07 April 2021

Qatari authorities urged to force hit-and-run killer to serve ‘pitiful’ sentence

07 April 2021

The Qatari authorities have been urged to force a high-speed hit-and-run killer driver to serve his “pitiful” two-month prison sentence after the death of a West End make-up artist.

The UK ambassador to Qatar met the director of the consular affairs department on Monday to discuss the sentence handed to Raffy Tsakanika’s killer Mubarak Al Hajri.

Raffy Tsakanika, 21, died in a two-car crash near Doha on March 30 2019, shortly after teacher Al Hajri was captured “racing” at 119mph.

Ms Tsakanika’s family were informed by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) that the two-month prison sentence imposed by the Qatari courts was “final” as there are “no further legal appeals available”.

The family were told ambassador Jon Wilks stressed the importance of the prison sentence being served “as soon as possible”, saying it would “send a clear signal about the enforcement of Qatari law”.

The ambassador also reminded the director of the “wider context in the lead up to next year’s World Cup”.

Court documents, seen by the PA news agency, show Ms Tsakanika was the passenger in a Toyota Land Cruiser which “flipped over several times”, resulting in her and her 20-year-old friend being “thrown” out of the car.

Rafaelle Tsakanika death (PA Media)

Witnesses described Al Hajri’s driving as “reckless”, with one man telling officers he tried to catch up with him after he started to “race” another car.

The Qatari courts eventually convicted Al Hajri, 46, of causing MsTsakanika’s death, causing serious injuries to her friend, driving in a way that endangered lives, fleeing the scene of an accident and speeding.

He was sentenced to just two months in prison and ordered to pay compensation to Ms Tsakanika’s family.

Reacting to the meeting, Ms Tsakanika’s mother Jo Sullivan, from Cambridge, told PA: “My family and I are very grateful to the FCDO and the ambassador and his team locally in Qatar.

“It is good to see they are taking our case so seriously.

“Having seen the official Qatari response to our tragedy, it is just totally unacceptable for them to provide no explanation as to why Mr Al Hajri has been given such a short sentence.

“This only confirms what an unsafe country it is for foreigners to visit or live in.”

Rafaelle Tsakanika death (PA Wire)

Mrs Sullivan, who previously described Al Hajri’s sentence as “pitiful and embarrassing”, continued: “Quite rightly, the FCDO themselves are flagging that this sort of conduct raises serious concerns about safety in the lead up to the World Cup.

“It is clear to us that the Qatari authorities never had any intention of ensuring Mr Al Hajri actually served his sentence.

“It is a disgrace that we have had to push so hard for this ourselves.

“We look forward to hearing confirmation that Mr Al Hajri is behind bars where he belongs.”

A spokeswoman for the FCDO said: “Our staff in the UK and Qatar continue to assist the family of a British woman who died in Doha in 2019.

“We have recently met the Qatari authorities to raise the case.

“Her family have our deepest sympathy at what continues to be a very difficult time.”

The embassy of Qatar has been approached for comment.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox