Beirut (AFP) – A driver arrested over the murder of British embassy worker Rebecca Dykes in the Lebanese capital Beirut has confessed to killing her, a judicial source told AFP on Monday.
The driver with ride-hailing giant Uber admitted strangling the 30-year-old after trying to rape her late on Friday night.
“The prisoner has confessed that he took advantage of the drunken state of the young woman and he drove towards a highway without her realising. He pulled over in a quiet place,” the judicial source told AFP.
“When he began to sexually assault her, she resisted, she was able to escape from the car and started to scream, until he took her back to the car and strangled her,” the source added.
Dykes was last seen alive at a party in Gemmayzeh, a Beirut neighbourhood popular with foreign residents, on Friday night and left in the suspect’s car.
Her body was found dumped on the side of the road north of Beirut early the following evening.
The suspect was arrested on Monday after being tracked down on security camera footage, according to the Lebanese National News Agency.
A senior security official had told AFP that strangulation was the likely cause of death and added that Dykes was found with string tied around her neck.
Uber said it was assisting Lebanese authorities in their investigation.
“We are horrified by this senseless act of violence. Our hearts are with the victim and her family,” a company spokesman told AFP in London.
The company’s driver identification and rating system is seen by many, especially women, as offering better safety guarantees than when hailing a cab off the street in Lebanon.
The Lebanese judicial source told AFP the suspect has a criminal past and was arrested twice for alleged harassment and theft related to customers — a claim refuted by Uber.
“We have had no complaints from riders regarding harassment or theft with regards to this driver,” the Uber spokesman said.
– Murder ‘not politically motivated’ –
Such crime is rare in Beirut, a city which is considered generally safe, including for tourists and foreign residents.
A senior official in Lebanon had stressed that the murder was “not politically motivated”.
A picture of the young woman, who worked at the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID), was on the front pages of many UK papers on Monday.
Her family said they would “never fully recover” from their loss, while thanking the authorities for a fast-paced and thorough investigation.
“For Becky to have her life cruelly taken away in these circumstances is devastating to our family,” they said in a statement passed on by the Foreign Office.
The British ambassador in Beirut, Hugo Shorter, expressed his grief in a statement and messages of support for her family and colleagues poured in from the city’s shell-shocked diplomatic and aid community.