Qatari student's killer gets four years
LONDON // A drunken racist who killed "a charming, loving" teenage student from Qatar was sentenced to four and a half years in prison by a British court yesterday. Judge Anthony Scott-Gall told the killer of 16-year-old Mohammed al Majed that he and his two co-defendants were a "terrible advertisement to the youth of this country".
The judge described Mohammed's life as having been "needlessly and senselessly snuffed out by an unforgivable act of violence". Mohammed died last year when he and his friends - mostly Gulf Arab students studying English during the summer holidays - were attacked by a group of thugs in the seaside resort of Hastings. The student from Doha was hit so hard in the face by George Austin, now 22, that he was knocked off his feet. "Mohammed went backwards through the air, striking the back of his head on to the road," the trial in Lewes, East Sussex, heard last month.
Mohammed, who had been due to return to Doha one week after the attack, suffered serious brain injuries when his head hit the road and he died three days later in a hospital in London. Mr Scott-Gall said students such as Mohammed came to Britain to learn, but that he and his friends had encountered "collective, disgraceful and unlawful conduct". The judge told Austin and his co-defendants: "They come to this country to further their education and have an opportunity to meet young people of their own age and experience a slightly different culture to that that they enjoy at home.
"The young men who gave evidence in the trial were articulate, impressive young men who were quite bewildered by the terrible things that happened that evening and your collective, disgraceful and unlawful conduct. "It was clear that the three of you were so affected by drink that you were unable to exercise proper, meaningful self-control." The late-night fracas on the seafront in August last year started when a group of English youths, who had been drinking heavily, encountered Mohammed and his friends outside a kebab shop.
Racial insults were directed at the foreign students and then one of the youths threw a punch at one of the students because he was black. The prosecuting barrister, Camden Pratt, Queen's counsel, said trouble started when the white group began taunting the students. Paul Rockett, then 21, went up to 17-year-old Peter Henworth, a student originally from Nigeria, and demanded: "Where are you from?"
He then attempted to punch the Nigerian but missed. As the students fled, one of the English youths called after them: "Come back here, you n*****." Mr Pratt said during the opening of the trial that the incident triggered "the shameful events that followed". The youths chased after Mr Henworth but could not catch him. As Austin returned to the kebab shop, Mohammed, his 16-year-old cousin and Mojeb Qatani, 14, from Saudi Arabia, were leaving the scene, thinking the coast was clear.
"George Austin ran at Mohammed and punched him right in the face," Mr Pratt said. "It was so hard it knocked 16-year-old Mohammed off his feet and effectively into the air with the force of impact." Mojeb was then hit over the head with a bottle by Alex Quinn, 19, who attacked him from behind. By the time police arrived, Austin and Quinn had fled while Rockett was arrested for being drunk. Austin, from south London, fled to Cyprus a few days later, but was arrested when he flew back to Gatwick Airport in November last year.
Austin maintained during the four-week trial that he had acted in self-defence, thinking he was about to be attacked as the foreign students ran towards him. The jury, however, did not believe him and found him guilty of manslaughter. Rockett was convicted of racially aggravated common assault while Quinn was found guilty of wounding with intent. Rockett, from Burwash, East Sussex, was sentenced to four months in jail and Quinn, from Hastings, was sentenced to two years in a young offenders institute.
Updated: November 26, 2009 04:00 AM