With reporting from Riham Sheble
The prosecution called its first witnesses today in the murder trial of a young teacher who was killed in Qatar last year. Two Qatari men stand accused of murdering Lauren Patterson, a 24-year-old British expat who briefly went missing last fall, before her remains were found outside of Doha.
This morning marked the second hearing in the case, and the first in which witness testimony was heard.
During the session, the prosecution called four people to the stand: a forensic examiner, Patterson’s best friend, a police officer, and the Qatar resident who reportedly found the teacher’s remains.
The first witness to take the stand was a forensic doctor who testified that he went to the crime scene in Al-Kharrara, near Wakrah. At a farm there, he found a pit containing what he determined to be the remains of a smoldering human body.
Stuck in what appeared to be the rib cage of the body was a knife. Due to the extensive damage to the body from the fire, the doctor said he could not ascertain whether the cause of death was by stabbing, whether there was alcohol in the body, or if any sexual contact took place.
Forensic tests were done to determine that the body belonged to Patterson, as she had recently been reported missing.
The next witness was the teacher’s best friend, who testified that the last time she saw Patterson was in the car with the two defendants after they dropped her off at home. The women were casually acquainted with the men, she said.
She said the group had left La Cigale Hotel around 3:30am on Oct. 12, after having some drinks. Responding to questions, she firmly said Patterson was not drunk, and aware of her surroundings.
The first defendant promised to take Patterson home after dropping off the best friend. However, when the witness tried to call Patterson the following morning, her phone was off. When she asked the first defendant about this, he said he could have dropped Patterson off at the wrong building.
The witness added that the day after she last saw Patterson, she observed that the first defendant had a cut on his lower lip and it was swollen, a bruise she had not seen when he dropped her off.
A police officer also testified today, saying he observed a pick-up truck with two men driving near the crime scene the night the remains were discovered. He said the driver was nervous, but could not positively identify them as the defendants in the courtroom.
He did affirm that while the truck was not registered to the first defendant, records show he had driven it to Saudi Arabia numerous times. The tire tracks also matched earlier treads left near the farm.
The final witness was the man who found the body and called the police. He said he did not know the defendants or the victim, and that he was simply camping with his cousins when they smelled something burning and walked toward it, seeking wood for a fire. They then discovered the remains and notified authorities.
During the hearing, Patterson’s mother and a handful of other loved ones who were also in attendance remained stoic, but one of the defendants could be seen in tears.
The British embassy and Patterson’s relatives declined to comment on the case. The defendants remain in custody, and the next hearing will be on Feb. 6.