A wave of gloom swept across the local and expatriate communities as reports from London said that the Emirati woman attacked in her hotel room in a suspected burglary bid last weekend has lost an eye and is significantly brain-damaged.
Philip Spence, a 32-year-old from London who is accused of the attack, was remanded in custody on three counts of attempted murder and one of aggravated burglary, while three others have been charged with handling stolen goods. The three victims of the hammer attack are all in their 30s and were in London on a shopping trip.
“The main victim suffered life-threatening head and facial injuries, has lost her left eye and significant quantities of blood,” Detective-Inspector Adam Ghaboos said in London. “Doctors have assessed that she has five per cent brain function, although her other organs are in good working function,” he added.
Another sister suffered two fractures to her skull, a broken left arm and a fractured cheekbone, and is due to undergo two operations in the coming week. The third sister has a fracture to her skull and a ruptured left eardrum. She was released from hospital on Tuesday but was readmitted the following day with severe head pain.
Emiratis as well as expats on Saturday expressed shock at the latest condition of the main victim. “It’s really heartbreaking to hear this. I feel very sad for her and the family. I wish this wouldn’t ever happen to anyone — whether it’s Emirati or any other nationality,” said Sumayyah Al Suwaidi, Emirati digital artist, owner of Grafika Boutique and designer of SEEN fashion label.
“I hope that after this incident people will be more careful while travelling. We are living in a very safe country and since we are used to the high comfort level our nation has provided, we tend to be in the same mental cocoon while travelling abroad. What happens often is we forget the fact that we are in a different country and continue to move around like in the UAE,” she said.
“We had not been taking the kind of safety measures we should have when we are outside. But that comes with experience. A well-travelled person would know what measures to take,” said Sumayyah, who is a frequent traveller and one of a few Emirati designers who had debuted in the London Fashion Week.
“If you are in a hotel room and somebody knocks on your door, the first thing you should do is to call the reception and find out if they have sent someone up. And if you are planning to open the door, you should make sure the chain is in the latch,” she said.
But she said this has nothing to do with London. “It can happen anywhere in the world. It’s better to be safe, even in our own country. You never know what kind of psychos are on the prowl.”
Three children were asleep in an adjoining room when the three women were brutally attacked with a hammer in their room at the four-star Cumberland Hotel in the early hours of Sunday morning last week. However, the children were unharmed.
Property worth more than £1,000 (Dh6,150) was taken and withdrawals totalling £3,000 were made on one of the victims’ bank cards, according to the police.
Sara Ibrahim Al Shikar, who works for the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said: “It’s so sad to hear this story. I travel to London every now and then. After this incident, I feel vulnerable. You could blame it on fate but at the same time we should take all precautions.
“Hearing the compatriot’s condition, we all want the culprit to pay a heavy price through the legal means. I believe that what has happened is for a reason — to make us aware that we need to be alert and take care. But the million dollar question is where was the security at the hotel. Wasn’t there a camera in the corridor?” she said.
Dubai resident Nizar Ahmad, 41, said: “What happened to the Emirati women is both appalling and unfortunate. The wrongdoer must be punished and I pray that the woman who has been hurt the most has a speedy recovery.”
“It is such an unfortunate incident for the three women. No one deserves to undergo such an ordeal. I hope they recover soon,” said Jennifer D’Souza, 21.
Suspect Spence will appear in court with Thomas Efremi, 56, who is charged with handling stolen goods and fraud by false representation, and James Moss, 33 who is also charged with handling stolen goods.
Carly Baker, 31 has been charged with handling stolen goods and has been bailed to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ on Tuesday.
A 34-year-old man has been bailed to return pending further inquiries on a date in May.