Briton convicted in Dubai of murdering ex-girlfriend

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A Briton was sentenced to 15 years in jail in Dubai today after being convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, a British Embassy spokesman said.

Mark Arnold, 43, from Stoke-on-Trent, was charged with the murder of South African Kerry Winter after a neighbour allegedly reported seeing him attack her.

Ms Winter has not been seen since August 2008.

Ms Winter's family have urged Arnold to tell the truth about their last meeting, and dismissed his claims that he was innocent.

Last September, he told reporters from his prison cell that he and Ms Winter had argued over money but he did not know what happened to her.

"I wish I knew where she was," he said then.

"I am innocent and I want to prove it.

"I've been in jail for 12 months based only on suspicion."

However the family dismissed that as a "load of rubbish".

Ms Winter was last heard from on the evening of August 20, 2008 when she phoned her friend, Jo Brown, to say that Arnold had followed her to a hotel.

Police allowed family members to question Arnold.

Relatives have said he told them she was alive and well when he left her that day.

But they said Arnold also told them he had beaten Ms Winter up and kept changing his story about where he had left her.

The family alleges that Arnold had been harassing her since their five-year relationship ended in May 2008.

Arnold, who also previously lived in London, was understood to be working as an operations manager at Hamilton International, an interior design firm.

He flew to Britain two days after the disappearance and returned to the emirate three days later, when he was arrested.

It is understood that Arnold can appeal against his conviction and sentence, while prosecutors can also appeal against sentence if they wish.

Ms Winter's mother, Carol, said from South Africa today: "The sentence doesn't help me any, it doesn't bring my daughter back.

"He was part of my family. Instead of losing Kerry, I lose Kerry and Mark.

"He's also got a family, it's very difficult.

"I never gave up hope, I thought she might be out there somewhere. Now it makes it more likely that she really is dead.

"If they found him guilty, then obviously he is guilty. When I spoke to him, he said he didn't kill her, and that gave me a bit of hope, but if they have convicted and sentenced him, it means he did do it.

"I don't know what he's done with her. I hope he will tell me, we got on very well."

Lia Winter, who is married to Ms Winter's brother Kurt, said from Johannesburg today: "This is way too lenient, it's very disappointing.

"Normally for murder they get 25 years, premeditated murder life, and the charge was never changed, it remained as premeditated murder - but he got 15 years.

"We were hoping that the only way we might find out what happened to her is if he had been given the death sentence, then appealed to the family to reduce it, and disclose what he actually did.

"With 15 years, we will never know.

"We will be speaking to the prosecutors to try to get the sentence increased by an appeal.

"The danger is that with 15 years, appeals on his side, good behaviour, it could come down to seven years, whereas if it was 25, even if five years was cut, it would still be 20."

The allegation against Arnold is that he beat Ms Winter to death, then disposed of her body at sea using his yacht, blanket and weights.