Mother of UK teacher murdered in Doha tells of anguish at killer being ‘freed in five years’
▶ She vows to fight for justice after death penalty cut to 10-year sentence
The mother of a British teacher murdered in Qatar spoke of her anguish at the decision to reduce the killer’s death sentence to 10 years in jail.
Alison Patterson, who travelled to Qatar more than 30 times for court hearings, said she will appeal against Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah Al Jabr’s sentence through the Qatari legal system.
She was expecting the original punishment to be upheld or, in a worst-case scenario, for a second retrial to be ordered, and was left in disbelief when the new sentence was read out on Monday. Taking into account time already served in jail for the murder in October 2013, it means Al Jabr could be freed in less than five years.
Al Jabr offered to take Lauren Patterson, 24, home from a night out in Doha. After dropping off her friend, he stabbed her to death before burning her body on charcoal bricks in the desert. Lauren’s remains were so badly burnt that DNA testing was needed to identify her.
“We really thought it would be the original judgment or retrial,” Mrs Patterson, 53, told The
National. “There was nothing in my mind that thought they would lower the sentence.
“You think of all the different scenarios before, but to go from a death sentence right the way down to 10 years is something we just didn’t imagine would happen.
“It was very, very quick. You hear his name read out, then it was ’10 years’, that’s it. I was absolutely lost for words, it felt like it almost wasn’t comprehensible because I just wasn’t expecting that.
“The reaction from the rest of the family has just been shock and disappointment. We felt we were virtually there. I expected to go out and the judgment would be upheld. I didn’t expect this, not at all.”
Mrs Patterson, who recently moved from the UK to Luxembourg, now faces a two-week wait for a written judgment so that she can understand the reasoning behind the reduced sentence. She has 60 days to appeal.
Al Jabr was sentenced to death in 2014. A retrial was ordered and took place last year, when the original sentence, which was to be carried out by firing squad or hanging, was reimposed.
Mrs Patterson’s understanding is that the most recent hearing took place only because of a technicality, as Al Jabr claimed not to have received paperwork inviting him to attend the 2017 sentencing hearing.
At the retrial last year the courts dismissed all aspects of Al Jabr’s defence, pointing out that his lawyers had at various points claimed he acted in self defence, was mentally incapable at the time of the murder and even that Lauren had committed suicide.
Mrs Patterson said she will appeal against the verdict through Qatar’s attorney general, and is being supported by her lawyers in the country and the British embassy in Doha.
Despite her frustration, she emphasised that she would respect the country’s judicial process.
Qatar has not executed a prisoner since 2003, and Mrs Patterson said she was not confident that the death sentence would be carried out. However, she said the death sentence had reassured her that Al Jabr would spend the rest of his life behind bars, a sentence with which she would have been satisfied.
But, she said, a 10-year sentence was completely unacceptable given the nature of her daughter’s horrific killing. Lauren had been teaching at the Newton British School in the Qatari capital before she was killed.
An accomplice of Al Jabr’s, who had helped him to burn her body, was sentenced to only three years behind bars.
“We have spoken to our lawyer and he explained that it [the reduced sentence] can be appealed,” Mrs Patterson said.
“I could have said ‘no, I accept this’ and walk away, but that wouldn’t ever happen. We’re going to keep at it, definitely. I don’t think 10 years is any kind of conviction for what happened. He’s done five, so he could be out within about four and a half years. That’s not acceptable.
“This was not as if someone had run someone over by accident, it’s a completely different kind of murder. This is someone who’s gone to the nth degree. It’s beyond words what he did.”
A spokeswoman for the UK Foreign Office said: “Our staff in Qatar remain in contact with Lauren Patterson’s family and will continue to support them.”
Alison Patterson with her daughter Lauren several years before the young teacher was murdered in Doha Patterson family