Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rest In Peace, Helen Smith

Some thirty years ago a 23-year-old nurse from Britain, Helen Smith, "fell from a balcony during an illegal drinks party." She was cremated on Monday. Her father, who is a former police officer, refused to believe official reports that her death was an accident and would not allow her body to be released from a mortuary for burial. I know nothing about this whole story - thirty years ago I didn't know where Saudi Arabia was on a map.

Mr. Smith "accused the British and Saudi governments of covering up details of the tragedy" and that is why her body was kept at the mortuary for so long. Mr. Smith, "who is 83 and seriously ill with kidney disease" relented last month, after an appeal from his ex-wife, Jeryl, to "bring closure before either of them died." Helen's father believed that "her body would one day provide forensic evidence that she was murdered during that infamous illegal drinking party in Jeddah in May, 1979."

He told The Daily Telegraph, "The fact that my daughter is to be cremated and her ashes scattered does not change things. I will go to my grave believing that she did not die in an accident."
What torment this has obviously been for this poor man. Surely there is a reason for him to believe as strongly as he does that his daughter was murdered.

Young Helen "fell from the balcony of the sixth-floor flat of Dr. Richard Arnot and his wife, Penny - supposedly either during or after sex with a Dutch tugboat captain... whose body was found impaled on a spiked fence." Yikes! Helen's father initially "accepted the official line that [she] had fallen to her death," but after seeing an article in "Private Eye" that alleged a cover-up had taken place he started investigating the matter further. With the collaboration of Paul Foot, the two wrote a book, "The Helen Smith Story," that suggests "incompetence and vested interests had obscured the truth about what happened."

What Mr. Smith believes happened is that "his daughter was raped and murdered, then carried to the street to make it seem as if she had fallen from the balcony." He alleges a "cover-up by the security services" which "provoked a diplomatic crisis between Britain and Saudi Arabia." After six autopsys, the "jury's open verdict prevails."

The aftermath of an ex-pat gathering at the Arnots' home attracted worldwide attention. It was a farewell party where only two women were present - Helen Smith and the hostess, Penny Arnot. Interesting that both women are accused of having "xes" that evening - Helen with the Dutch tugboat captain, and Mrs. Arnot with the man she hosted the farewell party for. [That is some goodbye!] The next morning, "Helen's body was found in the street 70ft below and the partly clothed body of Otten [the tugboat captain]... skewered on railings nearby. A Saudi investigation found that they had fallen from a balcony while having xes... and decided that the deaths were accidental."

"Allegations were made that Saudi guests were present but never named. The Arnots and most of their guests were arrested and thrown into a crowded, hot and dirty jail for four months... Richard Arnot and Tim Haytner [the man of honor at the party] were charged wtih drinking and other 'social offences' and sentended to be flogged; Arnot also received a one-year jail term. Penny Arnot was sentenced to a public lashing for unlawful intercourse." Diplomats intervened, all parties were released and their sentences were never carried out.

There is more, here.


  1. Wow, sounds like murder to me. These poor parents.

    (On another note, I'm going to try your sweet potato recipe, sounds yummy.)

    Deborah F. Hamilton
    Right Truth

  2. The sweet potatoes are some of the best we have ever eaten, DH. I've made them twice now. They will be a favorite for meals to come, no doubt. Add extra brown sugar and go heavy on the cayenne. Yummy!

    And, yeah, the parents of this poor young thing - 23-year-old - senseless. A murder? Covered up in Saudi?! Nah...

  3. Warning: in the 4th paragraph you spelled 'xes' wrong. Can you edit it so this blog doesn't get filtered?

    I'm a fan of sweet potatoe fries dusted with brown sugar and cinnamon; gonna try some cayenne next time...

  4. It was tragic, Cube. And for thirty years her parents have been living with it...

    Anonymous - I have to spell it that way or I get blocked from my OWN blog! I've gotten so used to spelling it that way in my blog that I don't even think about it any more. What do you mean "so that this blog doesn't get filtered?" [I am technically challenged. I really don't know what "get filtered" means.]

  5. You spelled xes backward in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph. I hope you can correct it to "xes" before a Sandbox program detects the 'mispelled' word and filters the blog out so you cannot get to it.


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