A panel of Qatar appeal judges has endorsed the lower court sentences given to two men convicted in the murder of British teacher Lauren Patterson.
“There was a consensus that the sentence would be upheld,” a judge told a busy courtroom this morning.
That means the death penalty ruling handed to Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah Al-Jabar last year continues to stand, although his case will likely see one more appeal, this time in front of Qatar’s highest court.
Notably, though the death penalty is still handed out by local courts, it has not actually been carried out in more than a decade.
Last year, a lower court convicted both men in connection with Patterson’s death.
Al-Jabar was sentenced to death for the murder, while Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz was given a three-year prison term for helping Al-Jabar burn Patterson’s body, as well as damaging and erasing evidence.
That verdict was appealed by both sides. The defense lawyer wanted his clients exonerated, while the prosecutor asked the appeal court to hand Abdul Aziz a harsher sentence.
Speaking to Doha News this morning, Patterson’s mother Alison said:
“I’m relieved that the first defendant’s sentence has been upheld, but disappointed that the second defendant’s sentence has remained the same.”
She added that she dreaded the thought of Abdul Aziz being released next year after completing his sentence, “considering what he has done and (his apparent) lack of remorse.”
Patterson was killed in October 2013. She was last seen alive leaving a La Cigale nightclub with the two men, both of whom were acquaintances to the 24-year-old and a friend who was with them that evening.
That friend testified that the four left the bar together and that she was dropped her off. She also said the two men promised that they would then drive Patterson home.
The British teacher was briefly reported missing before her smoldering remains were found in the desert.
During the lower court hearing and appeal case, prosecutors argued that Al-Jabar had taken Patterson to a home he used for sexual trysts with women, “conquered her body,” and killed her by stabbing her twice.
They said that then, with the help of Abdul Aziz, he put Patterson’s body in the trunk of his car and drove to a farm in Al-Kharrara, where they burned her remains.
However, defense lawyers have argued that there is no evidence to support this theory, and maintain that Patterson was stabbed by accident in a physical altercation with Al-Jabar that she initiated.
During an appeal hearing, a video enactment – filmed shortly after Al-Jabar was arrested – was played in court to illustrate this theory.
Throughout the appeal, the defense lawyer attempted to discredit Patterson’s moral character, calling her “promiscuous,” an “excessive drinker” and “irrational” during his closing arguments.
However, the witnesses he called to the stand – including an ex-boyfriend of Patterson’s – did not support that portrayal in their testimony.
During his closing arguments last month, the defense lawyer also said his clients were tortured in custody without providing details. It was the first time those allegations were made in court.
Neither Al-Jabar nor Abdul Aziz – both wearing blue prison jumpsuits – showed outward signs of emotion as they listened to the verdict while sitting in the glass-enclosed prisoner’s box this morning.
As has been the case in most of the recent hearings, the men were not sitting next to one another. While Al-Jabar spent much of the hearing staring blankly at the courtroom, Abdul Aziz repeatedly gazed at the Patterson family and various supporters attending the hearing.
It remains unclear if Abdul Aziz will appeal his sentence.
Meanwhile, the fate of a long-standing motion by Patterson’s family lawyer seeking some QR20 million in compensation from the defendants continues to remain in limbo.
The appeal judge declined to refer the request to a civil court, which has said it cannot hear the motion until it is referred because it stems from a criminal matter.
Alison Patterson has attended all of the appeal sessions and said the two years of legal proceedings has taken its toll:
“This has left us all feeling like we are slowly drowning, having to deal with the murder of Lauren and then to have to go through a lengthy court case.
Since Lauren’s death my family have undergone permanent changes which are so difficult to accept. Part of the family died along with Lauren. This missing piece can never be restored. Lauren was part of our identity and now our identity as a family has been changed forever.”