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Scottish woman's death in Israel was 'missed homicide'

Home Office pathologist believes hotel worker Julie Pearson was killed in November 2015.

By Russell Findlay

A Home Office pathologist believes a Scottish woman's death in Israel four years ago was a "missed homicide" - and backs her family's campaign for mandatory post-mortems for sudden deaths abroad.

Hotel worker Julie Pearson died in the resort of Eilat in November 2015 after being assaulted by her ex-partner hours earlier.

Despite 78 bruises on her body, the Israeli authorities said she died from spontaneous internal bleeding.

Julie's aunt Deborah Pearson asked forensic pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton to review the evidence - leading him to conclude the 38-year-old from Kinross, Perthshire, was killed.

His report states that "the most likely scenario in my opinion is that there has been abdominal trauma, entirely in keeping with an assault the day before Ms Pearson's cardiac arrest, leading to slow internal bleeding, collapse and death".

Dr Hamilton, who examined the Israeli autopsy report and photos of Julie's injuries, told STV News: "I think the most likely explanation and the most reasonable explanation is that she's died as the result of an assault causing both significant internal and external injury.

"In this sort of case we have evidence supporting the fact that Julie was assaulted. We have injuries in keeping with that. We have internal injuries in keeping with that and in that situation I would expect the case to be treated as a homicide until it could be absolutely ruled out.

"Compared to the way it would be treated in the United Kingdom, I was very surprised. This is a case which immediately shouts it needs a lot more investigation and it seems to have had very little investigation indeed."

Julie Pearson died in Israel four years ago.
Julie Pearson died in Israel four years ago.

After reading the independent report, Julie's aunt Deborah, of Blackburn, West Lothian, said: "When I read it I thought 'thank god', I knew this at the beginning. That's what we've been fighting for and that's what we need - so we can get some kind of closure.

"It completely contradicts the Israeli report. This says missed homicide, theirs says natural causes. With the amount of bruising Julie had on her body, impossible.

"I actually sent it to the Israeli pathologist last night. I just said to him he might be interested in reading this but I've had no answer back yet."

Bathgate-born Julie, whose dad was born in Israel, had been seeking citizenship in the country when she died in the Red Sea resort town.

Home Office-registered forensic pathologist Dr Hamilton - who also advises TV drama Silent Witness - believes sudden deaths of Scots abroad should be treated the same as those of people from England and Wales.

Two years ago the Scottish Government changed the law to allow the Crown Office to instruct a post-mortem for unexpected overseas deaths but in England and Wales it happens as a matter of routine.

Julie's family intend to bring their campaign for mandatory post-mortems for Scots to the Scottish Parliament's public petitions committee.

Deborah Pearson has been fighting for answers.
Deborah Pearson has been fighting for answers. STV

In a direct plea to MSPs, Deborah said: "I'm hoping some politicians will back me on this because Scots have a right just the same as English people have.

"Please back me, get this law changed, let Scots who die abroad get a second post-mortem in Scotland.

"I'm hoping that in the future other families don't need to go what we've gone through. I'm hoping that the law changes and changes quick.

"If we'd had this in the beginning, the law, it would have saved four years of trauma. At least we would have known the truth - it's taken four years and now we know the truth."

A Scottish Government spokesperson declined to address the family's calls for a second mandatory post mortem, but said: "The loss of a family member is always tragic and our sympathies and thoughts are with Ms Pearson's family.

"Scottish Parliament legislation allowing for Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs) into the deaths of Scots abroad came into effect in June 2017, but it cannot be applied retrospectively.

"Second post-mortems can be instructed by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service where appropriate."

Dr Hamilton added: "With the Pearson family, had that sort of thing been undertaken, I think they would have been left with a lot less questions than they have now.

"I would be more than happy to speak to the Scottish Parliament about the model we have in England and Wales and how that may be applicable to Scottish law and to Scottish citizens."

Last pictures of Julie

The last known video footage of Julie Pearson shows her happily chatting to her violent partner's friend weeks before her death.

Smiling and relaxed, Julie is seen speaking on her phone with a friend of Amjad Khatib in October 2015, five months after he served a month in prison for assaulting her.

A month after the video was shot, Julie was dead, having suffered another alleged beating the previous day.

Julie's aunt Deborah Pearson recorded the brief clip while visiting her in the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

She said: "She had told me about what had happened but I didn't know how bad it had been. I actually met Khatib and told him that he should not lay a finger on her again.

"She is happy in the video and is talking to a friend of his about a dog and about seeing him later that night. Every time I watch it I am gutted."

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