A videotaped re-enactment of British teacher Lauren Patterson’s killing was played in court for the first time yesterday during an ongoing appeal hearing for two men convicted of the woman’s murder.
Patterson went missing briefly in October 2013, before the remains of her body were found at a farm outside of Doha. The 24-year-old was last seen with the two defendants following a night out at a La Cigale nightclub.
In March, a lower criminal court in Doha sentenced Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah al-Jabar to death and ordered his friend Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz to spend three years in prison for helping al-Jabar burn Patterson’s body, as well as for damaging and erasing evidence.
Defense lawyers for the two men previously argued during their criminal trial that Patterson attacked al-Jabar in his home with a knife, and that she was stabbed by accident during the scuffle.
A re-enactment of the defense’s version of events was apparently recorded several days after al-Jabar was arrested, but never aired at the criminal trial. It’s not clear what prompted it to be played yesterday.
The video was shot under the direction of the prosecutor involved in the case, who can be heard encouraging al-Jabar to recreate the account he gave in an earlier statement to authorities. The action is choreographed by al-Jabar.
Parts of it appeared to contradict the narrative heard by the lower court about Patterson’s last hours.
For example, in the video, al-Jabar and a police officer acting as Patterson are seen standing and engaged in a struggle when the knife that was supposedly held by the British woman enters her body. During previous court hearings, defense attorneys said Patterson fell on the knife.
This discrepancy was not raised in either the criminal hearing or the ongoing appeal session.
Patterson, a kindergarten teacher at Newton British School, had left La Cigale with her friend and the two defendants in the early hours of Oct. 12, 2013. The men dropped the other woman off at her home with the promise that they would also drop Patterson off shortly after.
The smoldering remains of her body were later found in the desert by campers.
The prosecutor has argued al-Jabar took Patterson to a home he used for sexual trysts with women, “conquered her body,” and killed her by stabbing her twice.
Then, with the help of Abdul Aziz, he put Patterson’s body in the trunk of his car and drove her to Al-Kharrara, where they burned her remains.
The defense has consistently argued that there is no evidence to support this theory, and that Patterson was accidentally stabbed during a physical altercation she initiated.
The video played at yesterday’s court hearing added new details to the defense’s version of events.
Filmed five days after Patterson’s death, the re-enactment opens with al-Jabar walking the prosecutor through every room of a multi-story villa. The tour included an upper-floor bedroom, containing a bed covered in men’s clothing, where al-Jabar said he and Patterson had consensual sex.
He said the two then went downstairs where Patterson grabbed a knife and attacked him.
During the struggle, al-Jabar explained, the knife held by Patterson pierced her body while they were both still standing. In response to a question posed by the prosecutor as the video was filmed, al-Jabar said he couldn’t remember what angle the knife entered Patterson’s body.
By this point yesterday, several people attending other matters in the courthouse had entered the hearing room where the Patterson appeal was taking place to watch the video re-enactment – a unique piece of evidence in Qatar’s judicial system.
Among the observers present was Patterson’s mother, Alison, who has flown to Doha to attend several of the court hearings over the past year.
She stood as she watched the video with a stoic expression on her face, but started to cry during the final stages of the re-enacted physical fight, in which a police officer stood in her daughter’s place.
Later in the day, outside the courtroom, Alison Patterson and close family friend Kevin Crotty said they had concerns about the content of the video, as well as its potentially misleading images.
They noted that Lauren Patterson was right-handed, but al-Badar directed the officer in the film to grab the knife with his left hand before coming at him.
More broadly, Alison Patterson noted that the police officer acting in place of her daughter was taller and larger than her daughter, which she feared could give the impression that the British teacher was a physical match for a man of al-Badar’s stature.
In a statement to Doha News, the mother added:
“Their lawyers apparently resigned and the new lawyer stood up and said to the court that his morals only allowed him to defend these two criminals because he was believed it was legitimate self-defense. But his morals also allowed to let the mother of the victim stand in front of court four feet behind the two accused and watch an enactment of her daughter’s murder.
Where had his morals gone at this stage?! He then proceeded afterwards to call his first witness, insisting that she was in court and in the courtroom, turned around, called her name and she was not there. We also found out that she was not contacted to attend yesterday’s session. This made what is already a ridiculous defense even more ridiculous and laughable.”
Yesterday’s hearing started off with the two accused men – who are being held in custody during their appeal and appeared in court wearing blue prison jumpsuits – officially appointing a new lawyer to represent them. They had been previously represented by two lawyers who, the court heard, dropped the men as clients.
The new lawyer told the court that he would have never accepted the case if he had even a shred of doubt that the killing was not a matter of self defense.
He told the court that he wanted to examine as witnesses the friend that had been with Patterson the night she was killed as well as her ex-boyfriend.
The prosecutor objected, saying it appeared to be a stalling tactic to further draw out the appeal. The prosecutor also argued that there was no reason to call the friend back to court in light of her extensive cross-examination during the criminal trial, nor the ex-boyfriend given that he was not involved in the incident.
The judges hearing the appeal are expected to announce their decision on the defense lawyer’s request at the next session, which is scheduled for Dec. 14.