A north-east man accused of murdering a colleague on a Qatari oil rig is to appear in court next week – and could face the death penalty.
Scott Forrest, 43, of Maud, was taken into custody in Doha after a violent incident offshore in which Robert Robson died and another colleague, Christopher Begley, was injured.
Mr Robson, 38, from Tyne and Wear, was “a loving partner, dad, son, brother and uncle who was tragically taken too soon,” his family said in a statement after the incident on December 12 last year.
Loved ones of Mr Begley, 38, said he returned to his home in Coatbridge several days after the incident and is being kept updated on legal proceedings.
The three men involved in the incident were contractors for Ellon-based Film-Ocean and a French firm Stapem Offshore
‘Hit Mr Robson with an oxygen tank’
The Press and Journal has spoken to a source in Qatar with knowledge of those proceedings.
He has asked not to be named.
The source told us: “The lawyers involved in the case went to attend a hearing on February 12, but it was postponed.
“It didn’t take place because it has been referred from department to department.
“It has been transferred to another department, which will hold a hearing on February 21.”
It will be the first hearing of the case.
According to local reports from December, Forrest is alleged to have hit Mr Robson over the head with an oxygen tank in the living quarters they shared on the Seafox Burj platform in the Persian Gulf.
It was also alleged that Mr Begley walked in on the horrific scene – and that Forrest hit him over the head with a pipe.
Case might take months
Mr Begley was taken ashore by helicopter for treatment and to help the prosecutor with his inquiries before flying home.
Forrest has been held on remand for 64 days – standard practice in Qatar – awaiting next Tuesday’s hearing.
The source added: “This is a procedural hearing.
“The accused should be present.
“Normally, the judge will read out the accusations and then will open the floor for any submissions, any arguments.
“If there are any witnesses, the judge will call them to attend a future hearing.
“The outcome will be determined after the judge has heard all the witnesses, all the defence and the arguments made on behalf of the two victims.
“The case will likely conclude at the end of the year – it could be months yet.”
Families being kept informed
It is understood that family of Mr Robson and Mr Begley will not attend next Tuesday’s hearing.
They are being kept informed of developments through a lawyer representing them both.
The source added: “I believe that a representative of the British Embassy will be attending the hearing as an observer.
“The accused has had the entitled to have visitors in prison. His family could come to visit him if they wish.
“He has not complained about his treatment in custody.
“The lawyers involved in the case have not yet read the case file.
“They need to get a copy to find out what the accused man said to the police and the public prosecutor.
Could face death penalty
“The prosecutor has done a very thorough job in the investigation – always, they do.
We previously reported that Mr Robson’s family could end up deciding if Forrest lives or dies, if he is found guilty by the judge.
Qatar does not have jury trials.
Now, the source told us: “The families will come to the judge and – maybe – say ‘we forgive the accused man and we have settled the matter’ – then there would be no capital punishment.”
When asked if the Robson family had expressed a view on that, the source said: “No – not yet.
“In cases like this, it’s typical for the accused to appeal the judgement.
“The prosecutor is always looking for justice to be done – and only that – and sometimes that takes time.
‘Circumstances are key’
“This is not a case of the court wanting to hang people – it’s about them wanting to obtain justice, and part of that involves the family.
“Islamic principles apply – it can be a ‘soft outcome’.
“If the victim’s family and the accused’s family reach a settlement, the punishment won’t be severe.
“Whereas in the USA, even if you reached a settlement, there would still be an execution.
“However, if the judge concludes that the killing happened by mistake and not pre-meditated, then there would be no chance of capital punishment.
“The circumstances are key.”
Friends and supporters of Robert Robson have since raised £25,848 for his family on GoFundMe.