x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Grieving family hopes for justice

It is a year since the Qatari teenager Mohammed al Majed died after being attacked in Hastings, on England's south coast.

It is a year since the Qatari teenager Mohammed al Majed died after being attacked in Hastings, on England's south coast. The pain of the 16-year-old's death is still felt keenly by those he left behind: his father Abdulla, mother Ibtisam, three brothers and sister. But the family is also now looking ahead to the forthcoming trial of the young Briton accused of Mohammed's manslaughter. Mr al Majed is planning to attend the court proceedings.

The family says their grief is as strong now as it was in August last year when Mohammed died after hitting his head on the pavement in a late-night altercation. There was no formal memorial service to mark the anniversary of his death this month. However, the thoughts of the family were with Mohammed, a quiet youngster who became the first member of his family to study overseas when he joined the hundreds of other teenagers who travel to Hastings for language courses.

"I can feel the pain of my parents about the loss of our brother," said Mohammed's brother Ali, 28, a bank employee. "It's hard, this is a close family. Since we were young, no one left us for study, for anything. We would meet daily for lunch and dinner. "We feel all this pain because, you know, we never missed someone for more than a month [before]. This is really, really painful." Ali said the family was keen for his brother's case to still receive publicity so Mohammed would not be forgotten.

Mohammed was raised in the Qatari capital with Ali, Saud, 23, who also works in a bank, his sister Dana, 25, and younger brothers Hussain, 15, and Ahmed, 12. The members of the family still live together in Doha. Mohammed was just a few days away from coming home at the end of a 12-week stay in England when he died. He had been attending the EF International Language School in Hastings, a town in East Sussex with a population of about 85,000.

After suffering injuries on a Friday night, he was taken to a local hospital and the next day transferred to a specialist unit at King's College Hospital, London. He died on Sunday, a day before his father, who was travelling in Saudi Arabia at the time his son was attacked, arrived in Britain. The British authorities have been keen to ensure the al Majeds have been kept informed about the criminal case over Mohammed's death and in recent months officials have travelled to Doha to see the family.

Mohammed's death was heavily covered by newspapers and broadcasters in Qatar and it shocked many in the peninsular nation. People were surprised that he should have been killed in a country they regarded as safe. Many were put off the idea of studying in England as a result of the killing and Mohammed's father has said previously that, as a result of his son's death, he will not let any of his other children study in Britain.

If there is one hope for the al Majed family, it is that the person responsible for Mohammed will be punished. Ali said a successful prosecution might marginally ease the sadness his parents feel at the loss of Mohammed. "We hope they punish [Mohammed's killer]," he said. "It will make them feel a little bit good." Next month the trial of a former south London resident charged with Mohammed's manslaughter will begin.

George Austin, formerly from Bermondsey, south London, pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Mohammed al Majed when he appeared in Lewes Crown Court in East Sussex in March this year. He was remanded in custody until the trial, which is expected to last a month. Austin will be tried alongside two other people. Paul Rockett from Burwash, near Heathfield, East Sussex, appeared at the same hearing in March as Austin and pleaded not guilty to racially aggravated common assault on a friend of Mohammed's.

Alexander Quinn of Hastings pleaded not guilty at the same hearing to wounding one of Mohammed's friends. Austin and Quinn were granted bail ahead of the trial. dbardsley@thenational.ae