Man admits to hammer attack on Emirati sisters but tells London court that he did not intend to kill
LONDON // A man has admitted to bludgeoning three Emirati sisters in a horrific hammer attack at a top London hotel, but denied it was an attempt to kill them.
Philip Spence, 32, entered the sisters’ seventh-floor room at the Cumberland Hotel, near Marble Arch, with a claw hammer in a robbery attempt.
Khuloud Al Najjar, 36, and her sisters Ohoud, 34, and Fatima, 31, all suffered life-threatening injuries during the April attack at the four-star hotel.
Ohoud was struck to the head and face and lost a significant amount of blood. Doctors have said she was left with just 5 per cent brain function and lost her left eye.
Khuloud suffered two skull fractures, a broken arm and a fractured cheekbone, while Fatima was left with a skull fracture and a ruptured eardrum.
The sisters were visiting London for sightseeing and shopping.
Spence broke into their suite, attacked them and ransacked their belongings before fleeing in the early hours of Sunday, April 6.
It is believed that about £1,000 (Dh5,866) in high-value goods, including tablet computers, were stolen. A further £5,000 was withdrawn from one of the sister’s bank accounts in 10 withdrawals.
Spence appeared at Southwark Crown Court in private last week and spoke only to confirm his identity and enter his plea, which has just been made public.
He admitted to three counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and one count of aggravated burglary.
But he denied three counts of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.
Spence appeared in the glass-enclosed dock alongside James Moss, 33, who has pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods, including mobile phones, handbags and jewellery.
Prosecutor Simon Mayo said: “On September 25 a defence case statement was received from Philip Spence, which indicated a significant change in the case he was advancing.
“There will have to be a trial in relation to counts one to three – namely allegations of attempted murder in respect of Mr Spence – and also count four, namely conspiracy to commit burglary.
“It is the Crown’s case that the aggravated burglary committed on April 6 by Philip Spence is in pursuance of the conspiracy.”
Mr Mayo said that the central issue was whether or not Spence had intended to kill the three sisters.
Crown Prosecution requested that a charge of handling stolen goods against a fourth defendant, Carly Baker, 31, should lay on file.
“We have taken the view in light of Mr Moss’s plea that the prosecution ought not to proceed against Ms Baker,” said Mr Mayo.
Co-defendant Thomas Efremi, 56, denied a charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary. He earlier admitted fraud by making 10 withdrawals totalling £5,000 using stolen bank cards.
Days after the hammer attack, an Emirati couple and their compatriot friend were robbed at gunpoint by seven gang members at their rented flat in London’s Paddington.
Two mobile phones, worth about Dh4,000, £2,400 in cash, two passports, handbags and a bank card were stolen.
Since the two attacks, police in London have been keen to assure visitors from the Arabian Gulf that the city is safe.
In July, Metropolitan Police commander for west London, Makhdum Chishty, said: “Although I understand the shock and the concern, and I am not trying to diminish the events in any way, they should not deter people from coming to London.
“London is safe and the police presence is high.”
Spence, of Alperton in north-west London, and Efremi, of Islington in north London, have been remanded in custody.
Their trial is due to start today and is expected to last for up to three and a half weeks.
Updated: October 6, 2014 04:00 AM