Sussex

Rottingdean fire death woman was 'unlawfully killed'

Pauline Knowles-Samarraie
Image caption Pauline Knowles-Samarraie had fled Saddam Hussein's regime

A woman who was battered to death and set alight in her East Sussex home was unlawfully killed, an inquest ruled.

Pauline Knowles-Samarraie, 72, was found by firefighters as they tackled the fire in Grand Crescent, Rottingdean, on 22 April 2009.

The inquest at Brighton County Court heard that Mohammad Soboh, 41, her former husband and later son-in-law, was the last person to see her alive.

He was cleared of her murder in May following a three-week trial.

Mr Soboh was once married to Ms Knowles-Samarraie but they separated. He went on to marry her daughter and the three lived together with their children.

'No other suspects'

He told police he had left Ms Knowles-Samarraie alone in the bungalow but returned 45 minutes later because he had forgotten his mobile phone.

He said he found the house alight and called the emergency services.

Det Ch Insp Steve Johns of Sussex Police told the hearing that Ms Knowles-Samarraie had been hit over the head with a metal lintel, later found near the bus stop where Mr Soboh said he had been waiting before returning to the house.

Her body was set alight and white spirit used as an accelerant.

Mr Johns said police had found no other suspects for the murder.

He also told the inquest her close friend Brian Sutherland told police she had been "her normal jolly self" a few days before her death, although he was aware she sometimes argued with her daughter.

Mr Johns said the police investigation explored the Yorkshire-born widow's colourful life living in Iraq and her subsequent escape after her oil minister husband and son were executed under Saddam Hussein's regime.

In 2007 she had a book published about her experiences living under Saddam's dictatorship, entitled I Never Said Goodbye.

No family or friends were at the inquest and it was heard that, after being cleared of her murder, Mr Soboh joined his wife and children in Jordan where they now live.

Assistant deputy coroner for Brighton and Hove, Karen Henderson, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

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