Worker falsely blamed for colleague’s death in Qatar considers lawsuit

Graham Vance was arrested for the death of Zachary Cox who died working on Qatar’s 2022 World Cup Khalifa stadium

Graham Vance at his home in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Mark West for The National
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A South African construction worker is considering a civil lawsuit after he was falsely blamed for the accidental death of a co-worker in Qatar.

Graham Vance, 28, was arrested for the death of Briton Zachary Cox, 40, who died working on Qatar’s 2022 World Cup Khalifa stadium.

Mr Vance spent one day in jail but was forced to stay in Qatar for 11 months until the police investigation had concluded. He has now returned to South Africa.

"He was taken into custody by the police and interrogated, then they charged him with culpable homicide," Mr Vance's attorney Stuart Laubscher told The National.

“He’s honestly still traumatised.”

Mr Vance was exonerated by the investigation as well as a probe by the company he was working for, however, this report was not submitted to the courts.

He has accused the authorities of trying to scapegoat him in an interview with South African newspaper the Herald.

“I was talking to him minutes before he fell and even tried to grab the rope when it snapped,” Mr Vance told the publication.

“My hands were cut and bruised from trying to save him but the police did not care, they wanted to blame someone.”


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Cox was working at height on a suspended catwalk platform when a hoist failed and the platform dropped from beneath him. His safety harness broke during the fall and he plunged to his death.

An inquest into his death in the UK had to be adjourned last year and the senior coroner blamed the Qatari authorities for their lack of cooperation in helping with the court’s enquiry.

Senior coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley told the Brighton and Hove Coroner’s Court: “Having adjourned the inquest once from the first pre-inquest review, we are 10 months on from his death and despite a lot of enquiries taking place, I have not got any further information from Qatar itself.

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has not been able to provide us with any information either.

"I haven’t been able to get the post-mortem examination, which doesn’t matter as I have my own, but it indicates I do not have the information... but I still have to hold the inquest.”

Qatar’s treatment of construction workers has come under fierce criticism in the lead-up to the 2022. Estimates for the number of migrant workers who have died constructing buildings for the World Cup range from the hundreds to over 1000.

Meanwhile an international charity, who just months ago accused the Qatari authorities of putting workers' lives in danger, has been accused of "whitewashing" human rights abuses in the Gulf state in a press release on its annual World Report.

Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) press release cited the apparent unblocking of the independent news site Doha News.

However, the site's former editor-at-large, Victoria Scott, told Buzzfeed that this was not the case and Doha News was blocked for most people in Qatar.

"It seems strange that HRW would even consider this worthy of a mention in their report – if it had happened, which of course, it hasn't yet," Ms Scott told Buzzfeed.