x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

A mother's plea: Where is my Kerry?

In an exclusive story, Carol Winter, the mother of the South African events executive who went missing in Dubai in 2008, confronts the man convicted of killing her about their relationship and the last day Kerry Winter was seen alive.

DUBAI // With determination in her voice, Carol Winter repeated her desperate plea: "What has happened to Kerry and where is she?" She was speaking of Kerry Winter, her daughter, who has been missing since 2008.

On the other end of the line was the man convicted of killing Kerry, Mark Arnold, who is serving a life sentence in Dubai.

Speaking from jail, Arnold answered: "I swear to you - you can put me on a lie detector, put a gun to my head or even put a gun to my son's head - but I swear to you I do not know where Kerry is." It was an emotional telephone conversation echoing the lengthy court hearings that resulted in Arnold, a 44-year-old Briton, being sentenced to life in prison for killing Kerry Winter, a 36-year-old South African events executive. Successive courts found him guilty of the charge, but he has maintained his innocence.

The conversation, held late last week, was the first time that the two had spoken since Arnold's arrest. It was arranged by The National with the cooperation of Mrs Winter as well as Arnold. For 38-minutes, the two talked about the nature of Arnold and Kerry's relationship, why the two parted, and the fateful events of the last day she was seen alive.

The call came just days after Arnold's sentence for murder was raised from 15 years to life by the Dubai Court of Appeals.

With surprising calmness and with a determination for answers, Mrs Winter began speaking: "I am sorry for the position you have been put in," she told Arnold, "but maybe it's because of your own doing. I have asked you before if you killed Kerry and you said no. Mark, I really believed you and I know you have a bad temper."

Arnold replied immediately and firmly: "Mrs Winter I didn't kill Kerry, I do have a bad temper and I'm known to be extremely forceful with my mouth, but I'm not physical. There are two women in the world that I have a complete respect for - the mother of my son and you Mrs Winter."

In the court hearings that followed Kerry's disappearance in 2008, prosecutors said Arnold saw Kerry Winter at Madinat Jumeirah on the day of the murder and followed her back to Al Barsha.

Two of her neighbours told the court they witnessed him beating her with a baseball bat and then dragging her into her Ford Explorer SUV before driving away. Prosecutors said he drove to his boat where he placed her body in a burlap sack and tossed it overboard. Arnold was arrested at Dubai International Airport after flying back to Dubai five days after Winter went missing, and was charged with premeditated murder.

"I loved your daughter and you have witnessed this in many occasions, but she had her failings just like I had mine," Arnold said. "I swear to you - you can put me on a lie detector, put a gun to my head or even put a gun to my son's head - but I swear to you I do not know where Kerry is.

"I have been reckless and naive because I left her in the desert, and yes I dumped her car and yes there was a bump on her head because she slipped and fell but there was nothing life threatening during our argument."

Carol Winter replied with more questions about the circumstances leading up to her disappearance: "When you met her, why didn't you leave her in the villa? Why did you take her away. Why didn't you leave her on the floor?"

Arnold said Kerry Winter was "hysterical" and "didn't want to stay there. She wanted to go". He added: "She was shouting at me probably because what was going on, she had no money, no job, also passport problems."

Arnold continued to explain the events of the night and said he was at fault when "he left Kerry on her own in the desert".

"I pray that she is still alive," Mrs Winter said, in a less forceful tone. "As long as I don't see a body I believe that she is still alive, I pray she is somewhere or with somebody, but I hope she is still out there."

Arnold replied: "Mrs Winter, if I was of the mind to do something this evil, I would have never done it myself. I would have never done it on my own doorstep because why would I do something to jeopardise my life. I was extremely happy professionally and with my family, my son just graduated his IGCSE's, I was promoted to managing director. Why would I do that?"

The conversation then turned to a theory presented by one of Arnold's lawyers in court that Kerry could be alive, and perhaps faked her death in an act of revenge against Arnold following their break-up.

Mrs Winter was sceptical, saying if that was her daughter's scheme, she would have laid low for a week before contacting her.

Arnold agreed, saying: "That's true. She would put you in the doghouse for seven days, but then she would be alright with you. I know she had reservations about other parts of her family, but she loved her father and loved you very much."

The conversation then turned to Arnold's separation from Kerry, with whom he had a five-year relationship.

Arnold said: "Me and Kerry both said things to each other that we did not mean because we both had big bad mouths, but on my birthday I ended it and I moved in with Tania."

Carol Winter replied that Arnold "was not truthful" to Kerry during their relationship. "You had your fling and you left poor Kerry," she said.

After 20 minutes of speaking, the pair became increasingly emotional, both breaking down as they spoke.

"I'm sorry Mrs Winter," Arnold said. "In such a situation when you have time to reflect, I think that although she was more difficult to manage than a thousand people I have managed, I could have managed her so much better."

"There were also good times Mark," Mrs Winter responded. "She loved you and she took care of you and your home."

"I couldn't spend five-and-half years with her if she was half that," he said. "I loved your daughter more than anything except my son, and you know that."

Mrs Winter answered: "Yes I know. I'm sorry for you, your son and your mum and dad. But all I need to know is where is Kerry. It's killing me Mark. I need to know."

"I wish I could tell you," he replied. "I wish I can for God shall strike me down. But I can't and I don't know."