Riyadh Alazzawi's world fell apart when his wife, the singer Suzan Tamim, was slain in Dubai.
'It was the end of my dream'
LONDON // It is a simple, loving email from a wife in Dubai to her husband in England. Yet as Riyadh Alazzawi pores over it today, reading and re-reading it for the umpteenth time, it brings him a dreadful mixture of both comfort and immeasurable grief. "I'm gonna wait for you for a lifetime - and even after a lifetime. But, please, don't be that late," says the email. "Everything has a different taste with you in it."
The message was written at 11.52pm on July 26. The wife was Suzan Tamim, the beautiful, talented Lebanese singer. And it was to be the last email she ever wrote. Sometime over the next 24 hours or so, a paid assassin entered the couple's recently purchased apartment at the Jumeirah Beach Residence and cut the 30-year-old singer's throat. "My world fell apart," Mr Alazzawi told The National in an exclusive interview in London.
"We were planning to settle in Dubai and start a new life there because we thought she would be safe there. We just wanted to be together, to raise a family and grow old together. "She had decided that she never wanted to sing again professionally. It had caused her so many problems ... money problems, personal problems. She used to tell me that people wanted to take advantage of her. Everybody wanted a piece of her - to control her, own her, even marry her. It was such an unhappy time for her."
Tamim became adored by millions and, according to Egyptian police, one of those who fell under her spell was Hisham Talaat Moustafa, a billionaire Cairo property tycoon and a member of the Egyptian parliament for the ruling National Democratic Party. He was arrested this month and today stands accused of paying a hitman, a former Egyptian policeman, US$2 million (Dh7.3m) to kill Tamim after she spurned his advances. Moustafa, 48, is due to go on trial next month and denies any wrongdoing, blaming "enemies of success" for fabricating a case against him.
Mr Alazzawi, a world, European and British kickboxing champion at 91kg, says even when a mutual friend first introduced him to his wife-to-be over lunch at Harrods in 2006, she already believed she was being stalked. He denies press reports that Tamim and Moustafa had been lovers but maintains the Egyptian businessman wanted a relationship. Mr Alazzawi, who married Tamim in April last year, says the singer believed she was being followed. "We gave names to the [London's Metropolitan] police and mentioned serious threats but they did not take any action.
"We lived a very private life as a result. We avoided places where they could spy on us. It was terrible strain but we believed in the love between us. I was willing to do anything to defend her." In the spring of this year, the couple decided to move to Dubai permanently to start a new life. "We thought nobody knew we were going," says Mr Alazzawi. "I stayed in England for a few days because I had business to finish up here and she went out to sort out the apartment and also to get some driving lessons because she needed to take a driving test there.
"I thought she was safe. She has a cousin there and he said he would look after her. We spoke on the phone all the time and texted and emailed. "Then I phoned her one morning and she did not pick up. I sent her a text message and she did not reply. She always replied to my text messages and phone calls straight away. But not this time. "I thought that, maybe, she was having her driving test, so I waited an hour but, when I had still not heard anything, I started phoning again.
"In the end, I called her cousin and he said he had not been able to reach her, either. So I asked him to go to the apartment." Mr Alazzawi then had another agonising wait, not realising that Tamim's cousin had, indeed, gone to the apartment and found her lying dead in a pool of blood. "I tried to phone him but, now, he did not answer. It was because he was with the police, but I did not know that. So I called his driver and he told me that there had been a crime.
"When I was told what had happened, I could not believe it. I did not really believe it until I saw it on television. It was the end of my dream ... the best time of my life. Being with her was like living in a most romantic movie. "I learnt a lot from her. She was such a strong person. She used to tell me that I must stay strong no matter what. Now I am trying to stay strong, but it is not easy without her."
Mr Alazzawi plans to attend the trial of the two men accused of his wife's murder, "because I need to try and understand what happened and why". He also intends to pursue his sporting career. "It was what she would have wanted," he says. "She used to give me a huge hug when I fought and used to call me 'Champ'. I am going to continue fighting because I want to show how our love has made me strong. I feel like she's watching me, so I feel I have to.
"She was such a great person - she never did anything wrong. All she wanted was for us to be able to settle down and have a family together. Now, that will never be." Every night since his wife's death, Mr Alazzawi has gone to a quiet spot along the River Thames where the couple had some of their happiest moments - a place where they would talk, laugh and make plans for their future together. In one of her last text messages to her husband, Tamim told him she was "counting the hours and the days" until they could be together again.
All that he can now count are the days since she was taken from him. firstname.lastname@example.org