x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Winter murder not premeditated, judge says

The defence lawyer for MA, who has been convicted twice of killing Kerry Winter, is arguing before the Court of Cassation that lower courts made errors in their verdicts.

DUBAI // After hearing the appeal request from the man convicted of killing Kerry Winter, the emirate’s highest court said yesterday that no premeditation had been proven in the case.

Judge Mohammed Nabil Riyad of the Dubai Court of Cassation told defence lawyer Yousif Hammad to proceed with his argument without any references to premeditation.

The Dubai Court of Appeals ruled on December 19 that the British defendant M?A, 44, would serve life in prison, or 25 years, after it convicted him of the 2008 killing of Ms Winter, 36, a South African events executive.

The sentence is 10 years longer than the 15-year term handed down by the Criminal Court of First Instance.

Mr Hammad told the five-judge panel yesterday that the appeals court had made several assumptions and committed legal errors.

In one instance, Mr Hammad argued, the lower courts did not review CCTV footage from the Mina A’Salam hotel, where the defendant and Ms Winter met on the night she was killed.

“This footage is essential in our case where we can prove with picture and sound that the defendant had no criminal intent when he saw the victim,” he said.

Prosecutors say M?A stalked Winter and bludgeoned her to death with a baseball bat in front of her Al Barsha villa before dumping her body at sea on August 20, 2008.

Her body was never found and the murder weapon never recovered.

Mr Hammad also said that the lower court incorrectly assumed that the witnesses had viewed the assault, and tied that to a confession by MA to prosecutors.

“Throughout the testimony presented by witnesses, none of them established that they actually viewed the defendant hitting the victim,” he said. “Furthermore, my client only confessed to using a 30cm stick during the argument – that could not have caused a deadly injury.”

During his presentation to the court panel, the lawyer argued that the lower courts had also failed to look at the facts in the case clearly.

“In its verdict sheet, the lower court assumed that when the police officer spoke to Ms Winter a few days after the assault, that this was not her,” he said. “However, during that same police officer’s testimony to court and his superiors’ testimony to prosecutors, [the court ignored] the fact that the villa owner that Kerry had been a tenant for also contacted her at the request of the officers and confirmed to them that it was her.”

According to the officer’s testimony during the trial, he called Kerry Winter’s phone a few days after she disappeared and she answered and stated that she was in Abu Dhabi for a few days. The officer, however, could not confirm it was Winter because he had never met nor spoken to her.

At the police’s request the villa owner, too, placed a call, and she stated the same to him.

Mr Hammad said that such a key point in the case has been overlooked by the court, and that this led inevitably to the guilty verdict.

Presiding Judge Mohammed Nabil Riyad will issue the court’s verdict on February 7.

amustafa@thenational.ae