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Uber driver ‘admits murdering UK Embassy worker’ in Beirut

Rebecca Dykes, 30, was found strangled to death in a dumpster outside Beirut
Uber driver Tarek Hess..

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  • Rebecca Dykes, 30, was found strangled to death in a dumpster outside Beirut
  • Uber driver Tarek Hesso, 35, was arrested at 3am in the Lebanese capital today
  • Suspect is said to have admitted carrying out the attack, according to local news

By Martin Robinson, Uk Chief Reporter For Mailonline

Published: 02:04 EST, 18 December 2017 | Updated: 18:05 EST, 18 December 2017

Rebecca Dykes (pictured) was abducted after leaving a party in Beirut 

Rebecca Dykes (pictured) was abducted after leaving a party in Beirut

The heartbroken family of a British diplomat who was allegedly raped before she was murdered in Beirut today said she was 'irreplaceable' and they will 'never recover'.

Rebecca Dykes, 30, was abducted after leaving a party in the Lebanese capital on Friday night.

Her body was reportedly found in a dumpster by the roadside and officials are investigating whether she was sexually assaulted before the attack.

A 35-year-old Uber driver, identified as Tarek Hesso, was arrested in a 3am raid on Monday. He has previously served several prison sentences.

Ms Dykes' family today said she was 'simply irreplaceable and we will never fully recover from this loss', in a statement released by the Foreign Office.

According to Lebanon's NNA agency, Hesso admitted picking the diplomat up in his taxi, attempting to rape her and then strangling her before ditching her body.

The body of the former public schoolgirl was found by a motorway on Saturday evening several miles from the nightspot where she was last seen alive.

Investigators told MailOnline Hesso is 35 but a second senior security official in Lebanon said the suspect was aged 41 and had been arrested on drug-related charges in the period 2015-17.

A police official said today that the suspect was traced through security cameras that showed his car driving from Beirut to the area where Dykes' body was found, just north of the Lebanese capital.

'He was detained at his apartment,' the official said, adding that the suspect is a Lebanese citizen.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said the suspect is a taxi driver who picked up the woman from Beirut's Gemayze neighborhood, known for its restaurants and pubs, then drove to a nearby neighborhood where she lived but did not drop her off there.

Instead, the suspect drove the car to the site where Dykes' body was later found. NNA said the man tried to sexually assault her, then strangled her with a rope. The police have not confirmed those details.

This chilling image was drawn by a local artist to try and help identify her and she was recognised after the sketchThis chilling image was drawn by a local artist to try and help identify her and she was recognised after the sketch

This chilling image was drawn by a local artist to try and help identify her and she was recognised after the sketch

Rebecca Dykes, a UK diplomat who worked at the British embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, has been found dead Rebecca Dykes, a UK diplomat who worked at the British embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, has been found dead 

Rebecca Dykes, a UK diplomat who worked at the British embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, has been found dead

Police are investigating whether Ms Dykes (pictured), 30, was sexually assaulted before her body was foundPolice are investigating whether Ms Dykes (pictured), 30, was sexually assaulted before her body was found

Police are investigating whether Ms Dykes (pictured), 30, was sexually assaulted before her body was found

Rebecca Dykes was said to have been at a leaving party at the Demo nightclub (pictured) in Beirut before she went missingRebecca Dykes was said to have been at a leaving party at the Demo nightclub (pictured) in Beirut before she went missing

Rebecca Dykes was said to have been at a leaving party at the Demo nightclub (pictured) in Beirut before she went missing

The driver then 'tried to rape her and when she resisted he strangled her… took her wallet and threw her in a dumpster,' an official said.

The murder has shaken Lebanon, where such crimes, particularly against foreigners, are relatively uncommon.

Earlier, a forensics official told The Associated Press that the woman was strangled with a rope.

Ms Dykes (pictured) started working for the government in 2010 and started working as a programme and policy manager in Lebanon since JanuaryMs Dykes (pictured) started working for the government in 2010 and started working as a programme and policy manager in Lebanon since January

Ms Dykes (pictured) started working for the government in 2010 and started working as a programme and policy manager in Lebanon since January

Lebanese police have launched an investigation following the discovery on Saturday evening.

One security source said the diplomat was found with 'a piece of string around her neck'.

Miss Dykes worked for the Department for International Development as a programme and policy manager and moved to Beirut in January.

In a statement, her family said last night: 'We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca. We are doing all we can to understand what happened.'

The diplomat, who was understood to be planning to fly home for Christmas on Saturday, had been at a leaving party for a British embassy colleague at a bar in the Gemmayzeh area of central Beirut.

She left alone just after midnight and is thought to have been abducted minutes later.

Police sources gave the cause of death as strangulation following a post-mortem examination, but added that another test is to be carried out.

Ms Dyke is believed to have gone missing in the Gemmayzeh district at about midnight after a night out on Friday. Her body was found on Saturday eveningMs Dyke is believed to have gone missing in the Gemmayzeh district at about midnight after a night out on Friday. Her body was found on Saturday evening

Ms Dyke is believed to have gone missing in the Gemmayzeh district at about midnight after a night out on Friday. Her body was found on Saturday evening

Such crime is rare in the Lebanese capital, a city which is considered generally safe, including for tourists and foreign residents.

One official involved in the investigation said: 'Our first impression is that it's not politically motivated.'

He said her body was found 'on the side of the Emile Lahoud road', east of central Beirut.

One friend said: 'It's horrific. We had no idea what happened to her until we got a call today to go to the police station to give statements.'

Hugo Shorter, the British ambassador to Lebanon, said: 'The whole embassy is deeply shocked, saddened by this news. My thoughts are with Becky's family, friends and colleagues for their tragic loss.

'We're providing consular support to her family and working very closely with Lebanese authorities who are conducting a police investigation.'

Miss Dykes was a boarder at Malvern St James girls' school in Worcestershire and then spent two years at Rugby School, one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.

She graduated in social anthropology at Manchester University in 2008.

Miss Dykes then completed a master's degree in international security and global governance at Birkbeck, University of London.

She joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2010 and worked in Iraq as a research analyst before working in Libya as a policy manager.

On her LinkedIn page she described herself as 'skilled in conflict, international relations, civil society and humanitarian assistance'.

Her body was found on Saturday close to the Metn expressway (pictured) in Lebanon's capital Her body was found on Saturday close to the Metn expressway (pictured) in Lebanon's capital 

Her body was found on Saturday close to the Metn expressway (pictured) in Lebanon's capital

Miss Dykes spent four years in Hong Kong, teaching English to teenagers. She also worked as a human rights monitor, translating documents from Chinese to English.

Since her death, friends and colleagues spoke of their shock at her murder.

Bilal Al Ayoubi wrote on Twitter: 'What a great loss. The ugly face of life is when someone dedicates her life to working for peace and stability in the world gets murdered in such brutality…very sad.

'She was such a sweet and kind lady who took her job seriously and cared about Lebanon's stability.'

One friend, Brooke Anderson, wrote on Facebook: 'Simply in shock. We will miss you, Becky.'

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.

A spokesman for Uber said in an email: '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.'

London police complained in April that Uber was either not disclosing, or taking too long to report, serious crimes including sexual assaults and this put the public at risk. The firm's boss has promised to make things right in the British capital.

And globally, the app has suffered a series of scandals in 2017 as a stream of executives left amid controversies involving allegations of sexual harassment and issues surrounding data privacy and business practices.

 Ms Dykes was working in Beirut (pictured) and her body has been found close to the busy road Ms Dykes was working in Beirut (pictured) and her body has been found close to the busy road

Ms Dykes was working in Beirut (pictured) and her body has been found close to the busy road

The company, valued at around $70 billion with investors including Goldman Sachs, has faced bans and protests in countries around the world as it disrupts traditional players who have accused it of cutting corners on safety.

The Foreign Office advises against all travel to several areas in Lebanon, including southern suburbs of Beirut, and all but essential travel to most other areas of the country.

Terror attacks are deemed 'very likely' in the country, and protests in Beirut are common following the US announcement on the status of Jerusalem.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: 'Following the death of a British woman in Beirut, we are providing support to the family. We remain in close contact with local authorities. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.'

Under Lebanon's CSSF programme, the UK government has spent millions of pounds supporting the country's armed forces to address 'security threats originating from Syria'.

Cash has also been spent on preventing 'illegal cross border activity' between Lebanon and Syria – an area where jihadists have been active – and assisting local policing.

Last night some expressed concerns that the attack on Miss Dyke might be hushed up by Lebanese authorities.

Rami Cherri wrote on Twitter: 'The lack of coverage on the rape and murder on any Lebanese news channel is disgusting to say the least. In order to have a safer society in this country our mind-set has to change for the better.

'We need to address the rise of rape and murders in Lebanon now. This is inexcusable and inhumane.'

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Australia

Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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