Uber driver held over UK envoy’s death

British embassy worker Rebecca Dykes, 30, found dead on highway near Lebanese capital

A taxi driver has been arrested over the murder of a British embassy worker in Lebanon, whose body was found strangled and dumped at the side of a highway.

Rebecca Dykes, 30, who had been working for the Department of International Development, was discovered dead on Saturday next to a highway out of the capital.

A postmortem suggested she had been strangled and police sources told The Telegraph she had been sexually assaulted.

Dykes was found with string tied around her neck.

The 41-year-old man, identified only as Tarek H, was arrested at 3am yesterday morning, security sources said.

He is a driver for Uber with a previous arrest for drug use, a Lebanese security source said.

The Lebanese news agency said the Lebanese man had confessed to killing Dyke after she resisted when he sexually assaulted her.

Dykes, from London, had been out at a bar on Friday night for the farewell party of an embassy colleague in the central Gemmayzeh neighbourhood of the city.

She left with a friend before midnight, telling others she had an early flight home for Christmas.

A senior official in the judiciary said she had booked her vehicle using the Uber app, whose 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 driver picked her up from Gemmayzeh and drove to the nearby Achrafiyeh neighbourhood where she lived, but did not drop her off there.

Police traced the suspect’s car through surveillance cameras on the highway, where he dumped the body at about 4am, news agency NNA reported.

Security sources say the murder does not appear to be politically motivated.

A picture of the young woman was on the front pages of UK papers yesterday. Dykes had been working in Beirut as the programme and policy manager for the Department for International Development since January this year.

“She hadn’t been in Beirut for long. I can’t believe it,” a friend said.

She had worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 2010, previously in Libya and Iraq.

She is thought to have grown up in Hong Kong, but attended Malvern St James Girls boarding school in Worcestershire before studying anthropology at Manchester University and international security and global governance from Birkbeck, University of London.

In a statement, her family said: “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca.

“We are doing all we can to understand what happened.”

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 Beirut’s diplomatic and aid community.

Shorter said: “The whole embassy is deeply shocked, saddened by this news. We’re providing consular support to her family and working closely with Lebanese authorities.”

A spokesman for Uber said in an e-mail: “We are horrified by this senseless act of violence.

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

The incident is the latest to highlight the issue of safety at Uber, which was stripped of its operating licence in London in September over concerns about its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers. – The Telegraph, additional reporting by AFP, Reuters

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