A Saudi Arabian prince could never be seen to be homosexual in a country where it is punishable by death.
Ostensibly in a relationship with a woman, Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir al Saud portrayed himself as an upstanding member of the House of Saud. A grandson of King Abdullah, he tended to his royal duties alongside his father, Prince Abdulaziz.
However, when released to go travelling for three months with his manservant Bandula Abdulaziz, Saud was free to embrace a more “effeminate” way of life.
Described as a combination of Nigel Havers and Omar Sharif, he made little secret of the fact he and his aide were sharing a bed in their room at the five-star Landmark hotel in London. Rarely out of each other’s sight, they routinely shopped in Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols, where on one occasion they spent just eight minutes and bought a £2,005 (€2,282) dress. For whom this was intended was not clear.
The language used by hotel staff to describe the prince was strikingly similar – “effeminate”, “giggling”, “very camp”. Shamsul Arafin, a waiter who delivered him room service, said: “By his gestures and postures, he seemed to be gay.”
Each day the pair would rise after 3pm and go down to the safety deposit box at the hotel where the prince had lodged €30,000. Then they would hail a taxi or ask a chauffeur to take them to one of the capital’s most fashionable restaurants where they thought nothing of spending €570 on a meal for two. This would be followed by visits to clubs such as Chinawhite or Whisky Mist.
Saud regularly contacted €230-an-hour male escorts, calling six different men on his mobile phone. Louis Szikora told the jury he gave the prince a homoerotic massage, while Pablo Silva described performing a sexual act. Another escort, called Brad New, offered his services to Saud, but refused to meet detectives.
Mr Abdulaziz, 32, was an orphan who had come from nothing, adopted by a low-ranking civil servant before being enveloped into the House of Saud four years ago. He was never paid by the Saudi royal family. His role was purely to provide the prince with entertainment. Outwardly, his payment appeared to be the privilege of sharing Saud’s jet-setting, but behind the scenes he was paying a heavy price.
The prince took pleasure in assaulting his manservant, on one occasion setting upon him in the lift of the Landmark, oblivious to the fact that his attack was being recorded on CCTV.
He was seen punching and kicking his servant 37 times, gritting his teeth as he rained down the blows. Mr Abdulaziz, who at over 6ft towered above his master, did nothing more than cower and raise his hands to shield his face. Another attack was filmed as they left an Italian restaurant the night before Mr Abdulaziz died.
Det Ch Insp John McFarlane, who led the murder inquiry, said: “It was repeated abuse, quite systematic – two of the attacks were carried out in very public places. We have no idea how many were carried out in private.” To hide his injuries, Mr Abdulaziz wore long coats with the collar turned up, large sunglasses and a hat pulled firmly over his head.
The night before he died, the two men went out for a Valentine’s Day meal and returned in the early hours of Feb 15.
What happened next will never be entirely clear, but Mr Abdulaziz’s cold and battered body was discovered in the room at 4.30pm, an hour after Saud raised the alarm. A post mortem examination showed he died from a combination of strangulation, head and abdomen injuries. There were bite marks on his cheeks. His blood was later found on the prince’s underwear.
Saud claimed that Mr Abdulaziz had been attacked in a robbery several weeks previously but yesterday it took a jury just 95 minutes to convict the prince of murder.
Mr McFarlane said: “This verdict clearly shows that no one, regardless of their position, is above the law.”