Man guilty of hammer murder bids

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Published: Tuesday 21st October 2014 by The News Editor

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A man who savagely beat three sisters in a “sustained and vicious” hammer attack as they slept with their young children in a luxury hotel has been found guilty of attempted murder.

Philip Spence, 32, bludgeoned the three wealthy women, tourists from the United Arab Emirates, in the four-star Cumberland Hotel – leaving them for dead.

He fled the scene with a suitcase stuffed with iPads, gold jewellery and mobile phones, and dumped the claw hammer just outside the central London hotel.

One of his victims, Ohoud Al-Najjar, 34, was repeatedly hit with such force her skull split open as her nine-year-old nephew cowered under the sheets next to her, prosecutor Simon Mayo QC said.

She survived the attack, but was left with just 5% brain function, can no longer speak and lost one eye.

Her sisters Khulood, 36, and Fatima, 31, were both also left with life threatening injuries and are still having medical treatment.

Spence admitted the attack, which took place early on April 6, but denied three counts of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.

But a jury of seven women and five men at London’s Southwark Crown Court found him guilty after around a day of deliberation.

Spence, from near Harlesden in north-west London, stood and stared straight ahead impassively as the verdicts were read out.

He now faces a life term in prison.

Judge Anthony Leonard QC said: “The sentence I will have to consider is a full life term.”

He added: “You, Mr Spence, must realise that any sentence I impose is bound to be a very substantial sentence, subject to the report I receive.”

He also thanked the jury for their time in considering “what must have been an unpleasant case for you”.

Opening the case, Mr Mayo had told jurors: “Each woman was struck repeatedly to the head by a man wielding a claw hammer – their skulls fracturing and splintering under the onslaught.

“The intention of their attacker, say the prosecution, was to kill them.

“The scene that met the eyes of the police and emergency services as they arrived in the aftermath was, in the words, of one of those attending, ‘horrific’.”

Neofitos “Thomas” Efremi, 57, from Islington, north London, who also found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.

After the verdict was read out Efremi, who walks with a crutch, began pacing around the dock after Spence was escorted out and said to the dock officer: “I’ll kill him. He stitched me up.”

He then turned to a detective in the public gallery and said: “Don’t f*****g look at me.”

Jurors had heard the women had left their hotel rooms unlocked on the night of the attack to allow a fourth sister to return later in the night.

But Spence, a drug addict, crept in and was seen by Khulood rifling through handbags shortly before 1.30am.

He attacked Khulood as she slept next to her two young daughters, and then turned his hammer on her sister Fatima, leaving them both unconscious. But the “savagery” of his attack on Ohoud outstripped what was meted out to her sisters. Her skull was smashed so badly that brain tissue spilled out from a hole in her head.

The fourth sister Sheika Al-Mheiri returned later that night and discovered her sisters lying injured on the floor while blood had spattered on the walls.

The two men were remanded in custody and will be sentenced on November 17 at Southwark Crown Court.

A pre-sentence report will be carried out for Spence.

Commander Mak Chishty, from the Metropolitan Police, said Spence’s brutal attack had “changed the lives of a family forever”.

But he sought to reassure people living in the Middle East that London is a safe city to visit, amid fears the attack may have put off would-be tourists.

He said: “It is unimaginable the terror they must have felt when they woke to find him in their room. The level of violence Spence chose to use was extraordinary, and completely unnecessary for him to steal, as he had set out to do that night.”

He went on: “Our thoughts remain with the women he injured and nearly killed, and their families. Whilst his conviction will change little for them, it may go some way to helping them deal with the events of that night.

“I would like to pay tribute to them and the courage and fortitude they showed in giving evidence to the court and the support they and their representative have shown the Met during the investigation.”

He added: “The ramifications of this incident were felt across London, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other major cities across the world, feeling shocked and outraged and understandably frightened.

“I would like to give reassurance that an incident of this nature is thankfully very, very rare and the victims were not specifically targeted, followed or attacked because they are from the UAE.

“London very much remains one of the safest major cities in the world with crime continuing to fall year on year. This financial year to date, overall crime in London is down by 2% and visitor numbers from the UAE have not diminished.

“This incident should not deter anyone from visiting London.”

Published: Tuesday 21st October 2014 by The News Editor

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