No body, no murder charge

Missing expatriate's brother accuses former boyfriend of hiding evidence to weaken case and vows he will 'make sure justice is done'.

Kerry Winter was attacked with a baseball bat before she disappeared.
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DUBAI // The former boyfriend of Kerry Winter is likely to face a charge of accidental manslaughter and will not be tried for murder unless the missing South African woman's body is found, a prosecutor said yesterday.

Ahmed al Adhab, a senior prosecutor in the Dubai courts, said charges would be brought against MA, 42, a British national, based on forensics reports from police. A murder charge is rarely brought in the UAE without a body being found. MA, from Stoke-on-Trent, England, has denied committing murder but confessed to attacking Ms Winter with a bat and dumping her body in an undisclosed location, only to return three hours later to discover she was dead, public prosecution sources said.

MA has been charged with threatening a neighbour of Ms Winter's on the night she disappeared. "Finding a body will help determine the severity of the injuries and how the victim was killed, if it was a violent death or not," Mr Adhab said. "Without a body it would be difficult to prove a charge of premeditated murder in court." Mr Adhab said prosecutors always refer cases with the most serious charge the physical evidence supports, but that at trial the court could reduce the accidental manslaughter charge to assault leading to death. A typical sentence for assault leading to death is three to seven years in jail.

Ms Winter's brother, Kurt Winter, claimed yesterday that MA was deliberately misleading police about the location of his sister's body. "He's doing this because he knows that if they can't find a body, he'll get a lower sentence," Mr Winter said. "He thinks he's being smart and pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. But I'm going to change that and find the body to make sure justice is done." Mr Winter, who flew from South Africa after his sister went missing, added: "When I first came here I psyched myself up for two things. Either we were going to find Kerry and bring her home, or she was dead and we would get justice for her. Now it's about getting justice."

After interviewing him twice in the past two weeks, Mr Adhab said MA's version of events changed. "We do have a problem with the suspect's contradictory stories about how he got rid of Winter's body," Me Adhab said. First, MA said "he dumped her in the desert, near Marmoum. We searched and found nothing there. Now he's saying he dumped the body at sea but did not specify where exactly. "Only the physical evidence and witness testimony will give us a clear picture of what actually happened,"

Mr Adhab plans to interview three more witnesses next week. A Dubai Police source said MA, after being in custody for nearly three weeks, confessed on Sept 11 to attacking Ms Winter with a baseball bat. Ms Winter, 35, an event organiser who moved from Johannesburg to Dubai more than seven years ago, was last seen by neighbours on Aug 20 being assaulted and thrown into the back of her car outside her Barsha villa.

MA was arrested at Dubai International Airport as he arrived from the UK on Aug 25. Statements from two of Ms Winter's neighbours were the basis for his arrest and detention. "The two men saw the man attacking her with a bat and continuously hitting her over the head," the source said. "They tried to stop him but he attacked and assaulted them. The men also said they saw Kerry laying on the ground bleeding and that she was unconscious. He put her in the car and drove off."