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Gulf News editor accused of killing wife with hammer in Dubai

UAE authorities claim Francis Matthews admitted he had killed his wife, as rights campaigners express doubt over confession
Francis Matthews with his wife Jane (Screengrab)

A British news editor in the Gulf has been accused by Dubai authorities of killing his wife with a hammer "due to marital issues".

Francis Matthews, 60, who is an editor-at-large at the Gulf News newspaper, was charged with murder by the police in Dubai earlier this week.

Emirati authorities say Matthews' wife, Jane, 62, was found dead on 4 July in their house in the Jumeirah area.

"The examination revealed that the wife died from a strong blow on her head with a solid object," the government said in a statement.  

The statement alleged Matthews "admitted to the police that he carried out the crime" and "also admitted to assaulting his wife by throwing a hammer at her".

It stated that Matthews said "he did not mean to kill her".

"The public prosecutor has charged the husband with premeditated murder, and investigations continue," the government said. 

The couple had lived in Dubai for almost 30 years and been married since 1985. They were due to come back to Britain to attend the graduation of their only son, Francis. 

Matthews studied Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Exeter. He worked at the Economist before becoming editor-in-chief of Gulf News in 1995.

He later stepped down from the role in 2005 to do more reporting and he was given the title of editor-at-large.

Abdul Hamid Ahmad, the editor-in-chief of Gulf News, told Britain's Daily Telegraph that he was "shocked and saddened by this tragedy".

"[Matthews] is a well-respected journalist, known for his keen insight into the Middle East. He was holding the position of editor-at-large at the time of the incident. Both Francis and Jane have played a very active role in the British expatriate community over the past 30 years."

Matthews could face the death penalty if found guilty, but according to Radha Stirling, who is the founder of Detained in Dubai, there was "very little risk of [him] receiving the death penalty" due to his British nationality. 

She also added that Dubai's legal system was not to be trusted.

"Forced confessions or forced signings of documents in Arabic are commonplace and the prosecution relies heavily on confessions as evidence.

"We do not know whether Francis will plead innocent and what evidence, if any, the prosecution has.

"We caution against any rush to judgment in this case based on media reports."

The British foreign office said it was in contact with the UAE authorities about Matthews' detention. 

"We are in contact with the UAE authorities following the detention of a British man. We are supporting the family of a British woman following her death in Dubai. We are in contact with the UAE police."

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