UK

Briton Mark Arnold jailed over Dubai killing

Mark Arnold
Image caption Arnold has maintained his innocence

A British man has been convicted in Dubai of murdering his South African ex-girlfriend.

Mark Arnold, 43, from Stoke-on-Trent, was sentenced to 15 years in jail.

He denied killing Kerry Winter, who was last seen in 2008 and whose body has never been found. He was accused of beating her to death.

Her brother said the verdict was a "relief", but legal charity Reprieve said it had serious concerns over the conduct of the investigation and trial.

Prosecutors alleged Arnold disposed of Ms Winter's body at sea using his yacht, blanket and weights.

'Got on well'

Speaking from South Africa, Ms Winter's mother, Carol, said the sentence would not bring her daughter back.

"He was part of my family. Instead of losing Kerry, I lose Kerry and Mark. He's also got a family, it's very difficult.

"I never gave up hope, I thought she might be out there somewhere. Now it makes it more likely that she really is dead.

Image caption Kerry Winter had lived in the UAE for seven years

"If they found him guilty, then obviously he is guilty. When I spoke to him, he said he didn't kill her, and that gave me a bit of hope, but if they have convicted and sentenced him, it means he did do it.

"I don't know what he's done with her. I hope he will tell me, we got on very well."

Ms Winter was last heard from on the evening of 20 August 2008 when she phoned her friend, Jo Brown, to say that Arnold had followed her to a hotel.

Family members have been allowed to question Arnold, saying he told them she was alive and well when he left her that day.

But the family alleges Arnold had been harassing her since their five-year relationship ended in May 2008.

Ms Winter's brother, Kurt, said the verdict was a relief for the family.

"Because we had our doubts, that we didn't have a body, and without a body there isn't a crime. And it's good to see the Dubai justice system kind of sided with us. And that he hasn't walked away scot-free."

But his wife, Lia Winter, said the sentence was "disappointing" and "too lenient".

She said: "We were hoping that the only way we might find out what happened to her is if he had been given the death sentence, then appealed to the family to reduce it, and disclose what he actually did. With 15 years, we will never know."

She said the family would be speaking to prosecutors to try to get the sentence increased on appeal.

'I am innocent'

Last September, Arnold told reporters from his prison cell that he and Ms Winter had argued over money but he did not know what happened to her.

"I wish I knew where she was," he said then.

"I am innocent and I want to prove it. I've been in jail for 12 months based only on suspicion."

Arnold, who also previously lived in London, was understood to be working as an operations manager at Hamilton International, an interior design firm.

He flew to Britain two days after Ms Winter's disappearance but returned to Dubai three days later and was arrested.

Director of Reprieve, Clive Stafford Smith, said: "For a court to convict when there is no body, as happened to Mark Arnold today, is always deeply concerning.

"Only last week a man in China was acquitted after serving 10 years in prison for murder when the 'victim' walked back into the village."

He said Arnold had been forced to sign a "confession" in Arabic, and that it was used to obtain the conviction.

"The serious irregularities in this investigation clearly breach international fair trials standards. We call on the British government to do all they can to seek justice for Mark."

The Foreign Office said it would continue to provide Arnold with consular assistance.

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