Turkish sources believe hydrofluoric acid was used to dispose of the body of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Here are some details about the chemical

Signs reading “Toxic” and
Signs reading “Toxic” and "Corrosive" are seen on the containers (AP)

Turkish investigators say they found traces of hydrofluoric acid and other chemicals in a well at the Saudi consul general’s home in Istanbul, according to an Al Jazeera report that cited a source in the Turkish attorney general’s office on Thursday. 

Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on October 2 to obtain paperwork for his marriage. 

After initially denying knowledge of his whereabouts, Riyadh admitted that Khashoggi was killed as soon as he entered the consulate but have yet to disclose what happened to his body.  

This is not the first time that the use of acid in the disposal of bodies has come to light. There have been several gruesome, high-profile incidents in which killers used acid to dissolve bodies in an attempt to cover up their tracks. 

A man in Pakistan was convicted of killing 100 children in his house and dissolving body pieces in acid in 2000. 

John George Haigh, an English serial killer who is also known as the “Acid Bath Murderer” also dissolved his victims in a tub of acid during the first half of the 20th Century.

Hydrofluoric acid, an extremely toxic and corrosive chemical, is mainly used for industrial purposes and research. It is a solution of hydrogen fluoride (HF). The solution is stored in plastic as it is highly reactive to glass, rubber, metal and concrete.

Exposure can cause systemic toxicity resulting from extensive dermal burns, ingestion and inhalation. Other health hazards upon exposure include include blindness, vomiting, abdominal pain, necrotic lesions and lung injury in the case of eye exposure and inhalation. 

If the acid were being used to dissolve a body, it would break down the connective tissues and eventually dissolve the bones. It usually takes a long time but the process can be quickened if other chemicals are used as a catalyst.

Another source in the Turkish prosecutors office says acid might have completely dissolved the slain journalist Khashoggi’s body. 

The use of the acid solution requires prior safety training and personal protective equipment. However, access it isn’t hard - it can be purchased from any laboratory supply store.

According to Turkish officials, an 11-member cover-up team was sent to Turkey from Saudi Arabia to eliminate evidence nine days after Khashoggi was murdered. 

The team included a "chemist" Ahmed Abdulaziz Al Janoubi, who had been promoted to the rank of brigadier general days before the murder and a poison expert, Khalid al Zahrani. 

Almost a week after Khashoggi entered the consulate, Turkish paper Sabah published a list of the 15-strong Saudi squad who it named as being involved in the killing. 

The paper said Salah Muhammed al Tubaigy, head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics, who is an expert on rapid and mobile autopsies, was among the team and flew out of the country nine hours after entering.