The corpse of Jamal Khashoggi may never give up its secrets—in part because none of his dismembered remains have yet been found. But a new book by Turkish journalists dissects the final moments of his life, including advice from the forensic butcher who cut him up to those tasked with putting his body parts in plastic bags.
The book, called Diplomatic Atrocity: Dark Secrets of the Khashoggi Murder and written in Turkish, is co-written by investigative journalists Abdurrahman Şimşek, Nazif Kahraman, and Ferhat Ünlü, who write for the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah in Istanbul.
It came out in late December and has been widely written about in parts of Europe and the Middle East. The New York Times gave it added legitimacy Friday with a lengthy recap.
Among the most disturbing details are those from the secret recording of the actual murder in October by the Saudi hit squad that was somehow acquired by Turkish officials and shared with national-security officials from a number of countries including the United States, Canada, and Germany.
U.S. President Donald Trump famously said he did not want to listen to the tapes. “It’s a suffering tape. It’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it,” he told Fox News in November. “There’s no reason for me to hear it.... It was very violent, very vicious, and terrible.”
The book makes Khashoggi’s suffering painfully clear.
A WARNING TO READERS: What follows is extremely graphic and disturbing.
“The joints of a sacrificial animal are easily split, but dismembering still will take time,” the Saudi forensic specialist Dr. Salah al-Tubaigy apparently says after Khashoggi had been rendered unconscious, either by strangulation or a potent drug.
“I always worked on cadavers,” he said. “I know how to cut well. I have never worked on a warm body until now, but I can handle that easily.”
According to the book as detailed by several news sources, including Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, there was significant discussion among the assassins about what to do as they waited for Khashoggi to arrive at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for his Oct. 2 appointment. Khashoggi reportedly thought he was picking up the final divorce papers that would pave the way for his marriage to Hatice Cengiz, who waited for him outside.
When Khashoggi entered the room, the killers apparently grabbed him, according to the Times report. “Let go of my arm,” he says, according to the transcripts relayed in the book. “What do you think you are doing?”
Khashoggi was then apparently given the choice to go willingly to Riyadh, according to the Times. When it was clear he wouldn’t, he was told to send a text to his son that said: “My son, I am in Istanbul. Do not worry if you don’t hear from me for a while.”
When he refused to send the message, he was attacked.
The reporters then describe how the clinking of the butcher’s tools could be heard on the tape as Khashoggi is essentially neutralized. With an absence of a body or a confession, it is impossible to know if he died before or after the cutting started.
Salah, the forensic doctor, could then be heard explaining to the others that music is the best distraction when working on the macabre. “Normally while working on a cadaver, I put on my headphones and listen to music,” he said. “And I drink my coffee and smoke my cigarette.”
Cutting noises and the thud of body parts as they hit plastic laid out on the ground can apparently be heard on the tape. “After I dismember, you will wrap them in plastic bags and put in the luggage,” the doctor told the other men in the room, who could be heard discussing the body parts.
The journalists also purport that Khashoggi’s remains were then taken to the Saudi consulate’s private residence in a leafy district of Istanbul where the body parts, wrapped in plastic to avoid any eventual smell from decomposition, were dropped piece by piece into a well. Initial reports from Turkey have also speculated that Khashoggi’s body could have been dissolved in acid, though the book does not apparently back that theory.
Surveillance footage broadcast on Turkey’s A-Haber television shows hazy images of three men carrying two large plastic bags and five suitcases into the consulate’s private residence.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has insisted that the murder was a rogue act, even though those identified by Turkish officials at the consulate the day Khashoggi was murdered are his personal associates. Of the 18 people detained in the kingdom late last year, only 11 have been charged with crimes related to the journalist’s heinous murder. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has demanded that the murder trial should take place in in Turkey and that the Saudi suspects be extradited.