“Certain evidence” of Jamal Khashoggis murder has been found by police in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a high-level official told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
The Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not elaborate on the evidence found.
On Monday a team of Turkish investigators and forensics experts entered the consulate 13 days after the prominent Saudi journalist was last seen walking into the building.
They spent nine hours searching the building, security sources told Middle East Eye, and took samples of soil from the garden.
According to the sources, these samples will be a priority of the investigation.
Sources have told MEE that Khashoggi was tortured, murdered and dismembered after he entered the consulate on 2 October.
Turkish authorities have told MEE that they have video and audio recordings of the journalists alleged murder, and found evidence of blood in the consulates sewerage system before being allowed into the consulate.
A Turkish source involved in the investigation told MEE the probe on Monday had been meticulous.
“We went inside all the rooms, without any exceptions. We got into the exclusively protected rooms with high-level security where they have their cryptosystems, also the rooms which are secured against any audio recordings,” the source said.
“We got everything we wanted and took is with us out of the consulate to continue investigation. We didnt dig the garden but searched it with dogs and took some samples.”
According to the source, the investigators took hammers to some walls and flooring to explore behind them.
A photo widely published in Turkish media and obtained by MEE appeared to show investigators using ultra-violet forensic equipment to search the consulate building for evidence. MEE understands that the Saudis were reluctant to let Turkish investigators use luminol equipment in their probe.
Ultra-violet equipment is seen used inside the Saudi consulate during an investigation. (Handout)
Turkish investigators had been poised to enter the consulate for days, however the Saudis rescinded their offer of cooperation after the identities of a “hit squad” of 15 Saudis suspected of being involved in Khashoggis murder were leaked to the press.
There was also disagreement over whether investigators would be allowed into the consulate-generals house.
Although the Saudis relinquished to Turkish demands to probe the consulate and consul-generals house, investigators were not allowed into the residency last night.
Saudi officials have strongly denied any involvement in his disappearance and say that he left the consulate soon after arriving. However, they have not presented any evidence to corroborate their claim and say that video cameras at the consulate were not recording at the time.
MBS feeling the heat
The AP report comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Riyadh for crisis talks with Saudi King Salman and his powerful son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
As the Turkish investigation turns the screw on Saudi Arabia's insistence that it knows nothing about Khashoggi's disappearance, Riyadh looks likely to move away from its line that the journalist left its consulate around 20 minutes after he entered.
Turkish officials have drip fed the media details of their investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance.
In an attempt to stop the fallout from snowballing any further, late last week King Salman sent trusted lieutenant and Mecca governor Khaled bin Faisal to Turkey to strike a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a high-level Turkish source told MEE.
"He literally begged the president to save them,” the source said.
US media reported on Monday that the Saudis were planning to announce that Khashoggi died in a botched investigation.
It was not clear how they would explain the widely reported presence of a bone saw and forensic pathologist in the Saudi team sent to the consulate on the day of Khashoggi's disappearance.
The report came soon after US President Donald Trump said "rogue killers" may be behind the journalist's death.
Such a line would help insulate MBS from the scandal. The powerful young prince, who has spent millions of dollars promoting his image in the West, has been tarred badly by Khashoggi's presumed murder.
Turkish officials have told MEE that three of the 15-man hit squad allegedly sent by Riyadh to Istanbul for the operation came from MBS's personal bodyguard.
Khashoggi told MEE that one of the crown prince's closest aides was the person who first told the journalist he had fallen out of favour with the royal court. The order to stop writing and tweeting, which forced Khashoggi from his country, would have come from the very top, he said.
In a sign of MBS's plummeting clout in Washington, senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham blamed the prince for the murder and said that he is “going to sanction the hell out Saudi Arabia” during an appearance on the Fox and Friends news show on Wednesday morning.
"Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS knowing it," Graham said on Trump's favourite TV show. "This guy is a wrecking ball. He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey and to expects me to ignore it. I feel used and abused."