A man accused of murdering a colleague and attacking another offshore Qatar is awaiting the outcome of a legal case a year after his arrest.
Scott Forrest, of Maud, was working in the Persian Gulf when an incident took place exactly a year ago today on an oil platform.
Qatari prosecutors allege that Forrest, 44, murdered Robert Robson, of north-east England, and then seriously assaulted Lanarkshire man Chris Begley, 38, while all three were working for an Ellon firm.
Mr Robson, 38, from Tyne and Wear, was “tragically taken too soon”, his family said in a statement last December.
Legal process ongoing
Forrest was arrested and taken to a Doha police station for questioning and prosecutors took more than a month to build up a case against him.
Since then, there have been several court hearings, but the legal process is ongoing and obtaining information from the court service poses challenges as the Qatari judicial system operates out of the public eye.
Meanwhile, Forrest, a former student of Banff and Buchan College as well as North East Scotland College, remains in custody.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are providing consular assistance to a British man who is detained in Qatar.”
Forrest had been spending time away from his family in Maud and living in Thailand before heading to Qatar for work.
The Press and Journal spoke to a source in Qatar earlier this year, who said that the trial process is different to the UK.
A prosecutor reads the outcome of his investigation to three judges – one of whom them gives a verdict and, if guilty, a sentence.
It is common for an appeals process to then get under way and for the sentence not to be put into motion until the end of that appeals process.
Hanging for murder is common in Qatar – but the lawyer said the victim’s family would play a part in deciding on the ultimate outcome.
‘Judges have to ask families’
The lawyer said: “The sentence would be to execute him but, if the family of the murdered person forgives the one who did the act, the sentence would go down,” said the lawyer, who specialises in criminal issues in Qatar and asked not to be named.
He added: “The judges have to ask the two families involved.”
“If the family of the murderer tell the judge they have a settlement with the family of the victim, they have to come to Qatar.
“They would tell the judge ‘yes, we have a settlement. We agreed to forgive’.
“In that case, it would be a long prison sentence rather than an execution.
“If the victim’s family forgives the killer, the sentence could be as low as 10 years.
The three men involved in the incident were contractors for Ellon-based Film-Ocean and a French firm Stapem Offshore on the Seafox Burj platform in the Persian Gulf.
Film-Ocean has provided ongoing support to the families of Mr Robson and Mr Begley.
Colleagues heard a commotion
During the incident a year ago today, Mr Begley was attacked with a pipe after returning to the cabin he shared with Mr Robson and Forrest.
Colleagues heard a commotion and raised the alarm.
It was then that they discovered the body of Mr Robson.
Police travelled from Doha to the oil platform by helicopter to begin an investigation.
Mr Begley was then taken to hospital for treatment for head injuries and released within a few days before travelling home.
He has since made a recovery and his father Dennis told The Press and Journal of Mr Begley’s ordeal.
A statement released on behalf of Mr Robson’s family said: “Robbie was an amazing, one-of-a-kind, beautiful soul.
‘Robbie was irreplaceable’
“He was a loving partner, dad, son, brother and uncle who was tragically taken too soon.
“He was an irreplaceable friend to many, and Robbie will be sorely missed by everyone that knew him.
“As a family, we request privacy at this time.”
A spokeswoman for the Coroner’s Office for Gateshead and South Tyneside said: “The South Tyneside Coroner has been informed of the death and has opened an investigation pending criminal proceedings in Qatar.”
The coroner’s office has suggested an inquest will not take place until Forrest’s legal case concludes.
Last December, friends and colleagues of Mr Robson, who was also known as Mark, launched a fundraising appeal for his family.
‘Let’s show our support’
Their initial target was £10,000 and the running total stands at £25,848.
Tom Stanton, a rope access inspection technician based in Scunthorpe who set up the appeal, said the purpose was to “too try allow his family to grieve in their own time and not worry about anything else but trying to live some kind of a normal life again one day.
He added: “There’s no right words for this situation, but let’s show our support in anyway we can.”