Family of Rafaelle Tsakanika criticise Qatari authorities over daughter's hit-and-run death

 Raffy Tsakanika
Credit: Family photo
Rafaella Tsakanika, known as Raffy, was killed in a crash in Qatar in 2019. Credit: Family photo

The family of a woman killed by a hit-and-run driver in Qatar have hit out at the World Cup hosts for their lack of help in finding the truth behind her death.

Rafaelle Tsakanika, 21, died after the Toyota Land Cruiser she was travelling in which was struck from behind by a speeding white vehicle, causing it to overturn in the fast-lane of a Doha motorway, an inquest in Peterborough heard.

But the Qatari authorities failed to provide any assistance to the inquest, leading coroner Simon Milburn to apologise to Ms Tsakanika's family for having “not been able to provide you with all of the answers you wanted”.

Speaking after an inquest into the death her mother Jo Sullivan branded Qatar an "awful country" and said her family had been forced to "scour hospital wards" by themselves as they searched for her body.

She said: “This has been the most horrendous three-and-a-half years of our lives.

“We are empty shells of our real selves and are still struggling to come to terms with the fact that Raffy is not here.”

Manny Tsakanika and Jo Sullivan, Rafaelle Tsakanika's brother and mother. Credit: PA

The family had been in the country as Ms Tsakanika's father worked on construction projects ahead of the World Cup.

She added: “Having supported that awful country as they were attempting to join the global stage as a major player, I cannot believe the way the Qataris treated us from the moment we found Raffy dead in the hospital mortuary ourselves, with no one in authority offering to help us when she went missing.

“What kind of country would make parents scour hospital wards themselves to find their missing daughter?

“The final straw, however, in our misery was the Qataris not helping the coroner with his inquiry. The Qataris seem determined to condemn us to a lifetime of not knowing how Raffy died.

“All I can do now is warn the world what this country is really like as they try to persuade us all to treat them like a real member of the international community. No decent country treats human beings this way.”

Rafaelle Tsakanika who died in a hit-and-run in Qatar near Doha in 2019 Credit: Family photo/PA

During the hearing Mr Milburn, the area coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, criticised the Qatari authorities for a lack of information which was “no doubt … an added source of distress” to the family.

He said that “in very large part has been due to the lack of detailed forensic information that came out of Qatar”.

The coroner said: “The Qatari documents provided do not, sadly, provide an accurate time and location of Raffy’s death.

“The lack of that information has no doubt been an added source of distress to Raffy’s family.”

The coroner said that potential witnesses based in Qatar took no part in proceedings “despite attempts to engage by the coroner’s service”.

He said that accounts taken by the Qatari authorities were “without exception brief and lacking in significant detail” and had not translated well into English.

He recorded that Ms Tsakanika, known as Raffy, died from traumatic head and abdominal injuries.

He concluded that her death was the result of a road traffic collision, and that it was “caused when the vehicle in which she was travelling was struck from behind by a second vehicle travelling at excess speed causing the former to lose control and overturn”.

He added: “The second vehicle did not stop at the scene.”

Mr Milburn said that the white vehicle, driven by Mubarak Al Hajri, was “travelling significantly faster” than the grey vehicle, which was driven by Ms Tsakanika’s friend Mohammed Ahmed Hussein Ali Al Majid.

Mr Milburn said that Al Hajri’s vehicle was travelling “significantly in excess” of the 120km per hour (75mph) speed limit.

He said Al Hajri “had ‘flashed’ a number of vehicles travelling ahead of him in an attempt to get them to move out of his way”.

Al Hajri was sentenced to two months in prison and ordered to pay compensation to Ms Tsakanika’s family

“Sadly neither speed camera location nor the images taken have ever been provided by the Qatari authorities,” said Mr Milburn.

A Qatar World Cup stadium pictured earlier this year during its construction. Credit: AP

He told Wednesday’s hearing that the material that was provided by the Qatari authorities was “far from ideal”, with detailed descriptions of the collision scene and of vehicles not provided.

“The fact that ‘the fullest information’ was not available is entirely due to the limited assistance offered by the Qatari authorities either because a full forensic investigation was never carried out or, if it was, the results of that investigation have never been provided to this court or to Raffy’s family,” said Mr Milburn.

Ms Tsakanika’s stepfather Donal Sullivan, a construction specialist who was involved in work on World Cup stadiums in Qatar, told an earlier hearing that he found his daughter’s body in a hospital morgue, having started to search wards himself after being “passed from pillar to post” by police.

Mr Milburn said: “Without any support from the authorities they were shown their daughter’s body – it is difficult to even begin to imagine the horror of that experience.”

Mr Sullivan said that “were it not for expat friends in Qatar, our lawyers and our adviser Radd Seiger, we wouldn’t have even got this far”.

David Beckham and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly in the stands

Family adviser and spokesman Mr Seiger called for Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to meet him and Raffy’s family “to discuss what is going to be done about this and how we are going to give Raffy’s family some peace”.

A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: "We have provided support to the family of a woman who died in Qatar in 2019 and raised her case with the Qatari authorities at a senior level. We stand ready to offer further consular assistance as appropriate."

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