x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Hotel worker charged with killing of Dubai executive

An employee of the New York hotel where a Dubai businesswoman was found dead on Saturday is charged with murder.

An employee of the New York hotel where a Dubai businesswoman was found dead on Saturday has been charged with murder. Andree Bejjani, 44, who worked in property investment, was found in the Jumeirah Essex House hotel and apartment complex in Manhattan, where she rented a private flat.

A maid discovered her face down in a pool of blood, with a 10-inch bread knife protruding from her neck, reports say. Ms Bejjani, who was more commonly known as Sara, was from Lebanon but had lived and worked in Dubai for 20 years, splitting her time between the US and the UAE. Derrick Praileau, 29, a housekeeping manager at the hotel, was arrested on Sunday and charged with second-degree murder, according to a spokesman from the New York Police Department.

The hotel, operated by the Dubai-based Jumeirah Group, said in a statement yesterday that the suspect was a "long-term hotel employee". "Our sincere condolences go out to the victim's family. We continue to fully co-operate with the police throughout their investigation. It is now a criminal matter and is being handled accordingly." Police said they tracked the use of hotel key cards Mr Praileau is thought to have used to gain access to the apartment, which put him at the scene near the time of the attack.

Ms Bejjani had been at the hotel, which overlooks Central Park, since August. She ran her own company, Royal Investments LLC, from Dubai before joining the US-based multinational Carlton Advisory Services, a property investment firm, last year as vice president. Her job there was to find Gulf investors for US markets, although she also maintained her role at the firm she founded. According to a former Carlton colleague, she split her time between Dubai and New York, before leaving the company this summer to focus on Royal Investments.

Mr Praileau, who lives in Bronx, New York, has been denied bail, according to the police. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it it did not appear that Mr Praileau and Ms Bejjani had a "previous relationship". The 605-room, 75-year-old art deco hotel was bought by Dubai Investment Group in 2005. lmorris@thenational.ae