London // A minor Saudi prince was remanded to prison yesterday when he appeared in court charged with beating and murdering his aide at a luxury London hotel. Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir bin Abdulaziz Al Saud did not enter a plea when he made his initial appearance at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court after being charged by Scotland Yard detectives late on Thursday.
However, his lawyer told the court that the prince, 33, denies beating and strangling Bandar Abdullah, 32, in a suite at the five-star Landmark Hotel in central London on Monday. The Saudi royal, believed to be the son of a nephew of the king, also denies committing grievous bodily harm on Mr Abdullah in the hotel on January 22, shortly after the Saudi party touched down in London. Dressed in a police-issue, long-sleeved, white T-shirt, the shaven-headed prince spoke only to confirm his personal details during the five-minute court appearance.
He listened to the proceedings with the aid of an interpreter as Michael Wolkind QC, his barrister, told the court that his client was a prince who had been wrongfully accused. "We look forward to a trial where we will expose a prosecution case, which has turned a genuine friendship with the deceased to a false relationship of master and servant," said Mr Wolkind, one of Britain's foremost advocates.
"The prosecution has turned a genuine tragedy into a wrongful accusation of murder." Darren Watts told the court a recent change in the law meant that the prince could not apply for bail at a magistrates' court. It means that he will have to remain in prison at least until Monday or Tuesday when Mr Wolkind will seek to get him freed on bail at a private hearing before a judge at the Central Criminal Court in London.
District Judge Timothy Workman, presiding over yesterday's hearing, set a date of May 28 for a further hearing, when the defence will formally enter a not guilty plea. Police were called to the Landmark Hotel on Monday evening after a maid found Mr Abdullah's body. A subsequent post-mortem examination found that he had died of injuries to the head and compression to the neck. firstname.lastname@example.org