Trump says US will have answers on Jamal Khashoggi disappearance by ‘end of week’

President Donald Trump has said the US would get answers on the missing Saudi Arabian journalist “by the end of the week”, as pressure mounted on the kingdom over gruesome new details of the suspected murder.

Mr Trump said he “did not like” that Riyadh was “guilty until proven innocent” and would wait for a full report on what might have happened to Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

"I just want to find out what’s happening," Mr Trump said, responding to accusations his administration was soft-peddling its response. "I’m not giving cover at all."

He indicated that Washington would not lightly abandon its alliance with Riyadh – a historic customer for the US weapons industry and “partner in the fight against terrorism.”

Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, was despatched by the president to Turkey on Wednesday after visiting Saudi, where he was pictured laughing during what appeared to be jovial meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

His meeting with Turkish officials came hours after local daily Yeni Safak claimed to have an audio recording of Mr Khashoggi’s murder. It described the 60-year-old Washington Post columnist as having his fingers cut off and being decapitated minutes after entering the consulate.

The paper said Consul-General Mohammed al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape, telling those allegedly torturing Mr Khashoggi: "Do this outside; you’re going to get me in trouble."

The newspaper said a man identified as Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, a forensic pathologist who specialises in gathering DNA from crime scenes and dissecting bodies, replied: "Shut up if you want to live when you return to (Saudi) Arabia."

Mr Trump said the US was asking Turkey for the audio, "if it exists," though sources in Ankara have previously indicated they have already shared it with Washington.

The president has posited that “rogue killers” could be responsible, a claim that would allow the ruling family to distance themselves from the alleged murder but one widely viewed as implausible in light of growing evidence.

Nevertheless, the name Major-General Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy head of Saudi general intelligence, was circulated yesterday as that of the possible lead assassin.

The Daily Beast, a US news site, reported that “the Saudis will place blame for Khashoggi’s murder on a two-star general new to intelligence work.”

Gen. Assiri, who appears to have no familial ties with the royal family, was previously the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in the war in neighbouring Yemen.

At the same time, investigators were searching the residence of Mr Otaibi.

Turkish reports suggested vehicles with diplomatic plates were driven from the consulate to Mr Otaibi’s home a mile away, where it is said parts of Mr Khashoggi’s body were either dumped or buried.

Mr Otaibi could not be questioned as he flew out of Turkey to Riyadh on Tuesday, hours before the search was due to begin. There was speculation yesterday that he had been fired and ordered to return home.

International pressure on the kingdom was growing last night.

John McDonnell, the UK Labour party’s finance spokesman, said Britain should consider sanctions on Saudi Arabia if its response to questions over the Khashoggi affair were inadequate.

He told reporters in parliament: "If we are not getting the legitimate answers that you would expect, we have got to be one of those countries, because of our special relationship with Saudi … that leads in the reaction to it and that does mean, yes, diplomatic isolation but it also means economic sanctions."

Germany’s foreign minister delayed a scheduled trip to Saudi over its growing concern over the the columnist’s fate.

The G7 foreign ministers said in a statement that they remained “very troubled” by the dissident’s disappearance.

“We, the G7 foreign ministers, of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the high representative of the European Union, affirm our commitment to defending freedom of expression and protection of a free press,” they said.