A BRITISH woman working abroad was raped and brutally murdered by an Uber driver before he dumped her body, an inquest has heard.
Rebecca Dykes, 30, was picked up by Tariq Houshieh in December 2017 following a “girl’s night out” at a popular tourist bar in Beirut, Lebanon.
But after she got into the cab, Houshieh raped her, strangled her to death with a cord from his hoodie and dumped her body by the side of the road.
Rebecca had been working for the Department for International Development helping Lebanon to cope with refugees from the war in Syria.
Her body was found near a road on December 16, 2017, with choke marks around her neck.
Houshieh was handed a death sentence in 2019 – but is appealing to have it commuted, reports MyLondon.
And it was revealed that he was working as a taxi driver – despite having a criminal record and twice being arrested for alleged harassment and theft, according to Agence-France Presse.
At a much delayed inquest into her death at the Inner South London Coroner’s court in Southwark on Wednesday, senior coroner Andrew Harrison quizzed British embassy in Beirut post security officer Alyson King about the security arrangements in place as he considered the need for a prevention of future deaths report.
Alyson noted staff have a security brief on arrival, carry personal alarms, have monthly security meetings, regular workshops, and women’s only sessions.
In 2017 staff were also advised to only use three vetted taxi companies for personal travel – this meant anything done outside of the secure arrangements made for work.
These three firms were covered in the security brief, the court heard.
But she admitted: “It came to light afterwards, many staff were using other taxi companies when they found them convenient.”
Coroner Harrison pressed her on the issue, and said: “That suggested the brief was inadequate or not accepted as necessary…Were you satisfied with the adequacy of the briefing?”
Alyson said “yes” but added they continue to update the briefing.
Coroner Harrison continued the grilling by asking how her response tallied with “extensive use of none approved taxi firms at that time”.
Alyson said she was not in post at the time and would have to check meeting records to see if the issue was brought up.
Coroner Harrison suggested Rebecca’s family would “deeply appreciate” an answer and encouraged them to consult the Foreign & Commonwealth Office after the hearing.
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office head of security Bharat Joshi said a special security visit after Rebecca’s death concluded the “security culture was very very strong”.
Baffled by the claim, coroner Harrison asked: “If the security culture was so strong why were so many staff using unregistered taxi services?”
Joshi responded, telling the court many staff “choose to not follow that advice”.
He also noted “many people had been using Uber across Lebanon and there had never been a serious incident”.
He explained this was due to the “familiarity” of Uber as a global brand and convenience.
He recalled complaints by staff using the three vetted cab companies they had to wait “15-20 minutes”.
In an emotional speech via video link, Rebecca’s mum Jane Houng said: “I just hope that no parent has to go through what we have had to go through.
“One thing that pained me very much was that now embassy staff wear personal alarms.
“I think if Rebecca had been wearing a personal alarm at that point in time it probably would have saved her life.
“When I went to Lebanon shortly after her death and sat around the table with Rebecca’s friends and colleagues they all said they used Uber. It was common place for personal travel.”
Making his conclusion of unlawful killing, coroner Harrison summed up the “deeply tragic” hearing and said there were “gaps in understanding” of the security arrangements at the time.
But, he noted “great steps were taken” in the five years since and it was “a matter for security” as “nothing in life is risk free”. He added: “The risks are known and the steps have been taken.”