15 years is now life for Kerry Winter's killer

The man who murdered the South African events executive should serve a life sentence in prison, the Dubai Court of Appeals has ruled.

Handout pic of Kerry Winter

Courtesy Winter Family *** Local Caption ***  Kerry 1.jpg
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DUBAI // The man who murdered Kerry Winter should serve a life sentence in prison, the Dubai Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.

The sentence is 10 years longer than the 15 year jail term handed down by the Criminal Court of First Instance when the killer, a British operations manager known as MA, was originally convicted.

MA, 42, stalked Winter, 36, a South African events executive, and bludgeoned her to death with a baseball bat in front of her al Barsha villa, before dumping her body at sea on August 20, 2008.

Her body was never found and the murder weapon never recovered.

MA's lawyers are expected to file a final appeal at the Dubai Court of Cassation.

MA has insisted that he is not the killer, that he was presumed guilty from the moment of the arrest, and that there is no evidence to support the prosecution's case.

He was not present in court yesterday as Chief Justice Eissa al Sharif issued his ruling.

During the trial's closing arguments last month, MA protested his innocence and said his family - girlfriend, former wife and teenaged son - had suffered considerably during the investigation and trial.

MA had bumped into Winter at Madinat Jumeirah on the day of the murder and followed her back to Al Barsha. Two of her neighbours witnessed MA beating her with a baseball bat and then dragging her into her Ford Explorer SUV before driving away. Dubai Police found traces of her blood in the SUV.

MA placed Winter in her car and drove to his boat where he placed her body in a burlap sack and tossed it overboard.

MA was arrested at Dubai International Airport after flying back to the emirate five days after Winter went missing, and was charged with premeditated murder.

Winter's disappearance sparked a door-to-door sweep of parts of Dubai, a Facebook campaign with 7,000 members and a media campaign that included local and international press. The case involved British, South African and UAE authorities.

The murder trial caught the attention of people across three continents, including Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa.

The lack of a corpse in the case has increased the strain on Winter's family. In an interview last year, her mother, Carol Winter, said she would not be satisfied without proof of her daughter's death. "I will just be praying that she is still alive. I believe she is. I will not grieve until I bury her. That's when I will know she is dead," she said.


2003 Kerry Winter becomes involved with M A.

2008, June 27 Winter arrested at Dubai International Airport on charges of theft. M A files a complaint against her after breaking up.

June 28 Winter is released.

August 7 Public Prosecution dismisses the charges against Winter.

August 20 At about 8.30pm, Winter's neighbours at Al Barsha see her being beaten by a man with a baseball bat. He drags her, bleeding, into her car and drives away. M A, with a bat, chases a neighbour who callspolice at 8.36pm.

August 24 Winter's Ford Explorer is found near the Police Academy at Al Sufouh.

August 25 The last contact Winter's family has with her is via SMS, which says she was fine but that a guy in her villa was causing a problem with the landlord. When the family asks Winter to call so they can speak to her, the reply says that "the police are checking my phone, I am unable to call". The family replies in Afrikaans but gets no response.

August 25 M A is arrested at Dubai airport after returning from the UK, and is taken to Bur Dubai police station.

September 5 Volunteers gather at the Mall of the Emirates, but call off a planned search on advice from police. A Facebook group, "Help Us Find Kerry", is launched and gets more than 5,300 members.

September 7 More people join the search. Flyers in Arabic, Hindi and English with her picture are given out. More "Help Us Find Kerry" T-shirts are distributed.

September 16 On Day 27 of the search, a police official says he believes Winter is dead.

October 7 M A is convicted of life endangerment – sentenced to three months.

2009, April 9 M A is charged in court with murder.

2010, June 7 M A is convicted and sentenced to 15 years by the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance.

December 19 M A's appeal is turned down, and his sentence is increased to life by the Dubai Court of Appeals.