x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Policeman to testify next week in trial of beach couple

Defence says DNA tests indicate that the British couple did not have intercourse.

DUBAI // The policeman who caught a British couple allegedly having intercourse on a public beach in Dubai is expected to testify in the case next week. The trial of Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors, who face jail for breaking public decency laws, was adjourned yesterday for a week so the officer, Ali Mohammed Yacoub, could be summonsed before the Dubai Court of First Instance to give his version of events.

Mr Yacoub was said to have been the officer who caught Palmer, 36, a publishing executive, and Acors, 34, who was on a business trip to the UAE, on Jumeirah Beach. Both the accused have denied they were having intercourse. The policeman was expected to describe how he was patrolling the beach when he spotted the couple, who had met earlier the same day at a champagne brunch in Le Meridien hotel near Dubai airport, breaking laws that ban sex outside of marriage.

In his statement to the court, he said Palmer was partly undressed. He wrote: "I was passing near Jumeirah Beach by the Burj al Arab when a couple of guys stopped the patrol car and said, 'There is a guy having sex with a girl on the beach'. "I took a torch and went down to the beach and saw them." A spokesman for Hamad Abdullatif, the judge in the case, had to break off from reading Mr Yacoub's statement, saying it would be inappropriate to discuss the details during Ramadan.

The pair were arrested on July 5. Medical tests carried out on the couple after their arrest at 1.25am supported their story, the defence team said. The DNA tests conducted at 8.30am the next day showed no evidence that they had intercourse. Hassan Matter, Palmer's lawyer, said after the hearing: "I am sure my client is not guilty. The witness is not sure of what he saw and whether they had sex or not.

"The doctor who carried out the medical tests said she did not have sex. They all came back negative. That has been her defence from the outset. "If she is cleared, she would like to carry on living here. She likes Dubai and would like to stay because she has a lot of friends and likes it here." Palmer, an associate publisher for the firm ITP, has lived in Dubai for three years. She was sacked from her Dh190,000 (US$51,727) a year job and went into hiding as public criticism escalated.

Palmer and Acors, a divorced father of one, had their passports confiscated and could be punished with jail terms. They were initially held in Bur Dubai police station but are currently on conditional bail. Acors, a sales director for a television company, was on a four-day business trip to the UAE when he was introduced to Palmer by a mutual friend. Both attended yesterday's court hearing. Palmer, smartly dressed in a conservative black trouser suit, looked tense throughout the proceedings and sobbed when the case was adjourned.

She said: "I am not allowed to say anything. I just want this to be over." Acors, who claimed at the time of his arrest that he was too drunk to remember what happened, was accompanied by a friend but refused to comment. Palmer previously posted a message on a blog begging for leniency. She wrote: "Please be sympathetic for the sake of those I love. If this were your sister, brother, daughter or son, how would you really be feeling?

"We have all made silly, regretful mistakes in life, which some pay all too dearly [for]. "Please imagine if it were you. This is punishment enough." @email:tyaqoob@thenational.ae @email:hbathish@thenational.ae