Witnesses were finally called this week to testify in a criminal court in Doha regarding the demise of Jennifer Brown, a 40-year-old teacher who was killed more than a year ago in her flat in Al Sadd.
The case has been postponed multiple times in the past year, due to scheduling confusion, the need for a psychiatric evaluation of the defendant and witness no-shows.
Movement on Brown’s case comes as another murder trial involving a teacher in Qatar speeds toward a conclusion. Twenty-four-year-old Lauren Patterson of the UK was killed in October, and the fate of the two Qatari men on trial for her death will be determined next month.
Both teachers’ cases, which may have involved sexual assault as well as murder, are being closely watched by many of Qatar’s residents, especially single female expats.
The country’s crime rate is relatively low, but has been rising as the population grows – according to a 2011 government report, the crime rate jumped from 320 crimes per 100,000 people in 2001 to 2,355 crimes in 2010.
A security guard in Brown’s company-provided accommodation stands trial for killing the American in November of 2012. The man, who is from Kenya, was arrested shortly after her death and was this week escorted to the court from jail.
The first witness during Monday’s hearing was an American teacher who also lived in the same building. She testified that the defendant told her he had been in Brown’s apartment the day she died, but the witness said she did not know why.
However, it was common for guards to enter residents’ room to change lightbulbs and attend to other tasks, she said.
The second witness, a nurse who also worked at Brown’s school, testified about finding the teacher’s body. She had been asked to check on Brown when she did not appear for work.
She said she found Brown’s body wrapped in a comforter on her bed, and appeared to be half-naked. There was also blood on the bed.
The guard is being represented by a publicly-appointed lawyer.
Making the case against him is a state prosecutor. However, Brown’s family does not have any legal representation in Doha, and has repeatedly complained of being uninformed about the court proceedings.
Speaking to Doha News via telephone from Pennsylvania, Brown’s father Robert said he was unaware that a hearing had even taken place this week.
Bursting into tears, he added, “I don’t know what to say. It’s so hard.”
US embassy representatives were present at this week’s court hearing, but declined to comment on the case or why they have not been in contact with Brown’s family.
More witnesses are expected to be heard during the next session on April 1.