Saudi arrested over aide's death

A man claiming to be a Saudi prince was being questioned by Scotland Yard detectives after his aide was found beaten and strangled in his London hotel room.

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LONDON // A man claiming to be a Saudi prince was being questioned by Scotland Yard detectives last night after his aide was found beaten and strangled in his London hotel room. The 33-year-old minor royal, who is said to be a grand-nephew of King Abdullah, was arrested on suspicion of murder after the body was found in the Landmark hotel in central London on Monday evening.

Staff at the five-star hotel, which has become a popular venue among showbusiness stars, called the police after a maid found a 32-year-old man in the third-floor suite with serious head injuries. Ambulance and police rushed to the hotel but paramedics declared him dead at the scene. The unnamed prince was not in the hotel at the time, but officers from the Metropolitan Police's homicide and serious crime command arrested him four hours later at an address in Westminster.

A source involved in the inquiry was quoted by The Times as saying that the suspect's link to the House of Saud was minor: "There is some sort of link to the Saudi royal family, but it is not believed he is a senior family member." It is estimated there are anywhere between 6,000 and 25,000 members of the Saudi royal family. Detectives were yesterday seeking witnesses to reports of an angry row that had been heard in the hotel on the day of the killing.

Results from a post-mortem examination yesterday showed that the victim had suffered a severe beating to the head and had died as a result of "manual compression of the neck". Police sources said the prince and his aide had been on a sightseeing tour in Europe for about a month and that both had been staying at the Landmark, where suites cost up to £2,400 (Dh14,000) a night. Detectives have until this evening to question the prince, when they will either have to charge him or release him.

Questioning of the prince was initially delayed while Scotland Yard determined whether or not he was entitled to diplomatic immunity. However, it was established that, as a minor royal who was in the UK as a tourist, he was not immune from prosecution under the 1961 Geneva Convention, which only extends protection to senior royals and diplomats. It is understood that the Saudi Embassy in London has made no attempt to apply for immunity in this case.

"We have no information on the issue and the matter is currently with police," said an embassy spokesman. A 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." Staff at the hotel, where Michelle Obama held a fund-raising dinner for her husband in 2007, were said to be shocked by the killing.

Francis Green, the hotel's general manager, said: "Police were informed immediately. We are co-operating fully with them and are therefore unable to comment further. "This is an isolated incident and our thoughts are with the relatives of the deceased."