ABU DHABI // A man who has confessed to the brutal murder of a prominent Dubai businesswoman had been a close family friend for more than 20 years and owed the woman money.
The body of Lorna Lim Varona, a 51-year-old Filipina, was found in the boot of an abandoned car nearly a week after she went missing last Sunday from her home in Dubai.
Mrs Varona’s husband Pablo reported her disappearance the next day. On Friday police in Sharjah were alerted to the presence of an abandoned dark green Jaguar S-Type in Industrial Area 11, and discovered Mrs Varona’s body stuffed inside a bag in the boot. She had been stabbed at least six times.
The next day police arrested a Filipino man in his fifties, who confessed to the murder.
"He is a close friend of the family and we've known him for 20 years," Mr Varona said. "It would not have happened to Lorna had she not been so soft-hearted. That man owes her a lot of money."
Mr Varona has lived in Dubai since 1978. The couple met in 1980 and married a year later.
Mrs Varona launched the popular Capricorn Bakery in Karama in 1987 and sold it in 2004. At the time of her death she owned four businesses: Seaworld Tourism, a typing office, a general trading company and Capricorn Star Building Cleaning and Technical Services.
"She was very strict and often got angry with me," said Josefinita Casano, 54, who met Mrs Varona in 2003 and has worked as a receptionist at Seaworld Tourism in Al Rigga, Deira, since 2005. "But I wouldn't have stayed in this company for a long time if I didn't like it. She was a good boss."
She said the arrested man often visited their office to discuss business ideas with Mrs Varona.
Apart from a being a successful entrepreneur, Mrs Varona also brought up four children: Maria Lourdes, 29, Joseph Luke, 27, Joseph Louis, 26, and Maria Liza, 24.
Maria Lourdes flew to Dubai on Thursday to assist her father in the search for her mother. She and her two brothers live in the Philippines, where the family has a home in Paranaque City, Metro Manila. Joseph Louis will join his sisters and father in Dubai this week and Joseph Luke will take care of the funeral arrangements in the Philippines.
"I miss her already and love her so much," Maria Lourdes said. "I feel so sad that I didn't tell her this the last time we spoke, but deep in my heart I truly love and appreciate her for everything she has done for me."
She last spoke to her mother in mid-August, when she called from the Philippines to catch up.
"She would always tell me that among her four children, I am the luckiest since I am the first child and I had her undivided care and attention when I was a baby," she said.
"She was a wonderful mom who taught me a lot of things that she was good at - cooking, talking to people - and moulded me to be a responsible and well-disciplined daughter, sister and woman."
Maria Liza, the youngest child, helped her mother in the family businesses in Dubai. "I'm at the stage where I'm still coming to terms with her loss," she said. "She was strict but very loving and approachable."
Mr Varona said the family would wait for police to conclude their investigation before taking Mrs Varona's body home for burial in Manila.
The UAE chapter of Migrante, a migrant right's group, urged Filipino diplomats to provide assistance to both the victim's family and the arrested man.
"The consulate should assist in the repatriation of the woman's body after investigations are completed," said Ryan Kim Pescadera, the group's secretary-general.
He said the consulate in Dubai should use the Philippine foreign affairs' legal assistance fund to provide the arrested man with a UAE defence lawyer.
* Additional reporting by Yasin Kakande