The death of a Hong Kong-born British diplomat who was murdered in Beirut nearly five years ago has been ruled an unlawful killing after an inquest in London as part of standard legal procedures. Senior Coroner Andrew Harris returned the verdict at Southwark Coroner’s Court on the case of Rebecca Dykes, who was brutally murdered at age 30 in Lebanon in 2017. Harris said he hoped the ruling would give the family “some degree of closure”. The daughter of prominent Hong Kong barrister Philip Dykes and author Jane Houng, she was described by her family as kind with a sweet nature. Shock and sympathy on death of Hong Kong-raised diplomat Following the verdict, the family expressed relief after years of uncertainty sparked by court delays in Lebanon. Her parents attended the London proceedings remotely in Hong Kong and Philip Dykes, a former chairman of the Bar Association, told the Post the coroner’s ruling was “expected in light of the incontrovertible evidence of unlawful killing”. “I am glad that it is at an end, and Rebecca’s future will be her foundation and its work,” he said, referring to the Rebecca Dykes Foundation, which aims to continue her cause to improve the lives of women and refugees in Lebanon. Sister Harriet Maes, 37, who read out a family statement in the London court, described Rebecca as having “natural kindness and compassion towards others less fortunate than herself”. Maes told the Post following the verdict that the coroner’s decision was not a surprise. “I am already familiar with the awful circumstances of my sister’s death. However, it is a relief to have finally had this confirmed by a court in England and Wales, coming up to five years after her loss,” she said. Rebecca Dykes had been working at the British embassy in Beirut since January 2017, helping Lebanon cope with an influx of refugees from the war in neighbouring Syria. Speaking to the Post ahead of the inquest, Philip Dykes called the tragedy five years ago a “father’s worst nightmare.” He added that his daughter had been due to fly back to the UK to see his mother at the time of her death in December 2017, and had visited him in Hong Kong just five weeks before the tragedy. He expressed frustration that the inquest had faced numerous delays due to Lebanese appeal proceedings being stalled over a number of factors, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and a devastating port explosion in Beirut in 2020, which rocked the country and sparked controversy over how authorities had failed to prevent the perceived industrial accident. Uber driver confesses to killing British diplomat in Lebanon Uber driver Tariq Houshieh was convicted of raping and killing Rebecca Dykes in Lebanon and was sentenced to death in 2019. His appeal is under way. Her body was sent back to the United Kingdom in December 2017. Because she was a British national, a coroner there had to be informed if the death was violent or unnatural. An inquest is held if the cause of death is unknown or sudden, violent or unnatural. While the court would usually wait until appeal proceedings in Lebanon had concluded, due to the numerous delays, the coroner in this case exercised his discretion to resume the inquest. Before her death, Dykes had spent the evening with friends at a cafe in Gemmayze, a district of Beirut known for its bars and restaurants, and CCTV footage showed she was picked up soon after midnight on December 15, 2017. Maes, her sister, alerted authorities when she did not respond to a telephone call. A police investigation found she had been strangled with a drawstring from Houshieh’s bonnet. Her body was found close to a motorway on the outskirts of the city. Police traced Houshieh’s car on traffic surveillance cameras and he was arrested days later, confessing to the murder. Lebanese man sentenced to death for murder of Hong Kong-raised UK diplomat Deputy head of mission and post security officer at the embassy in Beirut, Alyson King, testified that at the time, the advice for staff was to use one of three recommended taxi companies and Uber was not among the ride firms suggested. However, it came to light after the murder that embassy staff had been using other taxi companies, including Uber because of greater convenience and faster pickup time. King said following the case, guidance to staff had since reflected advice from the Lebanese government not to use Uber because authorities were not confident that the firm had vetted all its drivers. Houshieh reportedly had a criminal record for stealing a motorcycle and had also twice being arrested for alleged harassment and theft. Bharat Joshi, head of security and senior security adviser at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, testified that the security culture in 2017 was strong, but enhancements had been made in terms of training and briefings. Born in Hong Kong in May 1987 at Queen Mary Hospital, Dykes attended the Chinese International School before studying at Malvern Girls College, then Rugby School in Britain. She had a degree from the social anthropology department at the University of Manchester, and a master’s in international security and global governance from Birkbeck, University of London. Before her posting in Beirut, Dykes worked for the foreign office as an Iraq research analyst and a policy manager with the Libya team. This year, the foreign office launched an award in her memory to recognise colleagues who showed notable kindness in their work, installing a plaque honouring her as a devoted humanitarian. She is buried at Highgate Cemetery in London.