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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No murder and no cover-up; but a dreadful accident., 1 Dec 2011
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This review is from: Arabian Nightmare (Mass Market Paperback)
Richard Arnot's `Arabian Nightmare' is his account of the deaths of English nurse Helen Smith and Dutchman Johannes Otten.

Arnot and his wife Penny hosted the party in Jeddah in 1979, during which Smith and Otten fell to their deaths from a sixth-floor balcony.

This case spawned a whole host of `conspiracy theories' and `cover-up scenario's' largely because Smith's (understandably) distraught father, Ron, could not accept that his daughter's death had been accidental.

The bulk of the book is taken up with the author's time in a Saudi prison. It's not quite as bad as `Midnight Express', but it was certainly no picnic either.
Arnot describes how he and his fellow party-guests were treated and how he and they constantly got mixed messages from the Saudi authorities and their own Embassy's - one minute they were being told that their detention would only be brief and the next, they were hearing that the Saudi's were treating the deaths as murders.
Arnot relates the emotional roller-coaster that seemed to go on for ever.

The story finally sees the release of all concerned and, thankfully, the Saudi's were ultimately satisfied that no foul-play had occurred. They were bent on punishing the group for their consumption of alcohol, though. Fortunately the public lashings that were imposed were never carried out.

The book moves to it's close as Richard Arnot and his wife finally part and both seek to re-start their lives, he in Australia and she in the USA.

The climax of the book comes as Ron Smith finally gets a UK public inquest into his daughter's death and Arnot attends.
It is now a matter of public record that the inquest returned an `open verdict' so Smith didn't get the `unlawful killing' decision that he had set out for; Arnot didn't get the `accidental death' verdict that he would have preferred, either.

Some readers may find this book to be disappointing and anti-climactic because the author doesn't dissect and analyse the events of the fateful party in huge detail. There are two good reasons for this, of course. Firstly, he was asleep in bed when Otten and Smith fell and, secondly, there never was any 'foul-play'. It really was just a tragic accident.
Unlike Paul Foot's book, 'Arabian Nightmare' doesn't seek to imbue this event with any sinister explanation, the book and Arnot's candour deals with the sad reality - Helen and Johannes died accidentally.

Barry
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Apr 2014 14:40:58 BDT
Last edited by the author on 30 Apr 2014 15:18:58 BDT
Hfffoman says:
You seem remarkably certain about everything that didn't happen. Were you present at the party or are you simply believing everything written by the author and host who, if anything unlawful happened, was probably a friend of whoever did it.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Apr 2014 20:32:18 BDT
Hi, many thanks for your comment.

I note from your profile that you, `..prefer to be honest..'. That's good, so do I.

No, I was not present at the Jeddah party. How's that for honesty?

Am I "..remarkably certain about everything that didn't happen.", as you suggest.? No, I'm not certain and my review doesn't say that I am. An expression of `certainty' from anyone who was not present at the party would be worthless, I'm sure you'd agree.

However, I am `sure beyond a reasonable doubt'. My reasonable doubt allows for all of the facts that are known and is not based on "..simply believing everything written by the author..".

Six post-mortem examinations, one Saudi Police investigation and one UK inquest have yielded two conclusions. The Saudi Police concluded that Miss Smith and Johannes Otten had died after falling while having sex. The UK inquest returned an `open verdict'.

Your speculation that Arnot, the party host, ".. who, if anything unlawful happened, was probably a friend of whoever did it.", is baseless conspiracy thinking.
Before you can have the cover-up that you allude to, one would need to have a murder. Nobody has yet proven that a murder occurred.

Many thanks for your comment
barry

In reply to an earlier post on 1 May 2014 00:58:07 BDT
Hfffoman says:
I don't understand your key sentence here. You are sure beyond reasonable doubt but you say that reasonable doubt allows for all of the facts. Do you mean that lack of reasonable doubt allows for all of the facts? If so, I don't see the logic.

6 post mortems failed to prove unlawful killing. Well that doesn't prove much, especially when the post mortems disagreed with each other. Nor would I say that reasonable doubt is eliminated by the conclusion of that bastion of women's rights, the Saudi police. You also seem to be saying the open verdict eliminates doubt. It does nothing of the kind. It means the jury couldn't decide. But you have decided. You say "there never was any 'foul-play'. It really was just a tragic accident". Yes, I do think that is a "remarkable" level of certainty.

As for the final comment, it's not "baseless conspiracy thinking". It is a reasonable supposition that people usually invite their friends to their parties and if something unlawful happened at the party someone who was invited probably did it, though we can't eliminate the possibility that it was a gatecrasher. You don't have to be a conspiracy sucker to understand that people often have an interest in promoting one version or another of a story and what they say will often be influenced by their interest.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 May 2014 07:42:50 BDT
Hi, again

You have misread and misquoted my words.

I wrote, "..all of the facts that are KNOWN..". Quite simply, that which is KNOWN about the deaths does not support the notion of foul-play. Things that are unknown cannot be `factored-in' to any conclusion. The law bases findings on what is known, not on any default supposition of what isn't.

You note that, "..6 post mortems failed to prove unlawful killing. Well that doesn't prove much,.."

I don't agree and neither did the inquest. No proof is no proof. If there is no evidence for unlawful killing, then an inquest cannot return such a verdict.

"You also seem to be saying the open verdict eliminates doubt. It does nothing of the kind. It means the jury couldn't decide."

I'm not saying any such thing, you are misrepresenting what I have written. I agree that an `open verdict' indicates a jury's uncertainty. (The jury twice sought guidance from the coroner, Philip Gill during its deliberations). This means that it wasn't `certain' that an accident had occurred any more than it was `certain' that a murder had. There was no evidence for either conclusion. The jury had little choice but to resort to the finding that it did.

I have, indeed, decided that the deaths were accidental. I've done so because of the absence of any evidence of `unlawful killing'. I have decided beyond a reasonable doubt. I do not claim to be `certain' and never have.

Arnot's book is one of many sources that have led to my `conclusion'; it's not my only insight into the case.

I'm afraid that you are engaging in baseless conspiracy thinking.
You have now postulated the presence of a `gate-crasher'. You suggest that we "..can't eliminate the possibility that it was a gatecrasher.". But we cannot assume the default position that there was one, can we? You are inventing people and scenarios that have no evidentiary support.

barry

In reply to an earlier post on 1 May 2014 11:21:06 BDT
Hfffoman says:
I am very tempted to explain to you the difference between absence of proof and proof of absence, and to unpick the many logical errors in that post. But, I am sorry, I can see that I would be wasting my time.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 May 2014 12:28:43 BDT
Which party guest testified to the Saudi police or the UK inquest of seeing a 'gate-crasher'?

barry

Posted on 5 Jul 2014 20:25:37 BDT
paul barlow says:
A sensible review. Mr. Hfffoman's illogical comments only indicate the strange desire that some people have to believe in conspiracies without a shred of evidence. Of course all sorts of things "could" have happened, but if you go down that road any fantasy one can come up with is equally valid, including the wholly made-up claim that there was a gate crasher - an idea apparently invented by Mr. Hfffoman!! Absence of evidence is not evidence.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jul 2014 06:28:59 BDT
Hi, Paul,
I agree with all that you say. Your last sentence, 'Absence of evidence is not evidence', goes to the heart of the issue.
Barry
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