Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 August 2019

Emirati sisters attacked by drug addict to sue London hotel

The family of three Emirati sisters left for dead in a vicious hammer attack are suing the London hotel where the brutal assault happened.
Lawyers acting for the family allege the Cumberland Hotel failed in its duty of care to guests and No character style: to operate a security system that would protect against foreseeable risks. Randi Sokoloff for The National
Lawyers acting for the family allege the Cumberland Hotel failed in its duty of care to guests and No character style: to operate a security system that would protect against foreseeable risks. Randi Sokoloff for The National

The family of three Emirati sisters left for dead in a vicious hammer attack are suing the London hotel where the brutal assault happened.

Philip Spence, a drug addict, is serving a life sentence for the attack on Khuloud, Ohoud and Fatima Al Najjar, from Sharjah.

The women were in London on a shopping trip in 2014 when Spence was disturbed during a botched burglary and attacked the women with a claw hammer.

One of the sisters, Ohoud, has been left disabled. Khuloud and Fatima suffer a range of symptoms as a result of the attacks, including epilepsy and emotional and behavioural disturbances.

London’s High Court will hear a claim against the upmarket Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch for injury, loss and damage on behalf of six other family members, three of them children, who were also on the trip.

Lawyers acting for the family allege the hotel failed in its duty of care to guests and to operate a security system that would protect against foreseeable risks.

Riffat Yaqub, a specialist personal injury solicitor at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, alleges that the hotel failed to take account of advice offered by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office in 2012 against threats such as burglary.

“This is a truly shocking case of a family who were holidaying in London and rightly expected they would be safe in their hotel beds,” Ms Yaqub said.

“The attacks have destroyed their lives and the damage caused is irreversible. As well as physical damage to the sisters, all nine members of the family have suffered psychiatric trauma as a result of the horrific attacks.”

Spence was a drug user and violent criminal with 37 previous convictions for 62 offences. He was familiar with the hotel, having visited it frequently to sleep in cupboards and to steal.

After entering one of the rooms being used by the family, Spence was disturbed mid-burglary by Khuloud. He attacked her with the hammer, striking her at least six times on the head, face and left arm, before she lost consciousness.

Her sister, Fatima, awoke and attempted to protect her. She was struck at least three times about the head and face, before she too lost consciousness. Khuloud’s daughter, who was 11 at the time, suffered a fractured arm trying to protect her mother and aunt.

Spence also went on to attack the third sister, Ohoud.

He was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Following an appeal, Spence was ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years in November 2014.

The hotel is contesting the sisters’ claim.

“Philip Spence bears sole responsibility for the brutal injuries he inflicted on a family staying with us three years ago,” a Cumberland Hotel spokesman said.

“The incident shocked the hospitality industry as a whole, not least as it was unprecedented, unforeseeable and unprovoked.

“The Al Najjar sisters have since remained in our thoughts and we continue to wish them progress in their recovery. Notwithstanding our sincere sympathies, the hotel cannot accept liability given the facts surrounding the incident, which include these guests having left their hotel bedroom door ajar, visible from the corridor, while the family was asleep inside. The claim is being contested.”

The hotel claims each room has self-locking mechanisms on every bedroom door.

“The Al Najjar family suffered an unimaginable and unprecedented ordeal at the hands of a stranger who was swiftly apprehended, tried and convicted with our full support,” the spokesman added.

“Philip Spence’s actions affected all those who sought to help the Al Najjar family that night.”

nwebster@thenational.ae

Updated: March 22, 2017 04:00 AM

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