible, a really brutal attack".

"So worn down by the violence, so subservient and submissive had Bandar become that he was incapable of any effective resistance," he said.

"He was killed without apparently ever having fought back because the defendant was completely unharmed, without any mark at all, when he was examined at the police station. Bandar appears to have let the defendant kill him."

Mr Laidlaw described how after the victim's death, the prince had appeared "shocked and upset".

"He cried out in apparent anguish when told Bandar was dead and he may have shed tears. He was provided with tea and with support. How appearances can deceive. It was a complete performance by him. He had killed Bandar."

Mr Abdulaziz had suffered "a series of heavy punches or blows to his head and face" leaving his left eye closed and swollen, his lips split open and his teeth chipped and broken.

There were also severe injuries to the neck consistent with "manual compression" as well as bleeding to the brain.

Bite marks to his cheeks had an "obvious sexual connotation", said Mr Laidlaw, and were inflicted with "considerable force".

The victim's back was deeply bruised, a rib was fractured, and he had also suffered stomach injuries caused by punches or kicks.

Possible traces of the prince's semen were found on the victim's underpants and Mr Abdulaziz's blood was found on Saud's pants.

When the body was found, he made up the story about his aide being mugged in Edgware Road and said he would try to help the investigation.

"He wanted nothing of the sort," said Mr Laidlaw. "He wanted to save his own skin and he continued with that utterly misleading account of how it was that Bandar had suffered his injuries."

Saud, who lived in Riyadh, told police his father was a nephew of the Saudi king and his mother was a daughter of the monarch.

Mr Abdulaziz, an orphan adopted into the family of a low-ranking civil servant in Jeddah, met him a few years ago and had spent some time travelling with him as an "occasional companion".

The prince had learnt English at school and studied political science at university but neither he nor Mr Abdulaziz appeared to have had a job.

Saud had spent much of his life travelling around Middle Eastern countries - in many of which he had diplomatic status - but he did not appear to have visited London until recently.

The men came to the capital for one night at the Landmark last December before going to the Maldives for three weeks.

They returned to the hotel on January 20 - with the prince later asking for an upgrade to an executive suite complaining his room was too small.

The pair lived a life of idleness, getting up in the afternoon and perhaps squeezing in a shopping trip to Selfridges or Harrods before moving on to dine at eateries such as Nobu and drink at trendy celebrity night-spots.

Meanwhile, the prince booked appointments with gay escort Pablo Silva, a Brazilian student, and a second man call Brad - who did not speak to police.

Mr Silva told the court how he had chatted with his "very polite" client before providing a "massage" and being paid in a handful of £50 notes.

Describing the service he provided, he said: "Generally I take off my shirt or my trousers to cause a little more provocation in my client."

Saud met the men through websites such as Escort Guys and Men In The City, where he also looked at pictures of hundreds of other men.

He was also attracted by a the services advertised in a graphic internet video by masseur Louis Szikora.

Mr Szikora said he provided an "erotic massage" for the prince who he described as "very dashing" and a "thorough gentleman".

He described the "suave" Saud as a mix between Nigel Havers and Omar Sharif.

Elsewhere, Eduardo Parente, a gay barman at the Purple Bar of the Sanderson Hotel, said the prince flirted with him and suggested they meet socially.

Another gay witness, hotel porter Dobromir Dimitrov, thought Saud and Mr Abdulaziz were a gay couple because of the way they were hanging up clothes in colour-coded order in their room.

George Konis, another porter, said the aide "looked like someone had pounded his face" and was treated "just like a slave".

Few of the discreet restaurateurs and other staff at the high-end venues visited by the prince and his aide raised eyebrows that Mr Abdulaziz was at this time wearing sunglasses and a woolly hat.

He was covering up injuries suffered during a campaign of abuse at the prince's hands. At one point it was thought he might have to have plastic surgery to his ear before they returned home to Saudi Arabia.

Two attacks were captured on CCTV in the hotel lift on January 22 and February 5.

In the first of them the Saudi royal could be seen to rain down blows with his fists and elbows as his servant cowered in the corner.

Mr Laidlaw said the victim had become "almost entirely submissive" during the "nasty assault".

On the night leading up to the murder, the pair visited the Jumeirah Carlton Hotel in Knightsbridge before dining at Signor Sassi's restaurant - where the prince was seen on CCTV kicking Mr Abdulaziz.

They returned to their hotel in Marylebone rather than going on as they had previously planned to the Whisky Mist nightclub.

The men spent about 45 minutes in the hotel's Mirror Bar, downing a bottle of Moet champagne and "Sex on the Beach" cocktail shots before leaving a £50 tip.

Barlomicj Maleszyk, a barman, said: "They didn't really talk to each other. I think I saw that they exchanged just a few words and that's it."

Prosecutors suggested the most likely time of the aide's death was between 1.40am and 2.40am when the prince, who spent much of the surrounding period on the phone, was not using it. A guest in the room below heard a dull thud.

The prince spent the following hours "working through his options".

Chauffeur Abadi Abadella said he received a phone call from Saudi Arabia at 3.30pm from a woman called Lamia - who he thought might be Saud's "fiancee or relative" - telling him to go to the hotel.

Mr Abadella raised the alarm after finding Mr Abdulaziz's body lying in the bed with blood on the pillow, and soon the room was filled with staff from the Landmark, paramedics, police and Saudi embassy officials.

Hotel manager Kelvin Nicolay told the prince his aide had died.

Describing his reaction, he said: "I got a cry, but with no tears. It wasn't really a sincere cry, it was more a troubled cry."

Saud denied killing Mr Abdulaziz until two weeks before his trial started when he changed his account, admitting he had caused the fatal injuries.

But his lawyers failed in an attempt to have evidence of his gay lifestyle kept secret, claiming it was not relevant to the trial.

Later, a visibly shaken Prince Abdulaziz, Saud's father, was attended to by the court matron before being driven away.

Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane said outside court: "The defendant used his position of power, money and authority over his victim Bandar to abuse him over an extended period of time.

"CCTV recovered clearly shows Bandar was subjected to assaults in the hotel.

"The injuries which were noted by the pathologist clearly show Bandar was the victim of many more assaults over an extended period of time. This verdict clearly shows no-one, regardless of their position, is above the law."