A British tourist died from “neglect” in a notorious Dubai police station after being “starved and beaten” by cruel guards, an inquest has ruled.
Businessman Lee Brown, 39, died on April 12, 2011 after five days in custody at the Bur Dubai police station, the hearing was told.
He was left bruised after being given inadequate food and water, before being placed in solitary confinement, and he did not have access to necessary medical care.
Mr Brown’s family accused the Foreign Office of placing diplomatic relations above the welfare of their loved one.
The builder, painter and decorator from Dagenham, east London, had been planning to visit the city for a few days before flying to Indonesia to visit his girlfriend.
Jurors were told he arrived in the Gulf state on April 6, 2011, and allegedly assaulted a maid at the Burj Al Arab hotel where he was staying the following day.
He said the woman had come into his room without permission and that he was soon surrounded by 20 people who dragged him to the police station.
He may have been having a mental health episode when he arrived at the prison, the hearing was told.
His family say such an episode was the only credible explanation for his alleged behaviour at the hotel.
Recording a narrative conclusion of neglect, the jury forewoman said: “The factors that probably contributed to his death are as follows.
“Bruises from other detainees, guards and police officers, a lack of adequate food or water, a lack of habitable living conditions and a lack of access to necessary medical care while at the police station.
“Factors that possibly contributed to his death are a lack of access to services and adequate clothing.
“The neglect was by the authorities at Bur Dubai police station.”
Jurors recorded his medical cause of death as unanswered.
Nadia Persaud, Area Coroner for East London, will write a prevention of future deaths report to the Foreign Office raising “concerns” about the issues raised during the inquest.
These are a potential lack of emergency access to British nationals when they are detained, warnings about the risk of detention and conditions of detention in Dubai, and a potential lack of clarity about the process around accessing detainees who are experiencing a mental health episode while detained.
The Coroner said: “I would like to thank the family for their assistance over the last eight years certainly to me.
“It has been an absolute privilege to work with Doris Brown and Lee’s siblings who remained wholly dignified in the face of a lack of a response to the number of requests we made for some of the evidence which was never recovered.”
She added: “I hope this inquest has answered some of the questions the family had and gone some way to finding justice for Lee.”
A spokesperson at the UAE Embassy in the UK said: “The UAE Embassy notes the findings of Walthamstow Coroner’s Court regarding the unfortunate death of a British national in Dubai in 2011.
“The Embassy renews its condolences to the family of Mr Lee Brown, and appreciates their sadness and frustration concerning his loss.
“The Jury’s verdict did not determine a cause of Mr Lee’s death, nor any unlawful killing. To the extent the Jury speculated about factors for his death, the UAE completely rejects this speculation. The UAE notes also there were serious irregularities in the inquest process and treatment of evidence, which may provide grounds for review.
“The Walthamstow Coroner’s Court ignored the prior findings of the High Court, the initial Coroner’s Court, and medial authorities in both the UK and the UAE. It relied on unsubstantiated, third-hand, hearsay claims by former anonymous prison inmates who relayed by way of written statements that they had “been told” by other prisoners that they had “overheard” guards at the prison speaking about beating Lee.
“In contrast, the UAE’s evidence, including medical records and the Prosecutor’s reporting, appears not to have been properly considered.
“The allegations were thoroughly investigated in 2011 by both UAE medical authorities and Police, and also by a British consultant pathologist appointed by Mr Brown’s family. Dubai medical examiner Dr Yosri Habib reported in 2011 that only minor injuries could be found on Mr Brown’s body, caused four or five days’ prior to his death, which “bore no relationship to the death”.
“Forensic pathologist Dr Ben Swift, appointed by Mr Brown’s family, corroborated Dr Habib’s findings, concluding that there were “no significant injuries” on Mr Brown’s body, and “no injuries present either externally or internally that could account for his death”.
“This evidence, in addition to a series of medical reports and witness statements provided to the initial inquest in 2011, led that Coroner to return an open verdict in Mr Brown’s death, meaning the cause of his passing could not be determined.
“In 2015, a High Court case brought by Mr Brown’s family challenging the Coroner’s verdict also concluded that “there was no evidence of this being a violent death”. The judgment of Lord Justice Bean and the Chief Coroner noted that “a number of rumours circulating after Lee’s death” suggested he had been beaten to death in prison. “But the medical evidence, from both Dubai and England, showed otherwise,’’ the High Court determined.
“As noted including by the Lord Justice and Chief Coroner in the High Court, Mr Brown was psychologically disturbed. He was delusional and aggressive towards hotel staff and guests, police, and fellow inmates in the days leading up to his arrest and while in custody. Evidence received from the UK’s medical authorities referred to a prior period when Mr Brown was “mentally disturbed”.
“As the evidence illustrates, the Walthamstow Coroner’s Court conclusions are neither fair nor reasonable. In line with international standards, the UAE has stringent laws, regulations, and procedures in place to ensure the physical and psychological wellbeing of all detainees. This case is unusual and unfortunate, but the UAE stands behind its treatment of Mr Brown.”