x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Hotel carpark attack woman mourned

'Innocent and young' victim was the sole breadwinner in her family.

Hannah Mwikamba is comforted after news that her daughter Esther died.
Hannah Mwikamba is comforted after news that her daughter Esther died.

DUBAI // A woman who was brutally beaten in a hotel carpark while trying to protect her friend died yesterday after 31 days in a coma.

Esther Wanjiru Mwikamba, 26, from Kenya, had been unconscious at Rashid Hospital since the attack in the early hours of February 18 behind the Crowne Plaza on Sheikh Zayed Road, when she was punched to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the head.

A man who confessed to attacking her has been in custody since last month, and will now be charged with assault leading to death - punishable by a prison term of between three and 10 years.

AM, 23 an Emirati, was initially charged with sexual and physical assault. He was denied bail after his arrest because Esther's condition was critical.

Prosecutors are waiting for a witness to the attack to return to the country. When her evidence has been recorded and the results of the postmortem examination have been released by the medical examiner, AM will be referred to the Criminal Court of First Instance.

Esther was with two friends in the car park of the hotel when AM harassed one of them by touching her inappropriately. When Esther tried to stop him, he attacked her, prosecutors say.

Esther's younger sister Lucy Wanjiru said she wanted people to know what had happened to her sister, who had worked as a retail sales assistant in Dubai Mall. "I forgive the man who did this: God will punish him," she said.

"None of the family members came to us to say sorry. She was the sole breadwinner in my family. The man took her away from us."

Lucy was at her sister's bedside when she died at 8am yesterday. "I saw her going in front my eyes," she said. "I won't forget it.

"I miss her so much. She was innocent and young. But God made the decision. What can we do about it?"

The Kenyan ambassador, Mohammad Gello, visited Rashid Hospital yesterday to pay his respects to the family.

Mike Ogolla, secretary of Kenya Welfare Association, said Esther's body would be repatriated to her native town of Thika, about 45 kilometres from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

"That's where she was living and the family still stays there, including her brother and sister. We have yet to break the news to them because one of her sisters is pregnant and we don't want to shock her."

He said Kenyan community members in the UAE has been phoning and visiting all day to offer condolences. "The entire Kenyan community has been affected. Losing a life is not an easy thing to forget. We are praying for the family."

When Esther's mother was told her daughter would not recover, she was taken to hospital with high blood pressure, said Aggrey Oguto, vice chairman of Kenya Welfare Association.

"We want to provide support to the family as much as possible in this difficult situation," she said. "The mother is not feeling well and is also in hospital. Our committee members will sit together about what should be done next and how the body can be repatriated to Kenya and given a proper burial."

Penninah Nyokabi Kirku, a close friend of Esther who visited her every day, said: "Everyone is in a state of shock. We lost a wonderful human being. It's a sad moment for us."

frahman@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Salam Al Amir