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Crime

Shock and sympathy after death of Hong Kong-raised British diplomat in Lebanon

Man arrested in Beirut over killing of 30-year-old woman, the daughter of prominent city barrister Philip Dykes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 9:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 10:28am

The grieving family and friends of Hong Kong-raised Rebecca Dykes – the British diplomatic worker brutally murdered in Lebanon at the weekend – were on Monday night coming to terms with what they described as her “gruesome” killing.

On Monday, less than 48 hours after Dykes’ body was found dumped at the side of a road in the Lebanese capital, police there said they had arrested an Uber driver over the killing, and that he had confessed to the crime.

Investigators said 30-year-old Dykes had been strangled and that there would be a further postmortem examination to see whether she had also been sexually assaulted. They described the killing as a “criminal act” and “not political”.

Lebanese officials said the woman’s body was found on the side of Emile Lahoud, a major road east of the city centre, on Saturday evening. Investigators suspected she had been strangled because “she was found with a piece of string around her neck”, a security source said.

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Dykes worked for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in the British embassy. She was the daughter of prominent Hong Kong barrister Philip Dykes, a former chair of the Hong Kong Bar Association, and Lantau Island-based author Jane Houng.

In a statement posted on social media, her mother wrote: “RIP Rebecca Dykes 1987-2017.

“It’s true. My beautiful daughter was gruesomely murdered in Beirut last Saturday. Please send prayers to her, and respect the privacy of our family during this time. Thank you.”

A spokesman for her father’s Bernacchi Chambers said: “The chamber is very shocked by the news. Mr Dykes is not going to take any calls from the press.”

The news brought a wave of sympathy from the city’s legal community.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a senior counsel and Executive Councillor, said: “It is a really sad case and my heart goes out to Phil.”

And former Legislative Council member Audrey Eu Yuet-mee SC expressed shock, saying: “No words are adequate for this.”

Law Yuk-kai, director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, which promotes the protection of legal rights in the city, said Ms Dykes had worked as an intern for his group 10 years ago, working on right of abode issues, but declined to comment further.

In a social media message, Britain’s ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, wrote: “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 police investigation.”

Dykes, who worked for the DFID at the embassy, grew up in Hong Kong and spoke Mandarin.

A spokesman for the DFID said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with Becky’s family and friends at this very upsetting time.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press