Murder in Dubai 1970
Prior to December 2nd 1971 two legal systems applied in Dubai, one administered by Dubai Government, the other by the British Political Agent. Dubai Government's legal system applied to Muslims, the British legal system applied to everyone else. British Judges presided at "non Muslim" trials and mostly gave judgments on cases that drew little public attention.
In 1970 a case came before this British Court that grabbed public attention and continues to be discussed over 40 years later - it was Murder in Dubai!
Background to Murder
George and Ted Robledo were born in Chile around 1928 to a British Mother married to a Chilean. George and Ted moved to UK in 1932 when political upheaval in Chile caused their mother to return to UK. The family settled in Barnsley and the boys soon started to show their abilities as footballers. As 16 year olds they played for Barnsley FC but joined Newcastle United FC in 1949 after Newcastle FC paid Barnsley a transfer fee of over 26,000 pounds - an enormous sum in those days. Newcastle had only wanted to sign George but George's Mother insisted Ted was part of the deal too. The brothers were quite different. George was the "Star" who scored goals. Ted was the reliable Defender but they were always referred to as "the Robledo Brothers".
The Robledo Brothers rose to fame when they both played for Newcastle FC again Arsenal in the 1952 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium with George winning the FA Cup for Newcastle by scoring the only goal of the match. George played 164 times for Newcastlescoring 91 goals whereas Ted played only 45 times and scored no goals. End of the 1953 Season brought an offer from ColoColo FC of Santiago Chile to purchase Ted. Newcastle FC accepted the offer so Ted moved back to Chile. George joined ColoColo soon after and the brothers played football for ColoColo winning the league 5 times as well as playing in Chile's International Team. Both retired from the game five years after moving from Newcastle. George went on to teach sports while Ted joined the US Oil Industry working on Offshore Oil Rigs.
There varying reports at the time as to where Ted Robledo's murder occurred. One report (which has become the accepted version) is Ted Robledo returned from a trip to US and joined a small ship named Al Sahn in Dubai Creek. The other story is Ted had boarded the Dilmun Navigation tanker "Al Sahn" berthed in Dubai Creek after a night out with one the crew. The tanker sailed with Ted on board although not officially a member of the crew. Either way Ted Robledo was not seen again after 11pm January 27th 1970.
Ted's disappearance was reported officially to the Political Agency but meanwhile reports started to circulate of raised voices, shouting and an argument on board between Ted and the Tanker's Captain - a West German. British Political Agency took these reports seriously and investigated. The Tanker's Captain was arrested and charged with "willfully and unlawfully causing the death of Robledo in a brutal and savage manner". Searches failed to find Ted Robledo’s body.
British Legal System in Dubai
"British Political Residency" and their Political Agents were under the control of the British Foreign Office. The Political Resident exercised "political management and control" over whatever part of the world he had been assigned to. His authority was exercised through Political Agents - British personnel based in particular parts of the area under the Political Resident's control. For example the British Political Resident for the Gulf lived in Bahrain whereas Dubai was home to a Political Agent who reported to the Political Resident.
The Political Resident was responsible for "extraterritorial jurisdiction", a concept whereby a country's laws can be applied outside its boundaries in any area of the world, in this case Dubai. The caveat is the country in which this "extraterrestrial jurisdiction" is to be applied has to agree. This system had been applied to various Gulf Countries since 1925. Originally it applied to all Residents of the area in which the system was to be applied. Later this was amended to distinguish between groups of people. Dubai had "agreed" to this amended system. Hence, in 1970, the trial to prosecute the Captain for the murder of Ted Robledo came before a British Court, located in the British Political Agency which was located by Dubai Creek.
Trial and Verdict
As a non Muslim, the West German Captain was tried at a British Law Court in the Political Agency. A British Judge presided. The evidence revolved around the Crew hearing raised voices coming from the ship's deck and crew members stating a fight broke out between Ted Robledo and the Captain. That was doubted by those who knew Ted as a mild mannered man.
The Captain's defense was that Ted Robledo had committed suicide by jumping overboard. Again those who knew Ted rejected that likelihood. The British Judge returned a verdict of "Not Guilty" due to lack of evidence but in giving his judgment said he had concerns about the Captain's evidence. These concerns and doubts continue to surround Ted Robledo's disappearance. This is still discussed at Newcastle FC where George and Ted Robledo are still remembered as two of "Football's Giants".
Application of British Law in Dubai stopped on 2nd December 1971 when United Arab Emirates came into being. From then on all its Residents became subject to UAE's Laws.