20 May 1979 Death of nurse Helen Smith in suspicious circumstances

Following a party at the house of Dr. Richard Arnot and his wife Penny, the bodies of Helen (23) and Johannes Otten (35), a Dutch tugboat captain, were found in the street 70 feet below the Arnot’s sixth floor balcony. Helen was found lying in the road fully clothed and Johannes, whose underpants were around his thighs, was impaled upon the spiked railings surrounding the apartment block.

Also present at the Arnot’s that night were Tim Hayter, a diver from New Zealand, a marine biologist named Jaques Texier, four German salvage operators and quite a number of other people who were never traced.

The presence of alcohol at the party in a “dry” country, and evidence given by Jaques Texier of a sexual encounter between Tim Hayter and Mrs Arnot at the time of the deaths, led to increased interest in the case, and the prosecution of Mrs Arnot by the Saudi authorities for ‘Unlawful intercourse’.

The official Saudi investigation into the accident concluded that the couple had fallen from the balcony while drunk, possibly after or during a sexual encounter. This conclusion was endorsed by the British Foreign Office.

Mrs Arnot was sentenced to eighty strokes of the cane, to be administered in public, although the sentence was never carried out.

Helen’s father Ron Smith, a retired police officer, refused to accept the conclusion and embarked upon a lengthy campaign to expose what he considered to be a Saudi—British cover up. At her father’s insistence, Helen’s body was left unburied for over 30 years in storage at Leeds General Infirmary, thought to be the longest time a body has been stored without burial in the United Kingdom. Six different post mortem examinations and forensic investigations were performed over this period, with varying conclusions.

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