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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Gulf News editor killed wife in a moment of 'temporary insanity' says lawyer

Francis Matthew did not plan to kill spouse says Ali Al Shamsi, as he urges court to amend premeditated murder 

A Dubai newspaper editor accused of killing his wife neither planned the killing nor intended to fatally hit her, his lawyer said as he urged the court to amend a premeditated murder charge that could see him executed.

Francis Matthew, 61, hit his wife with a hammer during a row about financial problems in what Ali Al Shamsi described as a moment of "temporary insanity".

The British journalist should instead face a charge of 'physical assault leading to death', he told Dubai Criminal Court Judge Fahd Al Shamsi.

Matthew, who was editor-at-large at Gulf News until his arrest and prosecution, killed his wife of 30 years, Jane, by hitting her twice on the head with a hammer at their home in Umm Sequim 1 on July 3.

Prosecutors said he went to work the next day, then returned and called police, claiming his wife had been attacked by thieves, which police quickly ruled out.

But Matthew and his lawyer maintain that the killing was unintentional.

“Premeditated murder means previous planning and criminal intent, which my client didn't have," he told the court.

"A man who had already planned to travel back home [to the UK] along with his wife for their son’s graduation and for her parents’ anniversary certainly did not previously plan a murder nor did he have any intent to end his wife’s life.

"What happened your honour was the outcome of a moment of temporary insanity provoked by the wife’s actions, when she learnt that Francis was facing financial problems."

He also said prosecutors have failed to present any evidence showing criminal intent or premeditation. He also said the fact Matthew attempted to cover up the crime did not constitute premeditated murder, claiming that he was "in denial".

“When my client knew his wife had died, he was in denial at first and then his imagination created this robbery story,” said Mr Al Shamsi.

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Al Shamsi presented a signed document to the court, from her family and including their son, which he said stated that the family do not wish Matthew to be prosecuted for murder.

In a previous hearing, Matthew and his son were also allowed to hug in the courtroom.

According to prosecution records, Matthew reported his wife had been assaulted by thieves on July 4 last year and police arrived to the couple’s home at 5.45pm.

The victim was found dead in her bed with a severe head wound.

During questioning, the defendant said he left home to work at around 8am and returned at about 5pm to find his wife dead. He denied having anything to do with her 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.

Police said he told them problems then began between the two and the victim allegedly provoked Matthew, calling him a "loser" and saying that his responsibility was to provide money.

Police said that Matthew admitted to getting really angry, then he picked up a hammer from one of the shelves in the kitchen and followed his wife to the bedroom where he hit her twice on her forehead while she was lying in her bed.

Records show that he then panicked then 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.

The court has already heard the testimonies of six people — four Emirati police officers, a Sri Lankan gardener and an Egyptian forensic expert — all of whom gave incriminating testimonies against the defendant. It also listened to the testimonies of Matthew’s son, brother and sister.

Matthew was editor of Gulf News from 1995 to 2005 and editor-at-large between then and the crime last summer. He had been married to his wife for more than 32 years.

A verdict is expected on March 25.