x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Memorial mass for UAE murder victim

Hundreds turn out for funeral mass of Filipina who was brutally murdered and found stuffed in the boot of her car.

Maria Lourdes Varona, her father Pablo, brother Louis and family members of Lorna Lim Varona attend the eulogy mass at St Mary's in Dubai.
Maria Lourdes Varona, her father Pablo, brother Louis and family members of Lorna Lim Varona attend the eulogy mass at St Mary's in Dubai.

DUBAI // Friends, relatives and employees of a murdered Filipina businesswoman yesterday paid tribute to her at a special mass.

The memorial for Lorna Lim Varona, at St Mary's Catholic Church on Oud Metha Road, praised her as an inspiration due to her success in business and as a mother of four.

Mrs Varona, 51, was found murdered on August 31, nearly a week after being reported missing. She had been stabbed at least six times.

Police found her body stuffed in a bag in the boot of her car, a green Jaguar S-Type, in Sharjah's Industrial Area 11.

More than a hundred people - including her husband, Pablo, 65, daughters Maria Lourdes 29, and Maria Liza, 24, and son Joseph Louis, 26 - attended the private service officiated by Tomasito Veneracion, the parish priest.

"It is difficult to reconcile the emotions among family members and the idea that God loves us," said Father Veneracion. "To lose someone you love is tragic and this person is irreplaceable.

"It is not easy for me standing here in front of you. This mass is not only for Lorna but for everyone who is still around. It would be difficult without your mum, without your wife, but life goes on.

"To friends and relatives, your presence is important at this time of sorrow.

"They need your prayers and support, and that's the least you can do at this moment of difficulty and mourning."

John Martinez, 63, a marine supervisor at McDermott Middle East in Dubai and a colleague of Mr Varona, said: "You can say that I'm a close family friend as I've known Pablo since 1986. No one wanted this to happen, especially the way she died. We can only offer the family our heartfelt condolences."

Sheryl Lucanas, 32, a member of the sales staff at Mrs Varona's company, Capricorn General Trading, said her employer had taught her discipline and punctuality.

"We will miss her a lot," she said. "She's strict when it comes to work but was kind to all her employees."

Mrs Varona helped her siblings travel to Dubai, with many finding work here, her brother said.

"I've been here since 1992 and helped her run Capricorn Bakery," said Jess Lim, 43, who now works as a warehouse staffer at Magrudy's. "It's in her nature to be strict but that's her way of showing concern for all of us."

Mrs Varona launched the popular Capricorn Bakery in Karama in 1987 and sold it in 2004. At the time of her death she owned four businesses: Seaworld Tourism, a typing office, a general trading company and Capricorn Star Building Cleaning and Technical Services.

In 2006, Mr Lim donated his kidney to Mrs Varona when one of hers was failing.

"I know how she worked hard in raising her four children and in her businesses," he said. "She helped all her siblings. If not for her, we wouldn't be here in the UAE."

At the end of the service, Maria Lourdes thanked well-wishers for their support and prayers.

"We hope you would continue to pray for our mum because until now, we still don't have her body," she said. "We'd like to take her home so she would have a proper burial that she deserves."

Mr Varona, who did not speak at the service, later said he was overwhelmed by the support from colleagues and management at McDermott, where he has worked since arriving in the UAE in 1978.

He met Mrs Varona, who worked as a receptionist at Hyatt Regency, in 1980. They married a year later.

Their son, Joseph Luke, 27, was not at the memorial service and had to remain in the Philippines to make funeral arrangements. The wake is likely to be held at La Funeraria Paz, with the burial at the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque City, Metro Manila.

Police will release Mrs Varona's body when they have concluded their investigation. "We'd really like to take her home as soon as possible," Mr Varona said.

The family will visit Sharjah public prosecution with a UAE-based lawyer today to speak to officials.

rruiz@thenational.ae