Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

Tears as Emirati sisters proclaim their right to safety in London hotel attack court case

Lawyers for the Cumberland hotel say the sisters should not have left their hotel door wedged open

Five years after the attack the sisters are suing hotel owner GLH for allegedly having inadequate security at the West End hotel.  i-Images
Five years after the attack the sisters are suing hotel owner GLH for allegedly having inadequate security at the West End hotel.  i-Images

Closing arguments are underway as three Emirati sisters seek compensation after suffering serious injuries in a hammer attack at a London hotel.

Fatima, Khulood and Ohoud Al Najjar were attacked by Philip Spence, then 33, who had entered their hotel room on the seventh floor of the Cumberland hotel in order to steal valuables on April 6 2014.

Spence was sentenced to 27 years in prison for the drug-fuelled, frenzied attack on the women in front of Khulood Al Najjar’s children and the three women are now suing the hotel, owned by Malaysian firm GLH, for compensation.

Their legal team said the building’s security was inadequate in a number of ways, allowing Mr Spence to enter the hotel on the ground floor and make his way directly to a lift unchallenged by security. He scouted out the fifth and sixth floors before entering the sisters’ room on the seventh floor through a door left on the latch, their lawyer Susan Rodway told the court on the opening day of the hearing.

The claimant’s security expert identified a number of failings which he maintained could have prevented Spence from gaining access to the guest floors of the hotel. These included no standard for access control to the guest floors, no regular updating or review of security standards or procedures and a lack of risk management reporting.

Ms Rodway also mentioned failures to install and monitor effective CCTV in common areas and the creation of the “least secure lobby one could consider” during a £85 million (Dh407.3mn) redesign of the hotel in 2004.

Mr Neil Block, for the hotel, said the claimant’s case was based on “might heaped upon might heaped upon might,” rather than factual submissions proving the hotel’s obligation towards the sisters, adding that the attack had been unforeseeable.

He also claimed sisters Sheikha Al Muhairi and Ohoud Al Najjar were guilty of contributory negligence because Sheikha had left the door on the latch at Ohoud’s request when she could not find the keycard for the room.

Earlier in the hearing, Ms Al Muhairi said she left the door on the latch at the behest of her sister Ohoud, who could not find the key.

In a tearful testimony to the court last week, she said: “When we travel, to us, it is normal to leave the door open because we believe we are in a secure place”.

In a written submission to the court, Mr Block wrote: "Each guest room was fitted with a heavy duty fire door with efficient self-closers and automatic locks, deadlocks, security chains and spy-glasses. The rooms were designed so that guests could not leave them open accidentally."

"We didn't assume a responsibility with regards to the entry of Mr Spence into a bedroom where the door was deliberately left ajar,” Mr Block told the court on Tuesday.

The defence gave a closing statement on Tuesday, with the claimants due to close their case on Wednesday. Justice Dingemans will then retire to consider the case.

Since the attack, Khulood Al Najjar has undergone 20 surgeries to rebuild her face and skull, and Ohoud Al Najjar was left with severe brain damage and just one eye.

Meanwhile, Khulood’s daughter Noura, who was 11 at the time needs therapy to help her come to terms with the ordeal.

Both Fatima and Khulood Al Najjar appeared at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday to hear closing arguments.

Updated: May 22, 2019 07:38 AM

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