x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Winter case suspect denies threatening to kill a witness

The suspect in Kerry Winter's disappearance appears in court to face a related charge.

Kerry Winter has not been seen since witnesses allegedly saw her being beaten and dragged into her car.
Kerry Winter has not been seen since witnesses allegedly saw her being beaten and dragged into her car.

DUBAI// The British suspect in Kerry Winter's disappearance appeared in court unshaven and dishevelled yesterday to face a related charge of threatening to kill a witness who claims to have seen him beat the missing woman with a baseball bat. Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and standing in the dock with his hands behind his back, the 42-year-old Briton, identified as MA, pleaded not guilty to issuing threats and endangering life by raising a baseball bat over the head of ZK, a Lebanese neighbour of Ms Winter who tried to come to her aid. Asked by the judge in the Dubai Misdemeanours Court if he raised a baseball bat over ZK's head intending to kill him, MA replied: "I did raise the baseball bat over his head but I had no intention of killing him." He made no further statements during the five-minute preliminary hearing. The case was adjourned until Oct 7 to allow time for the defence to call witnesses and prepare its case. After the court was adjourned, MA was taken back to his holding cell. Ms Winter, a South African who worked as an events co-ordinator in Dubai, has not been seen since witnesses saw the defendant allegedly beat her savagely and drag her bleeding into her own car on Aug 20. ZK was among those who said he saw him hit Ms Winter with a baseball bat on the head outside her rented villa in Al Barsha. MA has admitted to beating her but said he did not intend to kill her. He said after he was arrested that he dropped her off at the Arabian Ranches roundabout on Emirates Road, but police found no sign of her there. He then told prosecutors he dumped her body in the sea, but did not say exactly where. He was arrested at Dubai International Airport on Aug 26 when he returned from a brief trip to the UK and has been held on preliminary charges of assault and kidnapping while police search for Ms Winter or her body before issuing formal charges. The senior public prosecutor, Ahmad Eisa al Adhab, has said he would wait for forensics reports from Dubai Police CID before filing formal charges. He added that he planned to interview several more witnesses, and might interview MA again if new evidence turned up. The forensic reports include DNA tests on blood samples from the scene and physical evidence from Ms Winter's car and MA's residence and boat, which has been impounded by police. Police have said people who saw the attack tried to help, but MA attacked them and scared them away. Mr Adhab said the prosecution would decide when to stop looking for Ms Winter's body and refer the suspect to court only at the end of its investigation. The case would be built solely on physical evidence and witness testimony and the charge filed would be one the evidence supported, he said. He said the suspect could face anything from a charge of manslaughter to assault leading to death, but the court would be free to amend the charges. "They could either reduce the charges or increase them, it is up to the court," Mr Adhab said. He added that it would be difficult to prove a premeditated murder charge without a body. "Finding a body will help determine the severity of the injuries and how the victim was killed, if it was a violent death or not." However, Mr Adhab was confident that if MA had dumped Ms Winter's body at sea it would surface, even if it was tied securely and weighted down. "We do have a problem with the suspect's contradictory stories about how he got rid of Winter's body. First he told CID he dumped her in the desert, near Marmoum. We searched and found nothing there; now he's saying he dumped the body at sea but did not specify where exactly," Mr Adhab said. hmbathish@thenational.ae