The death of a businessman found dead in Qatar after a “baseless” arrest has not been recorded as suicide after a coroner concluded foul play could not be ruled out.
Marc Bennett, 52, died by hanging in a hotel room in Doha on Christmas Day 2019, having recently been held in a cell for a month on dubious charges.
Once a senior figure at Thomas Cook, Mr Bennett had moved to Qatar to set up a branch of Qatar Airways, Discover Qatar, where he had spent seven years in the job.
An inquest into his death heard he had recently informed his bosses that he was leaving his role to take up a position with a Saudi Arabian company.
His departure was initially thought to have been amicable, but suddenly, in October 2019, Mr Bennett was taken into custody, West Sussex Coroner’s Court heard.
He was not released until November 16, nearly a month later.
The businessman was detained by civil defence officers over claims he had appropriated documents from Qatar Airways and posed a national security risk, the court heard.
The former Thomas Cook boss had moved to Qatar to set up a branch of Qatar Airways, Discover Qatar, where he had spent seven years in the job.
Credit: Hyde News & Pictures Ltd
Chris Nicola, the coroner’s officer, told the hearing: “He went to live with a friend who said he seemed shocked, scared, thin and quiet, very different from his normal outgoing personality."
His belongings and passport were seized and never returned to him, she said.
Mr Bennett, originally from Haywards Heath, West Sussex, was forced to find a hotel over Christmas 2019 as the friends he was living with were due to go away for the festive break.
His friends raised the alarm when he did not answer his phone on Christmas Day and his body was later found by a receptionist.
When his family travelled to Qatar to repatriate his body, they were troubled to find signs Mr Bennett had still been planning for the future and evidence of only a cursory investigation into his death by Qatari authorities.
Sarah Clarke, the West Sussex Coroner, told his family she would need to be convinced that there were no alternative explanations for Mr Bennett’s death if she was going to record a verdict of suicide.
Recording a narrative verdict, she told the court: "Whilst Marc died as a result of hanging, there is not sufficient evidence of suicidal intent. The events of the months leading up to his death remain unclear."