Monday, November 17, 2014

London hammer attacker of UAE women jailed for 18 years

A British judge on Monday handed out a life sentence with a minimum of 18 years in prison for a thief who brutally attacked three sisters from the United Arab Emirates in a London hotel room with a claw hammer.

Drug addict Philip Spence, 33, attacked the tourists as they slept with their children at the four-star Cumberland Hotel on April 6, in an incident that raised concern about the safety of visitors from the Gulf.

Afterwards he made off with iPads, gold jewellery and mobile phones, before dumping the claw hammer near the crime scene.

"You used deliberate and gratuitous violence over what was needed to carry out the robbery," judge Anthony Leonard said as he passed sentence on Spence, who was found guilty of attempted murder last month.

The Emirati sisters -- Ohoud, Khulood and Fatima al-Najja -- were sharing adjoining rooms in the hotel and had left their doors open to allow a fourth sister to return later.

Spence crept in and was seen by Khulood shortly before 1:30am, rifling through handbags. His subsequent sustained and ferocious attack left all three women unconscious.

He hit Ohoud, 34, so hard that her skull split open. She now has only five percent brain function, has lost one eye and cannot speak.

"It is nothing short of a miracle combined with the finest medical attention that led to Ohoud surviving the attack," the judge said.

Khulood, 37, and Fatima, 31, still require medical treatment for their injuries.

Neofitos "Thomas" Efremi, 57, was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and providing Spence with the claw hammer.

He was sentenced to 14 years in jail and was told he would serve half his sentence before being released on license.

A third conspirator, 34-year-old James Moss, pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods and was given a 21-month suspended sentence.

The police have sought to reassure Gulf visitors since the incident, one of a series of attacks on wealthy Emiratis earlier this year.

The UAE foreign ministry earlier warned visitors that Oxford Street, the main shopping thoroughfare, plus the neighbouring areas of Soho and Piccadilly, and Edgware Road -- often considered the heartland of Arab London -- were the "most dangerous areas".