Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Tragic Death of Miss Jones

Recently I stumbled over a news story that is both tragic and somewhat mysterious.  Here is the Telegraph news story about the incident:

A 24-year old British teacher working in Abu Dhabi apparently committed suicide after her nude pictures were posted on her ex-boyfriend's Facebook account. According to her mother, Emma Jones who had worked at the International School of Choueifat in Khalifa City in Abu Dhabi since 2008, drank poisonous cleaning fluid as she feared that she could be jailed in the Muslim country over the images. Jones was discovered collapsed in her home in Khalifa City by a flat-mate with her passport in her jeans pocket and her clothes lying on her bed ready for packing.

At the inquest in Cardiff, Louis Rowlands told officers that her daughter was emotionally distressed by the photographs allegedly uploaded by her former lover, Jamie Brayley. Brayley called Rowlands' claims a "complete fantasy". Although he admitted to the inquest that he had used her computer, Brayley denied ever downloading private photographs of her.

According to Rowland's testimony, another colleague, "George" at the school had seen the photos on-line and had threatened to go to local authorities and accuse Jones of prostitution. 

"Emma and George didn't get on at all." stated Mrs. Rowlands, "She said she had to get away. She was crying, she was breaking her heart. I said ‘Emma, whatever it is can't be that bad. Just come home’.”

Miss Jones told her, "I can't leave the country, they will throw me in jail."

I have read many comments in forums where this story was discussed that the problem was her choice of locations. That living as a woman in Abu Dhabi, where rights of women where presumably not respected was a factor in her suicide. And that any teacher willingly to work in such a country as that should, in the first place, have their head examined.

I would only counter that none of the articles stated that the police were, in fact, aware of the photographs. Miss Jones' reactions were based only on what she "perceived" to be a threat. As far as we can determine from the news story, it was this panic alone that led to her death. She had not been arrested, for example. She had even  been brought in for questioning.

Still, there remains the question of the suicide. As a method of suicide, it certainly raises many questions and especially since, she was in possession of her passport and was clearly preparing to leave. Given the various methods to do away with oneself, drinking a caustic acid surely must be the last alternative even of the most desperate. Homicide, for the same reason, should probably be ruled out as quite implausible. Which leaves the possibility of accident.

Deputy assistant coroner Thomas Atherton said he did not believe Mr Brayley was to blame for Miss Jones’s death and said he could not be sure Miss Jones meant to kill herself and recorded an open verdict. He theorized that she may have accidentally drunk cleaning fluid from an unlabeled container, mistakenly believing it was water.

The episode certainly suggests a malevolent atmosphere at that particular school. And it doesn't surprise me. In many of the schools where I had worked, there existed a kind of hot house atmosphere where private disputes can seethe and suddenly erupt. Problems and conflict can get completely out of control and quite ugly.

Personally I have witnessed some pretty mean-spirited behavior from otherwise sociable people. One of the problems is the artificial closeness that living and working abroad can create. Imagine the worst working atmosphere you have ever encountered and then multiply it by three, adding the shared teachers' accommodations and a limited circle of social contacts. Every minor argument can be magnified and echoed. While this would be especially true in a restricted environment like Abu Dhabi,  it could happen any place where the ex-pat "bubble" is so claustrophobic.

My condolences to her mother and friends.


  1. That is a truly tragic story. It saddens me to no end. Stories like this render me speechless. I don't even know what to say.

  2. Well, Erin, in fact, I heard about this incident several days ago and I couldn't get it out of my head. When this happens, it sometimes helps to get it down and share it with others. I am sure you understand that feeling too.

  3. The story is beyond weird. Nothing really fits, does it? Who would accidentally drink cleaning fluid? I have never come across any type of cleaning fluid that would pass for water. Then if it was a suicide, why had she packed up first? Did she just change her mind and decide it wouldn't work? Hard to believe. And if it was a murder, making someone drink cleaning fluid as a means of killing them is unusual to say the least... What ever happened, a sad, sad story. :(


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