Teacher’s two-month sentence for high speed hit-and-run smash ’embarrassing’

Josh Payne, PA
·5-min read

The mother of a West End make-up artist killed by a teacher in a high speed hit-and-run in Qatar has labelled the driver’s two-month prison sentence as “pitiful and embarrassing”.

Rafaelle Tsakanika, known by her friends and family as Raffy, died in a two-car crash near Doha on March 30 2019 shortly after her killer Mubarak Al Hajri was captured “racing” at 119mph.

Court documents, seen by the PA news agency, show the 21-year-old victim was the passenger in a Toyota Land Cruiser which “flipped over several times” and resulted in her and her 20-year-old friend being “thrown” out of the car.

Witnesses described Al Hajri’s driving as “reckless”, with one man telling officers he tried to catch up with him after he started to “race” another car.

Raffy Tsakanika
Raffy Tsakanika’s mother has branded her killer’s sentence as “pitiful and embarrassing (Joe Giddens/PA)

The Qatari courts eventually convicted the 46-year-old of causing Raffy’s death, causing serious injuries to her friend, driving in a way that endangered lives, fleeing the scene of an accident, and speeding.

He was sentenced to just two months in prison and ordered to pay compensation to Raffy’s family, who believe he is yet to serve any of his sentence.

Almost two years on from her death, the make-up artist’s family, who are being represented by spokesman Radd Seiger, have now called for the case to be reviewed.

Rafaelle Tsakanika
Raffy was killed in a hit-and-run in Qatar in March 2019 (Family handout/PA)

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office told Raffy’s family a diplomatic note had been sent to Qatari officials requesting a meeting about the case.

Speaking to PA about how she found out about the death of her daughter, former tour guide Jo Sullivan said she had searched the local hospital as police initially told her they had no information to assist.

Mrs Sullivan, from Cambridge, eventually found her daughter after attending the mortuary.

Recalling how she felt when she saw Raffy, she said: “I just passed out but I was still standing.

Raffy Tsakanika
Raffy’s mother Jo Sullivan said the family have been “through hell” (Joe Giddens/PA)

“I could remember just screaming ‘no, it can’t be Raff’.

“That was the beginning of a two-year ordeal.”

Mrs Sullivan said during one of her many trips to Qatar’s Public Prosecution offices, a man had told her: “You need to stop doing this now, it was an accident, it was God’s will, just move on.”

The 54-year-old continued: “We’ve just been played for two years. Eventually this man was convicted of causing Raffy’s death.

“He’s been given two months and to this day, he’s not spent a single day in jail.

“Two months for my beautiful daughter’s life.

Raffy Tsakanika
Raffy’s family described her as a “pure beacon of light” (Family handout/PA)

“No mother should ever have to go through this. No mother should have to go through this pain.

“We’ve been through hell.”

Addressing what she hoped would happen in the future, Mrs Sullivan said: “Mubarak Al Hajri needs to do his time.

“He’s been given a measly two months.

“I’ve been on holiday for longer than that.

“The two months needs to be served.

“Although the sentence is pitiful and embarrassing.

“I believe they need to review the whole case.

“I don’t for one minute believe that had that been an ex-pat killing somebody that they’d have just got two months.

“Can somebody explain to me how two months is an appropriate sentence for a hit-and-run at 191kmh racing down the road?”

She continued: “My beautiful daughter had so much to give – she never had a bad word to say about anybody.

“But because of the selfish actions of a man who thought he was more important than anyone else that day, everything you’ve ever known is just turned on its head.

“People do not realise just how the selfish actions of one person can change another person’s life and family forever.

“This is not just a legal case – our lives have been turned on their heads and destroyed.

“We were such a happy family.

“We travelled so much, we laughed, always having a good time.

“We were a great team – and that’s just gone.”

Wiping away tears, Raffy’s mother added: “I’ll never ever be able to hug Raff, I’ll never be able to laugh with her, I’ll never be able to do anything with her again.

“When you lose someone you love so much, the pain cuts into you. I do actually feel the pain in my heart.

“I would do anything to have her back. Anything. Anything at all. But I can’t.

“I’ll just never ever see her again.”

Responding to the case, an FCDO spokeswoman said: “Our staff in the UK and Qatar continue to assist the family of a British woman who died in Doha in 2019.

“We are in contact with the Qatari authorities, and have requested a meeting with them to discuss her case.

“Her family have our deepest sympathy at what continues to be a very difficult time.”

The Embassy of Qatar has been approached for comment.