x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Kerry Winter trial hears witnesses

Witnesses give evidence in the Dubai trial of a British man charged with bludgeoning a South African woman to death.

Ms Winter, a South African expat who was 35 when she disappeared, was last seen outside her villa in Al Barsha.
Ms Winter, a South African expat who was 35 when she disappeared, was last seen outside her villa in Al Barsha.

DUBAI // The British man charged with the premeditated murder of Kerry Winter last summer listened in court yesterday as witnesses described their recollection of events on the night she disappeared. Prosecutors claim the defendant, Mark Arnold, stalked Ms Winter for days before bludgeoning her with a baseball bat outside her home, then stuffing her body in a suitcase, weighting it down and dumping it into the sea. The body has not been found.

Mr Arnold was arrested five days after Ms Winter went missing on August 20, and charged earlier this year. He has pleaded not guilty. "I saw a woman lying on the ground outside the front door; her head was split open and covered in blood," said ZT, a neighbour of Ms Winter's, in his testimony before the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance. He said he discovered the victim's near-lifeless body when he went outside to investigate the source of three "unnatural and strange screams".

"She tried to speak to me but her voice sounded strange and it was very low, so I knelt down to try and make out what she was saying," ZT told the court. "That is when I spotted the defendant behind me to my left, carrying what looked like a raised baseball bat. I was stunned and frightened and quickly ran back inside the villa, closed the door and began to scream hoping that some of the neighbours would come and help me."

ZT said Mr Arnold then opened his front door and came into the villa's main living room. "So I ran to my room inside the villa and stood at the doorway," he said. "We both stood motionless looking at one another for a while until finally the defendant went back out." ZT said he tried to persuade another neighbour, AM, to go with him to help the victim but that AM wanted to leave the matter to the police. In his testimony, AM said he saw Mr Arnold follow ZT into the villa carrying a baseball bat "studded with nails".

"We could not go after him," AM said. "We did not know if he was alone or had accomplices." Mr Arnold shook his head and muttered "lies, lies, it's not true" from behind the dock as AM was giving evidence. Both ZT and AM described seeing a trail of blood from the front entrance where Ms Winter was lying up to the villa parking. "It's like the trail of blood left by dragging a slaughtered sheep," AM said. ZT added: "All her earrings and bracelets were on the ground."

Ismail Ibrahim, a prosecutor, asked the court to impose the harshest penalty under law if the defendant is found guilty, which in cases of premeditated murder is death. Ms Winter, a South African expat who was 35 when she disappeared, was last seen outside her villa in Al Barsha. Neighbours told prosecutors they saw Mr Arnold beating her with a baseball bat before dragging her into a car and driving away. The prosecution is trying to prove Mr Arnold planned the murder and stalked his victim for at least four days before killing her.

Prosecutors previously claimed he had confessed to the killing - a claim denied by the defence lawyers. hbathish@thenational.ae