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 National - News - - NEWS - DANIEL SAN­DER­SON

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

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