Raffy Tsakanika: family of woman who died in Qatar crash criticise government’s response to meeting request
Raffy Tsakanika, 21, from Cambridge, died after the car she was travelling in as a passenger was struck from behind near Doha in 2019.
The family has accused the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of “standing on the sidelines,” for failing to push the Qatari government for more information and declining a request for a meeting between the family and James Cleverly, the foreign secretary.
At a UK inquest last year the coroner criticised responses which had been provided by Qatari authorities.
What happened to Raffy Tsakanika?
Rafaelle, known as Raffy, was a passenger in vehicle which lost control and overturned on a four-lane carriageway after being struck from behind by a second vehicle travelling at “excess speed,” on 30 March 2019. The second vehicle did not stop at the scene.
The second vehicle, a white Toyota Land Cruiser, was being driven by Qatari national Mubarak Al Hajri, who was sentenced in Qatar to two months in prison over the crash and ordered to pay compensation to Raffy’s family.
Al Hajri had been driving at speeds of 119mph before he hit Raffy’s grey Toyota Land Cruiser, on a road where the speed limit was 75mph.
Al Hajri claimed that he took a call from his wife and was "speeding up in fear of his son" who "lacked oxygen". He admitted hitting a barrier, but not Raffy’s vehicle.
Raffy died from traumatic head and abdominal injuries, and her friend, a Qatari national who was driving, was seriously injured.
At a UK inquest last year, the coroner criticised the Qatari authorities for the lack of information provided to the inquest.
Coroner Simon Milburn concluded that Raffy died as a result of a road traffic collision, but was unable to give an exact time or place of death because of "the limited assistance offered by the Qatari authorities".
Milburn said this was "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".
During the hearing, he criticised a number of witness statements which were read out to the court, provided by the Qatari authorities, as "without exception brief and lacking in significant detail".
The coroner added that "potential interested parties based in Qatar have taken no part in these proceedings… in spite of engagement".
FCDO response ‘entirely unacceptable’
Afterwards, Ms Tsakanika’s parents wrote to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly asking for a meeting. They have since received a written response from Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon in which he extends his “sincere condolences” for their loss.
He said that the British Embassy in Doha had requested documentation from the Qatari authorities. But he continued: “In our experience it differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction as to what the relevant local authorities are willing or able to share with UK coroners.”
He said that officials in Doha could seek written confirmation from Qatari authorities that Al Hajri has served his prison sentence if the family wanted it.
Radd Seiger, spokesman for Ms Tsakanika’s family, described the FCDO’s response as as “entirely unacceptable”.
He said: “In the circumstances and the highly critical remarks the coroner made at the inquest in December, this is an entirely unacceptable response from the FCDO when we had requested to meet with the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who has handled the case personally.
“This is yet a further example of the FCDO treating British citizens, living in Great Britain, and who are being oppressed and abused by foreign governments, like dirt on the bottom of their shoe.”
He said that as with the family of 19-year-old Harry Dunn, who died after his motorbike crashed into a car driven by US citizen Anne Sacoolas outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in 2019, Ms Tsakanika’s family “deserved to get the very best diplomatic muscle”.
“But instead (they) got barely a whimper while the Qatari authorities were doing their best to kick Raffy’s embarrassing death under the carpet in the lead up to the World Cup,” said Mr Seiger.
He called on ministers and senior officials to go back to the Qataris and “insist that the evidence that they clearly have” is disclosed to the family and the UK coroner so consideration can be given to a fresh inquest.
Last year’s inquest was told that speed cameras captured Al Hajri’s car, apparently undamaged shortly before the collision and damaged shortly afterwards, but these images were not provided to the UK coroner by the Qatari authorities.
Mr Seiger said: “The FCDO must no longer stand on the sidelines while this wholly innocent British family suffers beyond imagination.
“They deserve to know how Raffy died so that they can begin to process her death.”
An FCDO spokesperson said: “We have supported the family of a woman who died in Qatar in 2019 and have raised this case with the Qatari authorities at Ministerial level.
“We stand ready to offer further consular support as appropriate."