x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Suspect confessed just hours after the murder

The confessions given to police by the murder suspect Derrick Praileau were revealed at his first court appearance on October 21.

ABU DHABI // The confessions given to police by the murder suspect Derrick Praileau were revealed at his first court appearance on October 21. They provide a harrowing account of the moments leading up to the brutal killing of Andree Bejjani in the New York hotel apartment where she lived. Praileau, 29, was arrested just hours after Ms Bejjani, who had lived and worked in Dubai before moving to New York in 2005, was stabbed to death.

He was the head of housekeeping at the exclusive hotel overlooking Central Park, and police believe he used his key card to let himself into the home of the 44-year-old Lebanese businesswoman, who had changed her first name to Sara. "Yes, I killed her," he told detectives in interviews shortly after the September 19 murder. "I went into the room and I strangled her. She got scared. I was on top of her telling her to chill. I made a mistake. I had seen her around. I put a pillow over her mouth. I don't know if I stabbed her. It's possible. I have to stop drinking because when I am drunk I want what I can't have and just take it," he said.

Despite the confession Praileau, who is married with two children, pleaded not guilty at a hearing in New York last week to first-degree murder and attempted rape. According to the statements released by police, when detectives arrived at Praileau's house that afternoon, he said: "I know why you're here. You're here about the girl, right?" He then pointed to the clothes and trainers he said he had worn that morning.

He claimed he had arrived at work at about 2.30 or 3am, despite the fact that his shift did not begin until 6am. He then said he went to eight rooms to make sure they were clean, before telling another housekeeping manager to tell his boss that he was sick and going home. He then claimed to have "accidentally" entered one hotel room on the ninth floor before letting himself into Ms Bejjani's room "by mistake" at about 8am.

In a separate, handwritten, signed confession, Praileau added that when he entered Ms Bejjani's flat she asked what he was doing there, and he apologised saying he had got the wrong room and left. "I came back and I lost it. I walked in, I choked her, I don't know why or how. I knew that she was dead," he said in the statement, adding that he then moved some linen into the hallway and "went to my office to finish my work".

"I don't know why I did this, I just panicked," he said. Praileau's defence lawyer, Richard Siracusa, was unable to be contacted for comment. @Email:lmorris@thenational.ae