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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

UK embassy worker murdered in Beirut was 'passionate about helping people'

The 30-year-old was found dead early on Saturday morning on the side of a motorway outside Beirut

Rebecca Dykes's family said she was passionate about helping people. Photo courtesy of the family
Rebecca Dykes's family said she was passionate about helping people. Photo courtesy of the family

The family of British embassy employee Rebecca Dykes remembered her on Tuesday as someone who was “passionate about helping people” as friends continued to express shock at her murder.

Dykes, 30, was found dead early on Saturday morning on the side of a motorway outside Beirut. On Sunday, Lebanese police arrested an Uber driver who they say has confessed to the murder.

A source within the Lebanese internal security forces said suspects could be legally held for 48 hours before appearing before a judge, but that this time period could be extended. It was unclear whether the alleged killer would appear in court on Tuesday.

The source also told The National he could not confirm news reports that Dykes had been sexually assaulted nor whether the man arrested had a previous criminal record, as had also been reported.

There have been no suggestions that the murder may have been politically motivated. The British embassy on Tuesday declined to comment on details of the investigation.

Friends of Dykes have posted messages on Facebook expressing their shock and sadness. She had been attending a going-away party for a colleague in Gemmayzeh, an east Beirut neighbourhood popular for its nightlife, before she disappeared.

“I suggested the bar we went to on Friday night. I take Ubers in Beirut all the time. If we’d gone somewhere else she’d still be alive. If I’d got in that car I’d be dead. I’m so sorry, Becky, for the violence men do to us,” Bethan McKernan, a British journalist in Beirut, posted on her Facebook page.

Dykes had worked as a programme and policy manager with the British government's department for international development (Difid) in Lebanon since January.

Before that, she had worked in London on diplomatic programmes related to Iraq and Libya, her LinkedIn page said.

On Tuesday, the British embassy in Lebanon posted a statement from Dykes’s family on its official Facebook page.

“Becky was genuine, generous, and loving, as anyone who knew her would agree. She was intelligent, ambitious, and dedicated to her work,” the statement read. “Becky had a love of travelling, and was passionate about helping people. She always wanted to make the world a better place — her humanitarian work in Beirut was testament to that.

“For Becky to have her life cruelly taken away in these circumstances is devastating to our family. Becky is simply irreplaceable and we will never fully recover from this loss.

“We also thank the press for the restraint that has been shown so far in reporting this matter and ask for continued respect for our privacy as we grieve as a family. We will not be making any further comment until it is appropriate to do so.”

Uber spokesman Harry Porter told Reuters on Monday that the company was "horrified by this senseless act of violence".

"Our hearts are with the victim and her family,” he added. “We are working with authorities to assist their investigation in any way we can.”

Mr Porter said the company used commercially licensed taxi drivers in Lebanon, and that the government carries out background checks and grants licenses.

The security source who spoke to The National said he did not know whether the alleged killer, who has been identified by three different names in the press — Tarek Harb, Tarek Hesso and Tarek Houshieh — had a taxi licence.

Uber’s system for carrying out background checks on drivers has come under scrutiny in a number of countries since 2014.