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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Updated: prosecutors seek death penalty for Gulf News editor-at-large accused of murdering wife

Longstanding journalist Francis Matthew allegedly hit her twice with hammer

Francis Matthew, the editor-at-large of Gulf News, denied planning and carrying out the murder of his wife of more than 30 years when faced with charges at Dubai Criminal Court on Wednesday.

“I'm not guilty,” he told presiding judge Erfan Omar Atteyah when faced with a charge of premeditated murder.

The British expat, 61, allegedly killed his wife Jane, 62, by hitting her twice on the head with a hammer at their home in Umm Sequim 1 on July 3.

Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty if the court convicts Matthew.

Police were called to their home by Matthew on July 4, who reported that his wife had been assaulted by thieves. Prosecutors later said that they did not believe that to be the case.

They listened to the testimonies of six people - four Emirati police officers, a Sri Lankan gardener and an Egyptian forensic expert.

A police officer said Matthew called them to the couple’s home at 5.45pm. A police team, paramedics and forensic experts were dispatched to the villa.

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Read more:

British newspaper editor to be charged over death of woman in Dubai home

Gulf News editor-at-large Francis Matthew to stand trial this month, accused of murdering his wife

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“When we arrived, the defendant told us that he left home about 8am and returned from work about 5pm to find his wife murdered in her bed,” said the 50-year-old police lieutenant colonel.

He said drops of blood were found in the corridors leading to the bedroom where they found the victim’s body and also at the room’s entrance.

“We walked into the bedroom to find the victim in a pool of blood and a severe head wound. She was undressed and her belongings including valuables were scattered across the room. A safe was also found on the floor, which the defendant said was knocked over by thieves,” the officer said.

He said they suspected Matthew was involved and called him in for questioning at the criminal investigation department. He denied having anything to do with the murder but police said he later admitted to hitting her on the head twice with a hammer.

Matthew allegedly told officers that he had told his wife he was facing financial difficulties due to bank loans and that they would need to relocate to a smaller apartment instead of their villa, after which problems began between the two.

“He told us that on the day of the murder, they had dinner then watched TV until 11pm then they started arguing about his financial problems and about the victim’s rejection to move out of the house during which he said she provoked him and called him a loser, and that his responsibility was to provide money,” said the Lt Col.

Police said Matthew told them he said he didn't want to argue and went to bed but at 2.30am but his wife allegedly woke him up to argue again. He said he didn't want to argue so he left her in the bedroom and went to sleep in the living room.

According to the policeman’s testimony, Matthew was woken by his wife at 7am and she followed him into the kitchen. When he tried to avoid another argument she allegedly provoked him again and pushed him.

“He told us that he got really angry, picked up a hammer from one of the shelves in the kitchen then followed her to the bedroom and hit her twice on her forehead while she was lying in her bed," the policeman said.

“He said he realised she was dead when she started bleeding heavily from the head and nose and, for a few minutes, he didn't know what to do. Then he decided to fake the surrounding [area] into a robbery scene, so he made a mess in the bedroom and in the rest of the house.”

It is claimed that Matthew then took a shower, threw the hammer in a rubbish bin far away from his villa then went to work and called police upon his return from his office.

The three other officers gave similar testimonies.

The gardener, 30, told prosecutors that he met Matthew at 7.30am on the day of the incident as he was leaving home for work.

“He greeted me then we chatted about the weather. He was very calm and then left carrying a black bag in his hand,” said the witness.

The forensic expert said bruises around the mouth and upper lip of the victim indicate that she was silenced forcefully.

Matthew’s lawyer, Ali Al Shamsi, said he will submit his requests to court at the next hearing on October 25.

“We will need time to analyse the testimonies of witnesses so we can face them with our questions. We may seek the help of forensic experts from outside regarding the autopsy of the deceased,” he said.

Mr Al Shamsi is aiming for a reduced prison sentence as prosecutors seek the death penalty for Matthew.

Mr Al Shamsi said a number of the deceased’s family have dropped charges.

Matthew was editor of Gulf News from 1995 to 2005 and had been married to his wife Jane for more than 32 years.