At this time last year, Alison Patterson was celebrating Mother’s Day in the UK with two of her three children. Her eldest daughter Lauren was working in Qatar, and sent a gift and a card home, as she always did when she was away.
Today, things are very different for the Patterson family. Daughter Lauren was killed in October by acquaintances in Doha, and on Thursday, a criminal court here found two Qatari men responsible for the 24-year-old teacher’s murder.
One of the defendants, 22-year-old Badr Hashim Khamis Abdullah Al-Jabar, was given a death sentence.
The other, 24-year-old Muhammad Abdullah Hassan Abdul Aziz, was handed a three-year jail term for helping Al-Jabar burn Patterson’s body, which was considered damaging and erasing evidence.
At the time of the sentencing, Alison Patterson told media that “justice was served” in the case of Al-Jabar, but that she was deeply upset with Abdul Aziz’s lighter sentence.
In an interview with Doha Newstoday, Patterson said she is worried that neither of the convicted men will pay for what they did to her daughter.
“Is it something that’s just been said – and that’s never going to happen?” she asked.
At the root of her doubts is a scene she witnessed after Thursday’s verdict inside the courthouse. Patterson had gone in search of her two younger children, and ended up passing a sitting area where the defendants were being held.
“They were just laughing and joking with each other,” she said. “It just almost makes me feels that they were laughing at what happened. They have no respect for the sentence they’ve been given.”
Another issue that troubles her is that Qatar has not executed any prisoners in more than a decade, according to Amnesty International.
Prior to her daughter’s death, Patterson said she never gave the death penalty much thought. But after being told that Al-Jabar sexually assaulted her daughter, stabbed her to death and then attempted to burn her remains at a farm outside of Doha, she said she supported the punishment.
“Lauren came home in a box the weighed 7 kilos,” Patterson said with regards to her daughter’s remains. “She weighed 50 kilos when she died.”
Patterson has also been unable to shake an argument she read on a recent blog post about her daughter’s case on “Muslims Worldwide,” which she found while googling Lauren’s name.
The site appears to be full of hate speech about Islam and its adherents, but the post on Patterson struck a chord with Lauren’s mother because it questioned whether the quick sentencing of Al-Jabar was done so that officials could close the book on this crime, which the prosecutor called “heinous, foreign and shocking to a society as conservative as Qatar’s.”
The blog post reads:
“Sharia gives no justice to a kafir (non-Muslim/non-believer). And it never gives a death sentence to a Muslim over a crime committed against a non-Muslim…
So why would they announce the ‘death penalty’ if it is not given out? To appease the media. This case has been circulating all over the world. Arabs can’t stand negative media attention…These Arab countries make bogus claims of justice only to get the media off their back. In reality they keep them in prison and release them after 1-2 years.”
The last sticking point is that the verdicts must pass through two appellate courts here before they’re officially final, meaning closure could be some ways off for Patterson and her family.
Speaking to Doha News, Patterson’s partner Kevin Crotty said they were grateful for all the Qatari government has done to ensure a speedy trial.
“They’ve been more than generous and more than reasonable,” he said. “Everything’s been done that should have been done. But them (the defendants) smiling – and the lighter sentence for the second one… Ultimately, we’ve always felt the political angle was there. Is there something that we should worry about?”
The Pattersons’ lawyer, Sami Abu Shaikha, has said he plans to appeal Abdul Aziz’s three-year sentence, asking for a more severe penalty.
Meanwhile, Alison Patterson, who has started smoking again after 15 years due to the stress of all that’s happened, said she knows that whatever the outcome, the pain will likely never go away.
“There will never be peace. (But) I just really don’t want to be let down,” she said.