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Monday, 5 February, 2001, 15:42 GMT
'Shock' at Saudi bomb arrests
Riyadh skyline
The men were filmed confessing to a bomb in Riyadh
A former member of the British community in Saudi Arabia has told of his shock at seeing former associates "confessing" to a series of bomb attacks.

The man was watching the BBC coverage when he saw Alexander Mitchell, William Sampson and Ralph Skevins allegedly admitting their involvement in the explosions which killed one man and injured five more.

But he said he remains convinced of their innocence, despite their statements on Saudi television.

Alexander Mitchell
Alexander Mitchell: Appeared gaunt on television
The Scot, who did not wish to be identified, said that he had known Alexander Mitchell, from Kirkintilloch near Glasgow, for more than three years.

In his mid to late forties, Mr Mitchell was said to have married a Thai woman and the couple have a young son.

It is thought that he left Scotland in the 1970s, although he is also believed to have spent time in the Far East.

"He was a very nice chap," said the man, who has now returned to Britain with his family.

"He was very amiable, very friendly. Any newcomers, especially Britons - and even more so Scots - were welcomed with open arms.

Alcohol-related offences

"He would give you information about where to go and where not to go."

It is thought the men were first arrested last year December, accused of alcohol-related offences.

Mr Mitchell was described as a former serviceman, who was quite stockily built.

However, the men's former associate said that he had looked "gaunt" when he saw him on television.

"I was totally shocked and surprised," he said, adding that he could not believe any of the three were responsible of the crimes.

Ralph Skevins
Ralph Skevins: Described as popular
"I can guarantee that this has been forced out of them," he alleged.

Mr Skevins, who is also said to have confessed, worked in a hospital as a trauma co-ordinator.

"He cares for people and I don't think he would take anyone's life," he said.

Mr Skevins, who was initially a music student, was also a well-known face among the Western community - endearing himself to the Scots with his bagpipe playing.

"If it was Burns night or new year he would come in in the whole regalia. He was very good, he was everyone's friend," said the man.

The third man shown on Saudi television is Canadian citizen William Sampson, who was born in Glasgow.

Aged about 40, he is believed to have been working as a financial adviser for an investment bank.

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See also:

05 Feb 01 | Middle East
Saudi bomb suspects may face execution
16 Dec 00 | Middle East
Saudi bombers 'must be caught soon'
23 Nov 00 | Middle East
UK helps probe Saudi bomb
23 Nov 00 | Middle East
New Saudi car blast
17 Nov 00 | Middle East
Briton killed in Saudi blast
13 Oct 00 | Middle East
The West in danger
20 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Saudi Arabia
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