Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 27 January 2020

Six people questioned by UK police over death of Emirati Paralympian

Prosecutors to consider if six will go on trial for gross negligence manslaughter over the death of Abdullah Hayayei in a 2017 training accident

Abdullah Hayayei competing in the World Para Athletics Championships in 2015 in Doha, Qatar. Getty
Abdullah Hayayei competing in the World Para Athletics Championships in 2015 in Doha, Qatar. Getty

Six men could face trial in the UK for manslaughter after UAE discus thrower Abdullah Hayayei was killed during training for the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.

The six – aged between 20 and 71 – were questioned by police on suspicion of manslaughter by “gross negligence” over the death of the athlete in July 2017 when a throwing cage collapsed, according to police in the UK.

The wheelchair athlete and military veteran was struck on the head by a pole from the cage as it fell during a pre-event practice session, at a newly-prepared training ground for competitors in London, according to officials.

Mr Hayayei, 36, died despite the best efforts of spectators, who tried to lift the cage from the stricken father-of-five young children while paramedics treated him. He was declared dead 20 minutes after the accident.

Newham Leisure Centre, in East London, had been taken over by the organisers of the championships as a training venue three days before the accident, and they had brought all the equipment with them.

Two of Mr Hayayei’s coaches were with him at the time of the accident.

The role of the six men who could face trial in the incident was not disclosed but the investigation was likely to have focused on the cage and whether it was put up properly.

Wheelchair athletes with co-ordination problems are normally secured to a circle within the cage to allow them to throw safely.

Police from the homicide and major crime squad have completed their investigations and passed the file to lawyers, who will decide if there is enough evidence to prosecute.

FUJEIRAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, 19 JULY 2017. The funeral of Emirati Athlete Abdullah Hayayei in Qidfa that died from an accident in London while training. Abdullah's remains leave the Zaid Bin Khatieb Mosque on it's way to the burial site. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Ruba Haza. Section: National.
Hundreds of Emiratis gathered for the funeral of Abdullah Hayayei in July 2017. Antonie Robertson / The National

“Six males, aged 71, 63, 36, 38, 20 and 47 have been interviewed under caution in relation to the incident on suspicion of manslaughter by gross negligence,” London police said in a statement.

“A file has been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration.”

No further details were given on the six suspects.

Gross negligence manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison with new guidelines suggesting those found guilty will serve anything between one and 18 years.

Mr Hayayei was part of a 16-strong UAE team, which decided to continue to compete despite some of them witnessing the accident.

Mohammed Al Hammadi, who won four medals at the championships, said he would donate his prizes to his late teammate’s children.

Mr Hayayei turned to sport after being injured in 2001 when a metal rod fell on his head.

He fought against the severe injuries, suffered during an army training accident when he was a serviceman, and went on to rebuild his life.

He competed in the 2015 World Championships in Qatar and the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil.

On Tuesday, his elder sister, Mariam Hayayei, 48, said the family has been waiting more than 18 months for answers.

“Not one of us has managed to forget what happened to Abdullah and we never will do," she told The National.

"His death affected us all and the people who were responsible for his death should receive the maximum punishment.

“My brothers are following up on the case and we don’t know why it’s taking them so much time to find the people responsible for Abdullah’s death, but we believe that justice will be served.”

An inquest into Mr Hayayei’s death, in which a coroner gives a formal cause of death and the circumstances surrounding it, has been delayed pending the prosecutors’ decision and potential criminal trial.

* Additional reporting by Ruba Haza


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Updated: January 8, 2019 10:33 AM