The doctor suspected of brutally dismembering a Saudi journalist while he was still alive, trained at a facility in Melbourne on sponsorship from the Saudi Government, according to reports.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been missing for a fortnight and Turkish officials believe he was killed during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Turkish officials have identified Dr Salah al-Tubaigy as one of 15 men present in the consulate on that day, and it has now emerged that the doctor previously trained at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Melbourne.
Gruesome reports claim that Dr al-Tubaigy told others in the squad to put their earphones in while he began the process of cutting the victim into pieces on a desk.
It is alleged that during the seven minutes of torture that followed, Mr Khashogggi had his fingers cut off one by one before being decapitated and his body dissolved in acid.
Authorities have also claimed that Dr al-Tubaigy was in possession of a bone saw when he flew in and out of Istanbul.
Professor Noel Woodford, director of the institute, confirmed to the ABC that Dr al-Tubaigy spent three months at the institute in Melbourne as a forensic pathologist from June 2015.
Professor Woodford did not know Dr al-Tubaigy personally but said that the doctor did not perform autopsies or any forensic procedure while at the institute.
He added that the institute did not profit from Dr al-Tubaigy’s placement, with his entire costs paid for by the Saudi Government.
Dr al-Tubaigy allegedly told the institute that he was particularly interested in mass disaster victim identification, and reviews of his published works show his interest in autopsies.
The doctor currently holds a senior position in the Saudi interior ministry, but at the time of his visit to Melbourne in 2015 he was head of Saudi Arabia’s forensic medicine corporation.
It has also been revealed that Dr al-Tubaigy studied pathology at the University of Glasgow, in 2004, where he learned how to carry out autopsies.
Dr al-Tubaigy’s involvement in the incident could undermine an alternative explanation for Mr Khashoggi’s death that states he was accidentally killed during an interrogation that went wrong.
Dr al-Tubaigy has also been linked to the murder of Mr Khashoggi by an audio recording taken on the journalist’s Apple watch.
In the seven-minute tape, he can reportedly be heard leading the brutal dismembering of Khashoggi’s body.
Dr al-Tubaigy was identified by an anonymous source as telling others in the squad to put headphones in while he set about cutting the victim into pieces on a desk.
According to the source, who spoke to Middle East Eye, Dr al-Tubaigy, who also holds a position within the Saudi Interior Ministry, said: ‘When I do this job, I listen to music.’
The tape is said to reveal Mr Khashoggi was dragged from the Saudi Consul General’s office to a table in a next-door study, where he was surgically dismembered, before he was ‘injected with an unknown drug’ and fell silent.
Dr al-Tubaigy was pictured at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on October 2, raising more suspicion around his involvement in the alleged torture case.
The doctor identifies himself on his Twitter account as head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics.
He has not publicly addressed the allegations. None of the suspects could be reached for comment.
The Times said on Wednesday, that at least nine of the 15 worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries.
The newspaper said it gathered more information about the suspects through facial recognition software, a database of Saudi cellphone numbers, leaked Saudi government documents, witnesses and media.
The Times said three other suspects are Abdulaziz Mohammed al-Hawsawi – a member of the security team that travels with Prince Mohammed – Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi, and Muhammed Saad Alzahrani.
Harbi and Alzahrani have the same names as two people who have been identified as members of the Saudi Royal Guard, the Times said.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF JAMAL KHASHOGGI: A TIMELINE
Here is a timeline of events in the disappearance of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident, not seen since he entered the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
At 1.14pm (10.14amGMT) on October 2, Khashoggi is recorded entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a surveillance camera. The image is published by the Washington Post.
He was at the consulate to receive an official document for his upcoming marriage. His fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, accompanies him but waits outside.
On October 3 the Washington Post, for whom Khashoggi writes opinion pieces, raises the alarm, saying the journalist has not been seen since he entered the consulate.
His fiancee camps out near barricades in front of the Saudi consulate hoping for news.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tells a news conference: ‘According to information we have this individual… is still at the consulate as of now’.
The US State Department says it is investigating.
On October 4, after an initial period of silence, Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi disappeared ‘after he left the consulate building’.
The Saudi ambassador is summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tells Bloomberg that Khashoggi is not inside the consulate and ‘we are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises,’ which is Saudi sovereign territory.
A government source says Turkish police believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate.
‘Based on their initial findings, the police believe that the journalist was killed by a team especially sent to Istanbul and who left the same day,’ the source tells AFP. Riyadh calls the claim ‘baseless’.
Turkey seeks permission to search Saudi Arabia’s consulate, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, commenting for the first time, says he will wait for the outcome of the investigation before taking a decision.
Erdogan asks Riyadh to ‘prove’ its claim that Khashoggi left its consulate.
US President Donald Trump says he is ‘concerned’. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls for a ‘thorough’ and ‘transparent’ probe by Washington’s ally Saudi Arabia into the disappearance.
Saudi Arabia agrees to let Turkish authorities search the consulate, the Turkish foreign ministry says.
Local media report on the possibility that Khashoggi was kidnapped and taken to Saudi Arabia.
English-language state broadcaster TRT World says Turkish officials believe the Saudis may have taken the consulate’s CCTV footage with them when they returned to the kingdom.
CCTV footage released by Turkish TV shows a van entering the consulate on October 2, before going to the nearby consul’s residence.
The Washington Post, citing US intelligence intercepts, says Saudi Arabia’s crown prince ordered an operation to trap Khashoggi.
The US State Department says it had not been tipped off about such an operation.
Trump calls for explanations from Saudi Arabia, saying he has talked ‘more than once’ and ‘at the highest levels’ to partners in Riyadh. He says he has been in contact with Khashoggi’s fiancee, who has asked for his help.
British entrepreneur Richard Branson suspends two directorships linked to tourism projects in Saudi Arabia.
Several prestigious partners cancel their planned attendance at the end of the month at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, a lavish conference dubbed the ‘Davos in the Desert’.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Ford chairman Bill Ford are among those to pull out of the Riyadh event.
Turkish police investigators and prosecutors conduct an eight-hour overnight search of the Saudi consulate, taking away samples.
Trump says he received a strong denial from King Salman of any involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi.
‘It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?’ Trump tells reporters.
The next day, US top diplomat Mike Pompeo arrives in Riyadh for urgent talks with the king and crown prince.