Surveillance photo purports to show Saudi diplomatic vehicle scouting forest day before Khashoggi killing
- Timestamped CCTV image shows grey BMW with diplomatic plates entering forest gates
- Hunt for Jamal Khashoggi’s body continues
A new surveillance camera image purports to show a Saudi consular vehicle at Istanbul’s Belgrad Forest the night before Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed, evidence Turkish authorities have said points to his premeditated murder.
Turkish authorities, including the president, said this week that Saudi agents had scouted the forest before Khashoggi’s death inside Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate on October 2.
The image shown by Turkish media outlets – timestamped from a closed circuit television camera – showed a grey BMW with green diplomatic plates entering the forest gates at 6:28pm on October 1.
A Turkish official previously confirmed that investigators had broadened their search for Khashoggi’s body to wooded areas around the city.
Turkey’s state-run news agency also reported Wednesday that Saudi officials had prevented Turkish police from searching a water well in the consulate garden in Istanbul’s Levent district.
According to private broadcaster NTV, a fire brigade had been called to inspect for methane gas, which can be flammable, in the well before the police search.
Saudi authorities did not allow the firefighters to enter, NTV reported, but the issue was later resolved. It was unclear whether the search went ahead.
Saudi crown prince breaks silence on ‘heinous’ Khashoggi killing, as suspicions swirl about his role
Both Saudi and Turkish officials say Khashoggi, a writer and critic of the Saudi leadership, died inside the consulate on October 2, when he had entered to obtain paperwork for his upcoming marriage.
Turkey says that Khashoggi’s death was the result of a murder plot implicating high-level Saudi officials and has released key details of the probe to the press.
Saudi Arabia acknowledged Khashoggi’s death inside the consulate but says he was accidentally killed in a physical altercation with a team sent to negotiate his return to the kingdom.
Khashoggi was living in exile in the United States and had planned to move to Istanbul and marry his Turkish fiancée.
Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vowed on Wednesday that the killers would be brought to justice, in his first public comments since the journalist’s murder sparked global condemnation.
His comments came hours after US President Donald Trump was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying that as Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, the crown prince bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death.
“We will prove to the world that the two governments (Saudi and Turkish) are cooperating to punish any criminal, any culprit and at the end justice will prevail,” Prince Mohammed said.
While a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation into the writer’s death was set up earlier this month, Turkish investigators have been faced with several delays from their Saudi counterparts, who have at times refused to grant permission to search the diplomatic buildings and vehicles of interest to the criminal probe.
A forensics team was first allowed into the consulate building on October 15, two weeks after Khashoggi was killed.
Inside, police found several freshly painted surfaces and removed several bags and boxes of evidence so far.
A second search of the consulate, and the first search of the consul general’s residence and garden, was carried out two days later.
Investigators have not released any details of their findings so far, but it is understood they are using DNA samples and luminol, a chemical used for identifying traces of blood, as part of the probe.
A Mercedes belonging to the Saudi consulate, which was found in a car park in the city’s Sultangazi district, was searched by police for a second day on Wednesday.
Investigators found two suitcases containing documents and a laptop the previous day after permission to search the vehicle was granted by the Saudi team, Turkish state news reported.
It was not immediately clear who the items belonged to, but CCTV footage shows that Khashoggi did not take a bag or any electronics to his fateful October 2 consulate appointment.
Additional reporting by The Guardian and Agence France-Presse