Uber driver who killed British embassy worker in Lebanon sentenced to death

1 November 2019, 19:20

Rebecca Dykes' killer sentenced to death
Rebecca Dykes' killer sentenced to death. Picture: Family handout/FCO
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A Lebanese Uber driver has been sentenced to death for raping and killing Rebecca Dykes in Beirut nearly two years ago, according to the country's state news agency.

The 30-year-old British diplomat was strangled to death with a rope by Tarek Houshieh hours before she was due to fly home for Christmas.

Tarek Houshieh confessed to the "senseless" attack of Rebecca Dykes, whose body was left dumped by the side of a road on 16 December 2017.

The Uber driver was arrested two days after her body was found. Lebanese authorities said Houshieh already had a criminal record prior to the murder.

Despite his confession Houshieh can challenge the sentence, however no executions have been carried out in the country since 2004 in spite of judges routinely issuing the death penalty in murder cases.

A candlelit vigil held in Lebanon for the embassy worker
A candlelit vigil held in Lebanon for the embassy worker. Picture: PA

Ms Dykes had been a UK Embassy worker in the Department for International Development since January 2017 and was described as "much loved" by her colleagues, who added she will be "deeply missed."

They said she was "a talented, devoted humanitarian, whose skill, expertise and passion improved the lives of many people."

Her work in Lebanon included helping the country deal with the mass number of refugees arriving from its war-torn neighbour, Syria.

The British embassy hoped the court's decision would give those close to Ms Dykes "a degree of closure" but reiterated that the UK government was opposed to the death penalty "in all circumstances."

On the night of the attack, the diplomat had been out with colleagues at a bar in the popular Gemmayzeh area of Beirut.

She left her friend's leaving party at around midnight on her own and was abducted by Houshieh, who was working for the company despite his alleged criminal record, after hailing an Uber.

Rebecca Dykes had been helping refugees settle in Lebanon
Rebecca Dykes had been helping refugees settle in Lebanon. Picture: Family handout/FCO

Ms Dykes' body was found near a motorway on the outskirts of the city with injuries that suggested she had been choked and sexually assaulted.

Houshieh was tracked down by police with the use of CCTV footage and activity on his phone.

He had spent six months in prison for stealing a motorbike according to Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar, with AFP saying he had been arrested for the harassment and theft of previous customers.

The murder, which Uber said it was "horrified" by, discouraged Lebanese people from using the taxi app which the country's interior minister Nohad Machnouk described as "not safe."

Ms Dykes' family set up the Rebecca Dykes foundation following the murder, which dedicates itself to creating stable communities in Lebanon with a focus on helping refugees.

They said she was "simply irreplaceable" and "wanted to make the world a better place"