(With reporting from Riham Sheble and Nada Badawi. Updated at 14:30 to include comments from the Pattersons’ lawyer. Updated at 17:30 to include comments from Alison Patterson.)
A Qatari man, Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah al-Jabar, has been sentenced to death by a Doha court for the murder of British teacher Lauren Patterson.
Al-Jabr’s friend, Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz, also Qatari, was sentenced to three years in prison for helping him burn Patterson’s body, as well as damaging and erasing evidence.
The lawyer for Patterson’s family, Sami Abu Sheikha, said the verdict is only “partially satisfactory” and that he plans to file an appeal within the next two weeks seeking a harsher sentence for Aziz.
During today’s verdict, no mention was made of the monetary compensation that Abu Sheikha petitioned the court for last month. At that time, Patterson’s mother requested some QR20 million be paid by the defendants – QR15 million for the pain her daughter must have endured before her death, and QR5 million for the emotional damage felt by her mother.
Abu Sheikha told Doha News that in his appeal, he will ask that the family’s request for monetary compensation be referred to the civil court.
Both men were arrested after the 24-year-old’s smoldering remains were found by campers outside of Doha in October last year, shortly after she had gone missing.
During the trial, a friend of Patterson’s testified that the four had left a nightclub at La Cigale hotel together, and that the men dropped her home with the promise that they would also drop Patterson off shortly after.
The prosecutor had called Lauren Patterson’s death “heinous, foreign and shocking to a society as conservative as Qatar’s.”
Painting a picture of the crime based on investigation results and confessions from the men on trial, he had told the court that al-Jabar took her to a home he used for sexual trysts with women, “conquered her body,” and killed her by stabbing her twice.
The defense had maintained that Patterson’s death had been an accident, and said confessions obtained from the two men on trial were coerced.
The court was told that the death penalty would be carried out by either hanging or shooting. It should be noted, however, that while the death penalty is still being handed out in Qatari courts, this sentence has not been carried out in Qatar for over a decade.
On hearing the verdict, Lauren Patterson’s mother, Alison, dropped her head into her hands and let out a brief sob. She was supported by more than a dozen friends and family in the courtroom.
The two convicted men didn’t appear to show any emotion when their sentences were read out. They were led out out of court immediately afterwards.
Outside, Alison Patterson walked down a line of supporters, many of whom were brushing tears away from their faces, giving each a hug.
She declined to comment to the assembled media, but released a statement early Thursday evening. In it, she said that “justice had been served” in the case of al-Jabar but that she was “deeply upset” with the three-year sentence given to Aziz:
“At no time did he choose to help my daughter or report the murder. In fact he did the contrary; he helped (Al-Jabar) dispose of Lauren’s body in the most callous and barbaric way.”
She added that the conclusion of the trial has done little to ease the family’s pain and grief:
“We will never forget Lauren, nor the horrific way she was murdered. Because of the truly heinous and brutal way in which (Al-Jabar) and (Aziz) tried to dispose of Lauren’s body, we were not able to say a final goodbye. This will be etched in my memory till the day I die … It is something none of us will forget.”
Alison Patterson concluded by thanking the Qatar government, police force and others involved in the investigation who did “everything possible to apprehend and try Lauren’s killers.”
Abu Sheikha said he would file his appeal within two weeks. If approved, he said it could start as early as May. The lawyer also predicted al-Jabar would appeal his death sentence.
The Patterson trial sped through the courts in a matter of a few months. Meanwhile, the murder trial of another teacher who was killed in Qatar, 40-year-old Jennifer Brown, has stalled repeatedly.
Brown died in November 2012, and a security guard who worked in her flat in Al Sadd has been charged with her murder. After repeated postponements, witness testimony got underway last month, but the case has now been adjourned until April.
Another high-profile verdict was read out today, when a judge found an American couple guilty following the death of their daughter last year. They were sentenced to three years in prison and fines of QR15,000 each.