A British travel industry executive who had been recruited to enhance Qatar’s tourism sector for the World Cup died in mysterious circumstances after telling friends that he had been arrested and tortured by the country’s secret police.
According to The Times, Marc Bennett, 52, from Sussex was found hanged in a hotel in Doha around Christmas 2019, 10 weeks after being detained at the Qatar Airways offices and transported there while being blindfolded and handcuffed.
He later described being stripped naked, blasted with high-pressure hoses, thrown against walls, and subjected to sleep deprivation tactics throughout his three-week detention.
Following his release, the father-of-three was barred from leaving Qatar and left in ‘legal limbo,’ not knowing if he faced any charges and fearing re-arrest.
Marc was a former director at Tui and Thomas Cook and became senior vice-president of Discover Qatar, a subsidiary of the state-owned Qatar Airways, in 2017.
His task was to modernise the country’s tourism industry and former colleagues said that he worked closely with Akbar al-Baker, the airline’s chief executive, who is also a director of Heathrow airport.
His arrest in October 2019 came after he resigned and was considering a job offer from a Saudi travel firm that would allow him to work remotely and he considered moving back to the UK to be with his family.
One of his former colleagues claimed his resignation was regarded as a “massive insult.”
Soon after his resignation, Qatar Airways said it discovered he had been sending “highly confidential documents” to a private email address and that he was reported to police.
Bennett’s death has left ‘so many questions’
The Times then reveals that Marc, who played rugby for Harlequins Under-21s in the 1980s as captain for Haywards and the Sussex county senior side, was in a light mood with his family on the night before his reported suicide.
In her first interview, his wife, Nancy Bennett 51, said the circumstances surrounding his death have left “so many questions”.
She said that in the early evening of December 23, 2019, he dialled home from Doha to catch up with family life.
She said: “The children were here sitting round the table, I was cooking, it was a long conversation - all of us laughing and joking.
“The boys stood back to back to show how they’d grown. Marc was going to a party on Christmas Eve, he’d had his hair cut and ironed his party clothes - it was like a family sitting around the dinner table except Marc was on FaceTime.”
The Qatari authorities then declared his death a suicide but a British coroner has ruled there was “no specific evidence of suicidal intent” and that “the circumstances of the months leading up to his death remain unclear.”
Despite being aware of the concerns of the coroner and the family, the Foreign Office closed the case last September, exactly a week after now Prime Minister Lizz Truss became foreign secretary.
Marc’s family have sent a dossier to the United Nations mission investigating human rights abuses in Qatar and asked for an inquiry into his arrest, incarceration and death.