The appeal hearing for two Qatari men convicted in the killing of a British teacher resumed today with testimony from the final two witnesses ahead of closing arguments.
During this morning’s session, a defense lawyer made repeated suggestions that the victim – 24-year-old Lauren Patterson – was a heavy drinker who dated multiple men.
However, the witnesses he called to the stand – including an ex-boyfriend of the teacher – did not support that portrayal in their testimony, and the entire line of questioning was repeatedly contested by the prosecutor and the lawyer representing the victim’s family.
“(The defense lawyer) tried to paint a dreadful picture of my daughter and the witnesses proved him wrong,” Patterson’s mother, Alison, told Doha News following the hearing.
Patterson was killed in October 2013 after leaving a La Cigale nightclub with two acquaintances who would later be convicted in connection with her death.
Following a speedy criminal hearing, Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah al-Jabar was sentenced to death in March 2014 for murdering Patterson.
His friend, Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz, was handed a three-year prison sentence for helping al-Jabar burn the victim’s body, as well as damaging and erasing evidence.
Defense lawyers have argued that al-Jabar killed Patterson in self-defense and have made unsubstantiated references to her “emotional and psychological state” the night of her death.
The first witness to testify today was Patterson’s ex-boyfriend. He said the couple began dating in April or May of 2013 but broke up after a few months.
When asked for details about why they parted ways, the man – a Qatari – said it had became apparent that the relationship was unlikely to lead to marriage and that Patterson would soon be leaving Qatar for her summer vacation.
He said there was no conflict or falling out and that the two maintained an amicable relationship, occasionally sending each other WhatsApp messages on their phones after the broke up.
The witness was asked if the couple had ever spent the night together during their relationship and whether Patterson had been intimately involved with other men and if she had ever spent the night alone with the man convicted of killing her.
The man said he had stayed overnight at Patterson’s flat, but that he didn’t know the answer to the latter questions and said it was Patterson’s personal business.
The defense lawyer did not articulate in court how his questions related to Patterson’s murder or ask the man any questions regarding the night of her death.
He later said one of Patterson’s friends – who was with the teacher the night she went missing and also testified today – had told prosecutors during their initial investigation that Patterson’s drinking was one reason for their breakup.
This prompted one of several objections from the prosecutor, who held a stack of papers in his hand as he said Patterson’s friend never made that statement.
The judge asked the court clerk to note the objection, but allowed the defense lawyer to continue to ask questions about Patterson’s drinking habits.
In response to the inquiries, Patterson’s ex-boyfriend said he raised his concerns with her about drinking and how it affected her behavior, but said it was not a factor in their breakup.
He added that she would become upset and that he was sometimes embarrassed by her actions, but said she would never reach the point of crying or becoming violent, screaming or behaving out of the ordinary.
The second witness was a female friend of Patterson who was the last person to see the British teacher before she left the club with al-Jabar and Abdul Aziz.
Again, the defense lawyer asked the witness about an earlier statement that Patterson and her ex-boyfriend broke up because the teacher was a heavy drinker.
Patterson’s friend, a French national, told the lawyer she never made the statement.
The lawyer continued to ask the woman about Patterson’s alcohol consumption, including a question as to whether she was in the habit of drinking so much that she would pass out in public and sleep on the street.
The friend, echoing the testimony she gave during the criminal hearing, told the court that the teacher was in a sound enough frame of mind the evening she went missing to give al-Jabar directions to drop her at home.
She added that she and Patterson had run into al-Jabar and Aziz – with whom they were already acquainted – outside the club. The men said they had a table inside and invited the two women to join them.
Later on that evening, the friend testified that she briefly left the club to try to track down a peer in the parking lot to catch a ride home. Unsuccessful, she returned to see al-Jabar hugging Patterson.
She didn’t know what they were discussing, but then suggested to Patterson that they try to catch a taxi. She said al-Jabar objected and said he and Abdul Aziz would drive Patterson home.
“C’mon, we’re friends – you can trust us,” the woman recalled al-Jabar saying.
At the end of today’s hearing, the judge granted a request from both lawyers for time to prepare their closing arguments.
The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 15.