Issue 173: 2018 10 11: This Week’s Mysteries

11 October 2018

This Week’s Mysteries

A multiple-choice quiz.

By Neil Tidmarsh

Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple were overwhelmed this week.  So much mystery, so many puzzles.  Holmes fiddled away so furiously on his violin that it burst into flames, Poirot twiddled his moustaches so violently that they came off in his hands, Miss Marple knitted a whole winter-wardrobe for every inhabitant of St Mary Mead.  But to no avail.  They were stumped.  See if you can do any better; here are their impossibly difficult cases, and the possible solutions, as a multiple-choice quiz:

One.  Mr Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi-Arabian journalist based in the USA, went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at 1.14pm on Tuesday afternoon to collect divorce papers – and hasn’t been seen since.  He had reportedly tried to collect the papers the previous Friday, but had been told to come back on the Tuesday (staff at the consulate had then been given Tuesday off, according to Turkish media).  Mr Khashoggi is politically well-connected in Saudi-Arabia but has recently used his column in The Washington Post to criticise Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  So where is he now?

(a)  Somewhere else in Istanbul?  According to consul officials, he left the consulate by a back exit after collecting the papers.  Unfortunately they can’t supply security camera images of him leaving because their CCTV cameras there “were not recording”.

(b)  Could he still be in the consulate?  Perhaps he has followed Julian Assange’s example and has secretly taken up residence in a tiny cupboard, so secret that even the consular officials don’t know he’s there.

(c)  Was he kidnapped?  Is he being held in the Saudi consul-general’s residence in Istanbul?  Has he been renditioned to Riyadh?  Six vehicles, including two vans with blacked-out windows, left the consulate at 3.45pm on Tuesday afternoon and drove to the residence, and then apparently to the airport; a private Gulfstream jet from Riyadh landed at Ataturk airport at 5.15pm and left at 6.20pm for Riyadh via Egypt.

(d)  Was he was murdered in the consulate?  Was his body dismembered so it could be taken away and secretly disposed of?  Another private Gulfstream jet from Riyadh landed at Ataturk airport at 3.13am on Tuesday and left at 10.46pm for Riyadh via Dubai; Turkish police managed to search it before it took off, and they suspect that the fifteen men they found on board were a hit squad flown in specially for the job.  The men had reportedly been seen loading boxes or bags into the vans at the consulate that afternoon.  Could the other jet have flown off with the mysterious bags/boxes?

Two.  In Venezuela, opposition politician Fernando Albán was arrested at Caracas international airport last Friday on his return from the United Nations general assembly, where he’d been reporting on human rights abuses by the Venezuelan government.  On Tuesday it was announced that he had fallen to his death from a tenth-floor window at the headquarters of state security.  What happened?

(a)  Did he jump?  The government says that he committed suicide by smashing a window in a bathroom and throwing himself out of it.

(b)  Or was he pushed?  Exiled opposition leaders say that it would be impossible to make a suicide leap from the infamous building, known as “The Tomb”.

Three.  Last month the president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, disappeared on a trip to his native China from the international police agency’s base in France.  This week, the authorities in Beijing informed Interpol that Mr Meng has resigned as its president.

(a)  Has Mr Meng decided to spend more time with his wife and family, even though his wife Grace is still in France, under police protection following threats on social media?

(b)  Has Mr Meng fallen foul of internal Interpol politics?  The Times reports that “according to insiders, Mr Meng had ruffled feathers at Interpol since his election to the post in 2016 because he had sought to exert influence over policy beyond the domain of the president”.

(c)  Has Mr Meng fallen foul of Chinese domestic politics?  He has allegedly been involved with former security chief and ex-Politburo member Zhou Yongkang.

(d)  Has Mr Meng fallen foul of President Xi’s anti-corruption drive?  Mr Zhou was jailed for life for corruption, and it seems that Mr Meng has been arrested on similar charges.

Four.  In Bulgaria, the television journalist Viktoria Marinova was horrifically raped, beaten and murdered.  In Slovakia last February, journalist Jan Kuciak was murdered while investigating the alleged misuse of EU funds.  In Malta last October, journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered while investigating allegations of government corruption in the EU’s smallest state.  Why was Ms Marinova killed?

(a)  Because her TV show had broadcast reports by journalists investigating the alleged embezzlement of EU funds?

(b)  Because her TV show had broadcast reports by journalists investigating the alleged embezzlement of EU funds?

(c) Because her TV show had broadcast reports by journalists investigating the alleged embezzlement of EU funds?

Five.  Who is Russia’s most famous doctor?

(a)  Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936), the physiologist famous for his work in “classical conditioning” (Pavlov’s dogs, the conditional reflex, etc).  Russia’s first Nobel laureate – he won the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine in 1904.

(b)  Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904), the great playwright and master of the short story who was also a doctor.  He once confessed “Medicine is my lawful wife; literature is my mistress”.

(c)  Alexander Yevgenyevich Mishkin (1979-), who is apparently so famous that he allegedly uses the pseudonym “Alexander Petrov” when holidaying in the UK (Salisbury), Ukraine and the Transnistrian Republic in order to avoid recognition as a celebrity.

And the answers?  Well, keep your eye on the news (i.e. Shaw Sheet).  The truth is out there somewhere – but I don’t suppose any of it will surprise us when it comes home, do you?


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