LONDON // A hammer-wielding thug who bludgeoned three Emirati sisters while robbing their hotel room said on Wednesday that he wanted to make them “pass out” so he could make a getaway.
Philip Spence, 32, was high on crack cocaine and heroin when he slipped into the victims’ suite at the Cumberland Hotel, near Marble Arch, central London.
Once inside he began stashing iPads, phones and designer handbags from the seventh-floor room in a suitcase he found.
But Khuloud Al Najjar, 36, woke up, prompting Spence to pull a hammer from his leather jacket and rain blows on the sisters’ heads in front of their terrified children, Southwark Crown Court heard.
Khuloud and her sisters Ohoud, 34, and Fatima, 31, from Sharjah, suffered crushed skulls and life-threatening injuries in the raid on April 6.
Spence fled the scene with a stolen suitcase crammed with items including a white Cartier diamond-encrusted watch worth more than Dh70,000 and Louis Vuitton jewellery.
He told jurors he had spent the day with Neofitos “Thomas” Efremi, 57, taking crack and heroin at the latter’s north London flat.
“I had an argument with Tom,” he said. “I ended up going to the Cumberland. That is where I sleep if I don’t have anywhere to sleep.
“I went to the fifth floor and I walked around, then I went to the seventh floor — I was looking for something to eat.”
Spence was in the habit of sleeping in the maid’s cleaning closets and scavenging food from trays left in the corridor, the court heard.
“I was walking down the corridor and I saw the door [to room 7008, where Ohoud was sleeping] was slightly open. I could see some stuff on the floor right in front of the door. It was designer bags and some make-up,” he said.
Spence slipped into the darkened room where Ohoud was sleeping with her nine-year-old nephew. “I looked around, I saw some iPads, I decided to use a suitcase I saw that was open and put them inside it,” he said.
The thief then walked into the adjoining room where Fatima, Khuloud and Khuloud’s daughters, aged just 11 and seven, were also asleep.
“What’s the next thing that happened?” asked Spence’s lawyer William Nash. “She [Khuloud] woke up,” he replied.
“She was saying something, I asked her for money.”
“Did you get money?”
“No, she was screaming. Her sister woke up, I could see movement, I could see her get up.”
“What was going through your mind?”
“I need to get out of there.”
“What did you actually do?” asked Mr Nash.
“I took the hammer that I carried with me. It was in my inside pocket of the leather jacket. I wanted to try to make them pass out so I could get away,” Spence replied.
“I went through to the next room and I hit her [Ohoud] — she was awake, sitting up.”
Spence admitted he hit Ohoud after “she started shouting”.
“What was your intention in hitting her?’ asked Mr Nash.
“Just that she lose consciousness. I wanted to get away without being stopped by hotel security — I didn’t want people on the floor to hear what was going on.”
Spence has admitted three counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent but denies attempted murder.
“I wouldn’t have wanted my actions to cause the loss of someone’s life,” he said. “I didn’t think it was as bad.”
After the brutal attack, Spence took the valuables to co-defendant Efremi’s flat, where he rang a drug dealer and consumed more heroin and crack.
He confessed he was “high” at the time of the attacks and said he was “shocked” when he saw the news coverage.
“It [the news] was just saying that three women are in a grave condition and someone attacked them with a hammer. I was shocked,” he said.
Spence initially denied the savage attacks on the women but confessed in the face of “overwhelming evidence”.
Spence, of Alperton, north-west London, admits three counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and one count of aggravated burglary. But he denies three counts of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.
Efremi, who left the flat minutes after Spence’s arrival, has admitted a single charge of fraud. He made 10 withdrawals totalling £5,000 (Dh29,239) using bank cards stolen from Fatima.
Efremi, of Islington, north London, denies conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.
James Moss, 33, has admitted handling stolen goods including mobile phones, handbags and jewellery. Moss, of Stroud Green, north London, will be sentenced later.
The trial continues.