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Khashoggi murder evidence may have been destroyed in oven, Turkish police suggest

Turkish police found a tandoor oven inside the Saudi consul-general's residence in Istanbul, new report says
Turkish police report sheds new light on murder of Saudi journalist and its botched cover-up (AFP)

Evidence related to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have been destroyed in a tandoor oven located at the Saudi consul-general's residency in Istanbul, Turkish police have suggested.

In a report released on Thursday and seen by Middle East Eye, Turkish police said they discovered two wells and a tandoor oven at the consul-general's residency.

The oven could reach temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius and "could destroy all DNA evidence without a trace", police said in a section of the report titled, "They fired up the oven after the execution".

Khashoggi, a journalist and critic of the Saudi government, was murdered inside the nearby Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October by a Saudi hit squad.

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Turkish police noted that the Saudi assassination team ordered 32kg of uncooked meat from a prominent restaurant in the area after the murder.

They said that raised new questions in their probe of the Khashoggi case.

"One cannot help but ask these questions. Was cooking up meat in the tandoori oven part of their premeditated plans? Of course these questions will be answered one day. The investigations aren’t completed yet," the report stated.

The whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains are still unknown, and Turkish investigators have previously speculated that they may have been dissolved in acid or even taken to Saudi Arabia.

Turkish media on Thursday published images of a so-called "local collaborator" who allegedly helped dispose Khashoggi's, citing Istanbul police. 

CCTV images leaked previously showed a Saudi agent leaving the consulate after the murder wearing Khashoggi's clothes, who was identified as a "body double".

At one point, a hooded man was seen walking alongside him, who was identified in an Istanbul police report as a "local collaborator," the private NTV television reported.

Fiancee's intervention

The police report also revealed several new details related to Khashoggi’s murder and its subsequent botched cover-up, as well as the ongoing Turkish investigation into what happened.

Khashoggi’s disappearance first came to light when his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, raised alarm after he didn't exit the Saudi consulate, where he was attempting to obtain papers he needed to remarry.

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The Middle East Eye and Washington Post columnist had given Cengiz his phone and instructed her to call a top aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he didn’t return.

When Cengiz became concerned that Khashoggi had not emerged from the consulate, she asked a doorman about his whereabouts.

According to the police report, the doorman did not inform the Saudi hit squad that Cengiz was inquiring about Khashoggi's well-being.

MEE first reported in October that only seven minutes elapsed between the moment Khashoggi entered the consulate and his death. A Saudi forensic pathologist began to dismember the journalist's body before he had died, MEE also reported at the time.

The Turkish police report also makes mention of this pathologist, Salah Mohammed Tubaigy, who served as the head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department.

Tubaigy, a member of the 15-person Saudi hit squad, is "an expert who can tell whether there is DNA on burnt or rotten bones", the report stated.

Extensive investigation

Details of the scope of Turkey’s investigation were also revealed in the police report.

Sixty police officers were assigned to the case, it said, alongside 100 intelligence agents.

Investigators poured through footage from CCTV cameras around the consulate, the consul-general’s residence, Khashoggi's Istanbul home, parking lots, and a villa in the town of Yalova that was linked to the killers, police said.

The report said that 224 people contacted the Turkish authorities to offer information on the journalist's disappearance and murder.

The Turkish investigation is ostensibly twinned with a Saudi probe, following an agreement between Erdogan and Saudi King Salman.

However, Turkish officials have said their Saudi counterparts are highly uncooperative.

Eleven Saudis suspected of involvement in the murder are on trial in Riyadh, with five facing the death penalty.

Erdogan has said the "highest levels" of the Saudi leadership are behind the murder, while the CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's assassination.