Mother asks England’s football team to mark every goal in the World Cup with an ‘L’ gesture for her daughter Lauren who was raped and killed in Qatar
- Alison Patterson, 57, wants the England team to honour her daughter Lauren
- She wants them to do an ‘L’ gesture, her initial, after every goal they score
- Lauren was raped and murdered in Qatar in 2013 and her body was burned
When Briton Lauren Patterson, pictured, was raped and murdered in Qatar — her body dumped in a crude pit in the desert, burnt beyond recognition and abandoned with her killer’s knife still lodged in her ribcage — her mother’s modest hope was that justice would prevail
When Briton Lauren Patterson was raped and murdered in Qatar — her body dumped in a crude pit in the desert, burnt beyond recognition and abandoned with her killer’s knife still lodged in her ribcage — her mother’s modest hope was that justice would prevail.
Alison Patterson, 57, assumed promises made by the Qatari judicial system would be honoured. She believed the courts would be equitable; that the same standards of integrity and impartiality that apply in Britain would operate in the Middle Eastern state.
But her hopes were dashed repeatedly and cruelly. As she battled to contain a grief that threatened to overwhelm her, she realised the Qatari legal system was arbitrary and capricious. ‘When Qatar’s chief public prosecutor first told us two Qatari men had been arrested and detained, he said if they were found guilty of murder they’d face the death penalty.
‘We were assured of this, too, by the Attorney General. He said, ‘If there’s anything we can do, just ask.’ I didn’t want the men to be executed, but I assumed they’d spend their lives in prison,’ she says. This expectation proved illusory. It took five years and a multitude of court appearances — Alison and her husband, retired bond broker Kevin Crotty, 61, travelled to Qatar more than 30 times to attend hearings — for the ‘farcical’ legal process to conclude, against all the evidence, that Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah al-Jabr was guilty, not of murder, but only manslaughter.
Astoundingly, the killer worked as an airport policeman. His accomplice was jobless. And in 2024, after serving just ten-and-a-half years in prison for a crime even the Qataris recognised as heinous, Al-Jabr is due for release.
Today, nine years after the brutal murder of primary school teacher Lauren, 24, and on the eve of the controversial FIFA Football World Cup in Qatar, Alison is urging both players and supporters to make an ‘L’ gesture, pictured, in memory of her eldest child whenever a goal is scored
Moreover his swaggering henchman, Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz, is already free after a sentence of just three-and-a-half years for helping to dispose of Lauren’s body, which was reduced to just 7kg of cinders. ‘Now I can see it was all a foregone conclusion from the outset,’ says Alison. ‘All the meetings and assurances we had were just lip service, to make us feel they really cared. And now we feel we were duped because we believed everything they said. Are we really that stupid?’
Today, nine years after the brutal murder of primary school teacher Lauren, 24, and on the eve of the controversial FIFA Football World Cup in Qatar, Alison is urging both players and supporters to make an ‘L’ gesture in memory of her eldest child whenever a goal is scored. She has written to England manager Gareth Southgate and every member of his squad, as well as to Wales manager Rob Page and his players, urging them to take part.
Lauren’s late father Stuart was of Welsh descent and Alison and Kevin, who met in Luxembourg and married on September 1, 2017, Lauren’s birthday, now live in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. ‘It would be a gesture appealing for change — not just to the Qatari justice system, but to a regime which discriminates against migrant workers, women and LGBT people,’ says Alison.
‘It might be too late to get justice for Lauren, but if I could do one small thing to help someone else and get the world talking about the iniquities of the system, that would bring some good from our tragedy. I know Lauren, who was kind and compassionate, would support me if she were alive today and another family was enduring what we’ve suffered.
‘I don’t want to stop people enjoying football. I don’t want them to boycott the World Cup. Politics and sport are two separate things. But sport can make changes in politics and it would be wonderful if this happened in Lauren’s name.’
Today, Alison sits in the conservatory of her Welsh cottage, her warm smile belying a sadness too deep for words. Her natural instinct is to appease but she has steeled herself to speak out for Lauren.
Today, Alison sits in the conservatory of her Welsh cottage, her warm smile belying a sadness too deep for words. Her natural instinct is to appease but she has steeled herself to speak out for Lauren. Pictured: Allison in August after writing letters to footballers ahead of the World Cup
She recalls how her daughter’s death was preceded by another tragedy. In 2008, the family was living in Luxembourg where Alison’s husband Stuart had a job in finance.
Returning home late one evening, and not wanting to disturb his sleeping family, he took his shoes off and walked in stockinged feet up the wooden spiral staircase. Slipping, he fell to his death, breaking his neck. He was just 47 and Alison was left a widow with three children: Georgia, then ten, David, eight, and Lauren, who had just turned 18.
Three years later, Lauren got a job as a reception class teacher at Newton International School — where pupils are both expats and Arabic — in Doha, Qatar’s capital.
‘It almost broke my heart when she left. We were like best friends. But I was conscious she needed to get on with her life,’ says Alison.
Lauren loved her job but was aware that Qatar’s regime was despotic. ‘It started preying on her mind, every time she flew home, that there would be migrant maids at the airport who were being arrested for trying to flee the country. She knew that people who needed to go home were being denied exit visas.’
Qatar has laws which prevent migrant workers from leaving the country without the permission of their employer, which human rights groups see as a law that exploits and entraps vulnerable people in potentially abusive situations.
Indeed, when her own maternal grandmother, Lillian, was taken ill and admitted to hospital in September 2013, Lauren was refused an exit visa to visit her. ‘The next day my mum died. It really upset Lauren that she had not been allowed to see her.’ Instead she went to her grandmother’s funeral in London.
Alison was, by now, living in Kent with her younger children while Kevin was still in Luxembourg. ‘When Lauren went back to Qatar, I remember saying: ‘When you get there, please message me to say you’ve arrived safely and everything’s OK.’
In 2013, Lauren went over to Qatar. Alison’s concerns for her daughter mounted after Lauren did not text her to say she had arrived. Kevin called the British Embassy in Doha, only to be reassured that nothing had been reported. Lea went to the police to report Lauren missing. Her body was found the next day. Pictured: Lauren
That weekend Alison remembers her rising panic as a night and day passed and no text arrived. ‘It wasn’t normal. Lauren always texted me. So I messaged some of her friends who lived in the same apartment block.
‘They went down and saw her suitcase on her bed, but there was no sign that she’d slept in her bed. They knew she’d gone out the evening before, and met a French friend, Lea; that she and Lauren had gone to a club in a hotel where the expats went, with a piano bar and dancing.’
After their evening out on Saturday, October 12, 2013, it emerged that Lea had accepted a lift home from two of her Qatari friends.
Lauren had gone with them. ‘They’d dropped Lea off first, even though she lived further away, and assured her they knew where Lauren lived and would take her home after.
‘Then they messaged Lea to say Lauren had been dropped off.’ But Lauren never reached her home.
Alison’s concerns mounted. Kevin called the British Embassy in Doha, only to be reassured that nothing had been reported. Lea went to the police to report Lauren missing.
The next day events moved swiftly. Two falconers’ birds discovered the charred remains of a body and their handlers alerted the police, who correctly surmised that the killer would return to the scene of his crime.
Al-Jabr and Aziz were caught after police matched their vehicle tyres to tracks made earlier. Lauren’s blood was found in their car and the men were taken in for questioning.
Meanwhile, Kevin was informed that a woman’s body had been found in the desert and would have to be identified by dental records.
‘When he told me I heard this cry that was almost feral,’ recalls Alison. ‘It was a noise I’d never heard myself make before but it came from me; an awful scream.’
The couple flew immediately to Qatar. ‘I thought: ‘I’m in a dream.’ It didn’t feel as if it was happening to me. I recall sitting down in the airport where someone had left a paper. On the front page was Lauren’s story. They knew she was missing, but not dead then. I looked at the story and started to cry and this lovely lady cleaning tables said: ‘Are you OK?’ I said: ‘That’s my daughter.’
‘I remember her holding my hand and saying: ‘I’m sure everything will be OK.’ It’s so weird that that stuck in my mind and so much else didn’t.’
Embassy officials met them at the airport. Alison supplied a DNA sample that proved the remains were incontrovertibly Lauren’s — then hired a Qatari lawyer. She went, too, to meet the owners of Lauren’s school, ‘and they promised they’d pay for the education of two children, from anywhere in the world, until they were 18, in her memory.
‘There were two children in Kenya we wanted to help. But the promise was never honoured. And once the two men were charged — on December 3, 2013 — we didn’t hear from the school again.’
A series of grotesquely mismanaged court hearings and endless deferrals added to Alison’s distress. On January 1, 2014, the two men were charged with violence to a body, concealing evidence, consuming alcohol and disposal of a body. Astonishingly, they argued they’d acted in self defence — that Lauren, who was just 5ft 3in and 7st — had attacked them. Pictured: Lauren
A series of grotesquely mismanaged court hearings and endless deferrals added to Alison’s distress. On January 1, 2014, the two men were charged with violence to a body, concealing evidence, consuming alcohol and disposal of a body. Astonishingly, they argued they’d acted in self defence — that Lauren, who was just 5ft 3in and 7st — had attacked them.
And still the gears of justice ground slowly. Hearings were deferred on the flimsiest pretexts. ‘On February 15, 2015, they ‘forgot’ to collect the two defendants. We’d flown to Qatar for nothing.
‘But I was so conscious I mustn’t rock the boat. I was paranoid it might affect the outcome if I objected, but I kept thinking: ‘What’s the next excuse they’ll come up with?’ On March 23, 2015, the death penalty on Al-Jabr was upheld. ‘I thought, ‘We’re really getting there now.’
But the endless vacillation continued. Al-Jabr lodged an appeal against the sentence.
Then on May 1, 2016, Alison was told that Aziz, who had been found guilty of aiding and abetting the disposal of Lauren’s body, was already out of jail. ‘And I thought: ‘If I create a fuss about this, will it affect what happens to her killer?’ So I kept quiet.’
There were a further five deferrals and it was not until 2017 that Alison’s lawyer, calling the crime ‘the worst that has ever been committed in Qatar’, was making his closing statements. But, again, sentencing was postponed.
Then in April 2017, Alison was asked in court if she wanted, ‘retribution, compensation or forgiveness’. ‘I said: ‘I do not forgive him. If he’d written me a letter or shown remorse I might have felt differently.’ But he didn’t show an ounce of remorse. I didn’t want retribution or compensation but I expected him to stay in prison for life.’
And still the gears of justice ground slowly. Hearings were deferred on the flimsiest pretexts. ‘On February 15, 2015, they ‘forgot’ to collect the two defendants. We’d flown to Qatar for nothing. Pictured: Lauren
The death sentence was upheld but, again, Al-Jabr exercised his right to appeal; this time in November 2018, to the Court of Cassation, the highest court in the Qatari judicial system. ‘And when they overturned the death sentence, reduced the charge to manslaughter and his prison sentence to ten-and-a-half years, I broke down in court for the first time in all those years.
‘I went to the Ladies and cried. We’d had all these idle promises and this was a slap in the face.
‘They awarded us £200,000 in damages in 2019 but we’ll have to go back to court to enforce it. I don’t believe I’ll see a penny of it.
‘Since then, I’ve put my grief in a little box and kept it as far away as possible because when people ask me to talk about Lauren I’m afraid it will all come out and go ‘whoosh’ and I’ll completely lose control. People say I’m strong, but I have all my tears in private.
‘I still think of Lauren every day and now there is a chance to honour her memory with an international message to the millions watching the football worldwide.’ Alison has also made a plea to former England captain David Beckham, who has, controversially, reportedly been paid £10 million to promote Qatar ahead of the World Cup: ‘He is idolised in Qatar and is in a perfect position to stand up and say something about human rights abuses,’ she says.
‘I cling to the hope that Qatar has a conscience; that something good will come of Lauren’s tragedy and everyone — regardless of nationality — will be tried equally and treated fairly.
‘For us, Lauren’s memory burns brightly. She was bubbly, bright; wherever she went she made friends. She trusted everyone.
‘People have said to me: ‘We will be comfortable watching England and Wales play if something good comes from it in Lauren’s memory.’
‘It would be like giving them permission to watch.’
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