The jailing for life of a Saudi prince today for the murder of his "gay lover" servant has lifted the lid on an explosively controversial issue of how some rich Arabs treat Black people like slaves.
Bandar Abdulaziz, 32, was found beaten and strangled in the Landmark Hotel, Marylebone, London, on February 15 2010.
The Old Bailey was told the frenzied attack by Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud had a "sexual element" and he had attacked Abdulaziz many times before.
Saud, 34, who admitted manslaughter but denied murder, was given a minimum jail term of 20 years.
He was also found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with intent in relation to an earlier attack in a hotel lift, a charge which he had denied.
Judge Mr Justice Dean told him: "You were in a position of authority and trust over him which you exploited ruthlessly. I think the most likely explanation is that you could not care less whether you killed him or not."
In the early hours of Monday February 15 2010, Saud murdered his “manservant” Bandar Abdulaziz in what can only be described as a post-Valentine’s Day massacre within their luxury suite at Marylebone’s discreet and genteel Landmark Hotel, frequented by pop and movie stars.
Fuelled by champagne and Sex on The Beach cocktails, Saud launched a frenzied attack on Abdulaziz that was characterised by a strong “sexual element”. Saud showed no emotion when his conviction was announced and has never shown any remorse.
The result of a marriage between two cousins, Saud, is a member of one of the world’s richest and most powerful dynasties, the Saudi Arabian royal family. His mother is a daughter of the reigning King Abdullah and his father a nephew.
During the murder trial, a portrait of a sadistic homosexual was painted of Saud with Bandar’s subservient and dehumanised role graphically illustrated before the court in CCTV footage of the grievous assault in a hotel lift.
Prosecution barrister, Jonathan Laidlaw QC described Abdulaziz as "so worn down by the violence, so subservient and submissive had (he) become that he was incapable of any effective resistance". A pattern of sustained abuse was revealed which Abdulaziz absorbed meekly for Saud’s "own personal gratification".
The defendant and victim were described by a number of witnesses at their hotel and around town as a “gay couple”.
Despite proclaiming that he and Abdulaziz were “friends and equals” the reality of their relationship was anything but one of friendship and equality. It was one that has been of historical precedence, yet is rarely spoken of despite an endurance of 1,400 years: the Arab master and Black slave.
Abdulaziz – whose family origin is unknown – was an orphan adopted by Saudi Arabian civil servants; they have not entered the UK despite his murder eight months ago.
He spent the past three years as “an occasional companion” accompanying Saud on luxury holidays to Milan, Budapest, Prague, Marrakech and The Maldives and finally London. Neither was employed. They lived the life of the idle rich, rising in the afternoon to shop and having lunch at the Ranoush Juice restaurant on Edgware Road, a favourite hang out for London’s wealthy Arabs. Nights were spent in London’s finest restaurants and elite nightclubs.
George Konis, a porter at The Landmark Hotel, told the court that Saud treated Abdulaziz "just like a slave".
The master-slave dynamic instilled since the inception of the Islamic slave trade in Africa - eight centuries before the start of the Atlantic trade and wholesale export of enslaved Africans to the New World by western powers including Portugal and Britain – should come as no surprise in this case. It is still in existence today serving the domestic, military and sexual needs of the Arab diaspora.
Defence QC John Kelsey-Fry’s was unsuccessful arguing that the Prince’s sexuality was irrelevant to the case. He pointed out that homosexual acts were a “mortal sin” under Islamic Sharia law and that the Prince’s outing as a gay man could lead to his execution in his native Saudi Arabia.
Yet detectives found that, during his time in London, the prince trawled the internet for gay escort services and male images and indulged in erotic “massages” performed by nude men. Two male escorts came forward to report that they had been paid by Saud for sexual services.
Naked photographs of Abdulaziz were retrieved from the defendant’s mobile telephone and a copy of the 2009 Spartacus International Gay Guide was found in their shared bedroom. Abdulaziz clearly filled the position of al walid hagi “the boy who belongs to me”.
Saud refused to give evidence at his trial but has insisted, since his arrest, that he is a heterosexual with a girlfriend in Saudi Arabia. Her identity has never been revealed. Despite the illegality of homosexuality in the kingdom it is an “open secret”.
It is reported that a large segment of Arab males engage in homosexual relations as the society’s structure restricts social mingling with members of the opposite sex. Those at the “bottom” of society in domestic or marginalised positions are often sexually exploited.
As in many cases of domestic or sadistic violence, the more Abdulaziz tolerated it, the greater his abuse would become.
The pathologist’s report to the court illustrated that Abdulaziz had suffered "a series of heavy punches or blows to his head and face" causing bleeding to the brain. His left eye was closed and swollen, his lips split open and his teeth were chipped and broken.
Severe injuries to his neck were consistent with strangulation and were the most probable cause of death. Abdulaziz’s back was severely bruised, a rib was fractured and injuries to his stomach were judged the result of punches or kicks.
There were bite marks to his cheeks inflicted with “considerable force”. Odontologist Alfred Martin explained to the jury last week that it was the first time that he had seen such a pattern of injuries in his career. “It is not a pattern one would expect in a purely aggressive situation,” he said. The facial cheeks connote the buttocks, he said, which may be the reasoning behind the “sexual element” of the murder.
Although there was no evidence of a recent sexual assault, semen – possibly belonging to the prince – was found on Bandar’s underpants and Saud’s underpants had his victim’s blood on them.
Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane told The-Latest: "The defendant used his position of power, money and authority over his victim Bandar to abuse him over an extended period of time.“
He added: "I think that the verdict of jury who came back with the guilty verdict on two very serious offences - murder and GBH - in about 95 minutes shows the quality of the investigation and the sentence of the judge of 20 years clearly demonstrates exactly what the British judiciary thinks of offences of this nature. This verdict clearly shows no-one, regardless of their position, is above the law."
In a macabre twist, McFarlane confided exclusively to The-Latest that a solicitor with the power of attorney collected Bandar's remains months ago (no precise date given). He claimed to be representing Bandar's family, but there is no proof that this is the case. He may have been sent by the Kingdom to prevent further autopsies.
Although outside of his grandfather’s kingdom and the comfort of diplomatic immunity, Saud was protected by a wall of silence. Due to the lack of support from their Saudi counterparts, the Metropolitan police were unable to ascertain the full facts of the victim and defendant’s lifestyles and histories within the Kingdom, the events directly after the murder and its attempted concealment.
Abdulaziz’s most likely time of death was between 1:40am and 2:40am. It is known that Saud spent hours on the telephone to a contact in Saudi Arabia who has never been identified in the hours after the murder. He coolly ordered drinks from room service as he dragged Abdulaziz’s corpse into the bed and attempted to clean up his blood.
Twelve hours passed before Abdulaziz ’s body was discovered by chauffeur Abadi Abadella who was ordered to the room by a woman in Saudi Arabia named as Lamia. He raised the alarm after finding Abdulaziz ’s bloodied body in the bed and the suite soon filled with hotel staff, paramedics, police and Saudi embassy officials.
The Landmark’s manager Kelvin Nicolay described Abdulaziz’s reaction as: "I got a cry, but with no tears. It wasn't really a sincere cry; it was more a troubled cry."
Once his dark night had come to light, the deceitful Abdulaziz attempted to cover his tracks by blaming Bandar’s death on injuries sustained during a fabricated street robbery three weeks previously. Prince Saud claimed that he had woken in the afternoon and was unable to revive his “friend” who was now stiff with rigor mortis and tried to retrace the route of the false robbery with detectives around the Edgware Road vicinity.
Police discovered the CCTV footage of Abdulaziz's previous attacks on Bandar while being led on a wild goose chase by him. When his lies were exposed, Abdulaziz attempted to claim diplomatic immunity, but he did not qualify.
Saud denied killing Abdulaziz until two weeks before his trial started when he changed his account, admitting he had caused the fatal injuries. He was denied bail due to the high risk of him fleeing the country and the fact that the UK has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia.
He was remanded to south-east London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, known as the toughest jail in the UK and dubbed “Hellmarsh” by convicts and prison officers. By all accounts, the pampered prince suffered from “adjustment disorder”, extortion demands from other prisoners and threats from the Islamic fundamentalist prison gang The Muslim Boys.
Abdulaziz may not tick the standard legal criteria of a domestic, sexual or trafficked slave, but he shared the psychological profile and subservient demeanour inherent to slave status and noted by witnesses at the trial. When he did not share his master’s bed he slept at its foot on the floor.
On the night of his murder he was rendered submissive to the extent that he no longer possessed the instinct to preserve his own life. During police doctor examination at Paddington Green police station, Saud’s body was seen to be free of any wounds or marks indicative of his victim defending his mortality or resisting the depraved assault that lead to his death.
Little is known about the circumstances of Abdulaziz’s life, or how he came to be within the clutches of a psychopathic master. The debilitating emotional, psychological and physical abuse compounded with a submissive homosexual role seems to have resulted in the extinguishing of his spirit. “Bandar appears to have let the defendant kill him," said prosecuting QC Laidlaw.
He was captured on camera as a possession to be abused at will in public, treated like a faceless object - his features distorted by a catalogue of beatings.
It is alarming that his brutalised appearance was ignored by establishment figures that serve the needs and caprices of the crème of London society, his murder ready to be swept under the carpet of diplomatic immunity by Saudi consular officials.
Abdulaziz’s tragic fate in suite 312 should not be in vain. At last, the cruel and dehumanising treatment of Black servants by Arab masters must be stopped.