File picture: Independent Media

A British journalist in Dubai has been charged with murdering his wife after he admitted throwing a hammer at her “without intending to kill her”, the Middle East city’s government has said. Francis Matthew, 60, editor-at-large of Gulf News, was detained after he called police to his home where the body of Jane Matthew, 62, was discovered.

He was editor of the paper from 1995 to 2005 and has been a prominent reporter and commentator in the Gulf since the 1980s.

In messages on Twitter, the Dubai Media Office said Mr Matthew had been charged with murder added that investigations were continuing. It said Mr Matthew’s case had been referred to prosecutors and he had confessed “to killing his wife because of marital issues”.

“Dubai Police received a call on Tuesday from the defendant claiming that his wife was assaulted by burglars at their house in Jumeirah, Dubai,” the media office wrote.

“Initial reports showed that death resulted from a strong blow on the head with a hard object, which raised suspicion about the husband. Suspect confessed committing the murder to Dubai Police, he was then referred to Juvenile & Family Prosecution in presence of legal interpreter.

“Suspect confessed during public prosecution’s interrogation that he assaulted his wife and threw hammer at her without intending to kill her. Dubai Public Prosecution has charged the husband with murder under federal penal law; investigations in the case are continuing.”

Gulf News staff were said to have been stunned by his arrest. "We are shocked and saddened at this tragedy," said Abdul Hamid Ahmad, editor-in-chief of the English-language daily.

He said he "will not speculate" on the cause of Ms Matthew's death, adding: "Francis is in police custody and we have no comments to offer. We pray to the Almighty that her soul rests in peace and that the family is given the strength and patience to overcome this very difficult situation. Gulf News’s thoughts and prayers are with the family. We request that the family be given the privacy they need to cope with their grief.” Mr Ahmad told the Daily Mail he had met Ms Matthew on a number of occasions and described her and her husband as "very happy".

Jumeirah is an upmarket residential area on Dubai's seafront that is popular with expats. The Matthews married in Chippenham, Wiltshire, in 1985. Their son John was reported to have travelled to Dubai to try to visit his father in custody.

Mr Matthew continued to write regularly for Gulf News, including a weekly column, after stepping down as editor. He also often appeared as a commentator on Gulf TV stations. "He is a well-respected journalist, known for his keen insight into the Middle East," Mr Ahmad said.

"Both Francis and Jane have played a very active role in the British expatriate community over the past 30 years."

A staff member at the paper told Arab TV station Al Arabiya that Mr Matthew was "absolutely the last person I can think of who is a prototype who could kill his wife".