Thursday 18 October 2018

Young British diplomat 'may have been sexually assaulted' before she was killed in Beirut

Rebecca Dykes, who was murdered in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: Family Handout/PA Wire
Rebecca Dykes, who was murdered in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: Family Handout/PA Wire
Rebecca Dykes, who was murdered in Beirut, Lebanon, her body was found on the side of a motorway on Saturday, the BBC reported. Photo: Family Handout/PA Wire

Aine Fox and David Hughes

Lebanese police are investigating whether a British embassy worker strangled and left by the side of a motorway was sexually assaulted.

Rebecca Dykes' family said they have been left "devastated" following her death in Beirut early on Saturday morning, while embassy staff are said to be shocked.

The victim, believed to have been aged 30, was strangled and found dead by the side of a road in the east of the capital, police said.

Authorities looking into her exact cause of death are investigating whether Ms Dykes, who had been due to fly home for Christmas, was sexually assaulted.

According to reports she had been at a colleague's leaving party in the Gemmayzeh district of Beirut on Friday night.

A family spokesman said: "We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca. We are doing all we can to understand what happened.

"We request that the media respect our privacy as we come together as a family at this very difficult time."

Those who knew Ms Dykes have posted tributes on social media, with school friend Rory Kirkwood writing on Twitter: "I'm devastated by the news, and can't imagine the pain some are feeling right now."

Bilal Al Ayoubi tweeted: "Such sad news to hear about the great loss of Rebecca Dykes.

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

On Facebook, Brooke Anderson wrote: "Simply in shock. We will miss you, Becky."

Ms Dykes was working as a programme and policy manager with the Department for International Development and as policy manager with the Libya team at the Foreign Office (FCO), according to her LinkedIn page.

She had previously worked as an Iraq Research Analyst with the FCO.

According to BBC News, it is believed Ms Dykes spent Friday evening at a going-away party thrown for a colleague in Gemmayzeh before leaving around midnight.

The trendy area in east Beirut is known for its bars, restaurants and nightlife and is popular with the city's younger residents and tourists.

British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter said everyone at the embassy was "deeply shocked, saddened by this news".

"My thoughts are with Becky's family, friends and colleagues for their tragic loss," he said.

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

Ms Dykes, a University of Manchester graduate, also had a masters in International Security and Global Governance from Birkbeck, University of London.

She was a former pupil of Malvern Girls' College and Rugby School and had spent time at a Chinese International School.

A Department for International Development spokesman said: "Our thoughts are with Becky's family and friends at this very upsetting time.

"There is now a police investigation and the FCO is providing consular support to Becky's family and working with the local authorities."

The FCO said it was in contact with the Lebanese authorities.

"Following the death of a British woman in Beirut, we are providing support to the family," a spokesman said.

"We remain in close contact with local authorities. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time."

The FCO advises against all travel to southern suburbs of Beirut except the main Naqoura-Tyre-Saida (Sidon)-Beirut highway.

Visitors to Lebanon are warned of potential risks posed by political unrest and terrorism and a "moderate" risk of petty and violent crime.

The advice urges visitors not to use shared taxis or taxis hailed on the street and only use cabs from recognised firms.

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