London hotel thief guilty of hammer attack on UAE sisters

A jury of seven women and five men found Spence guilty and he could be sentenced to life in prison

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A thief who crept into a London hotel room and brutally attacked three sisters from the United Arab Emirates with a claw hammer was found guilty of attempted murder on Tuesday.

Philip Spence, 32, attacked the three women tourists as they slept with their children at the four star Cumberland Hotel on April 6.


A jury of seven women and five men at London's Southwark Crown Court found Spence, from Harlesden in north-west London, guilty and he could be sentenced to life in prison.

"The sentence I will have to consider is a full life term," said Judge Anthony Leonard.

The Emirati sisters -- Ohoud, Khulood and Fatima al-Najja -- were sharing adjoining rooms in the hotel and had left their doors open to allow a fourth sister to return later.

Spence crept in and was seen by Khulood shortly before 1:30 am, rifling through handbags.

The "sustained and vicious" attack left all three unconscious, prosecutor Simon Mayo 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," he said.

Ohoud, 34, now has only five percent brain function, has lost one eye and cannot speak. Khulood, 37, and Fatima, 31, still require medical treatment for their injuries.

The court heard how drug addict Spence made off with iPads, gold jewellery and mobile phones, before dumping the claw hammer close to the crime scene.

Prosecutor Baljit Ubhey called it "a truly horrific crime".

"Not only were the three sisters severely injured in the attack, their children were in the room at the time and witnessed the horror of the violence," he said.

Neofitos "Thomas" Efremi, 57, was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and providing Spence with the claw hammer.

The two men will be sentenced on November 17.

The police has sought to reassure visitors from the Gulf since the incident -- one of a series of attacks on wealthy Emiratis earlier this year.

"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," a senior officer, Mak Chishty, said on Tuesday.

The UAE foreign ministry earlier in the year warned visitors that Oxford Street, the main shopping thoroughfare, plus the neighboring areas of Soho and Piccadilly, and Edgware Road -- often considered the heartland of Arab London -- were the "most dangerous areas".

In an impact statement, Khulood, 37, said that she had to give up work due to her injuries and that her life had changed forever.

"When that man attacked myself and my sisters, and stole our belongings, he took far more than our property; he took away our futures, things that I had planned; dreams that I had for my family and children. He also stole my children's innocence."

"I will say that 100 years in prison will not be enough."

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