Former motorcycling champion Sean Emmett lied about the moments before his wife’s fatal fall from a Dubai hotel window, a coroner has found.
Surrey coroner Alison Hewitt said it was impossible to know what had happened in the nine minutes before Abigail Elson plunged to her death, but added that Emmett’s account was “inconsistent” and “unreliable”.
Emmett, now 50, has repeatedly claimed that his new bride "flipped out" of the window of their honeymoon suite in Jumeirah Creekside Hotel while looking for the wedding ring she had just dropped. He denied they had rowed before she died.
Yet the two-week inquest heard that he had told Dubai police and consular staff immediately after Ms Elson died that she had thrown the ring shortly before her fall. Just after her death in February 2013, he texted a friend to say she had been threatening to jump.
'Inexplicable' why Emmett didn't intervene
Recording an open verdict, Ms Hewitt said: “Taken as a whole, his account does not seem to me to be wholly credible.
“He suggests she was increasingly upset and was putting herself in a precarious and dangerous position. He suggests he was calm and loving throughout, seeking to persuade her to come away from the window but that she lost her balance and fell out.”
Ms Hewitt said that it was inexplicable why Emmett had not intervened physically to prevent Ms Elson, 27, who had a history of self-harm, depression and reckless behaviour when drunk, from going too close to the window.
“He was certainly physically capable of doing so, and I consider he would have done so had he been calm and loving as he described,” she said.
“His account is not wholly true, although some aspects might be.”
In giving evidence to the inquest, Emmett denied that there had been any physical altercation or tussle with his wife, who was known as Abbie, just before she died, despite telling Dubai police in 2013 that he had tried to pull her away from the window.
Evidence pointed to Abbie being assaulted, claims lawyer
Alexandra Felix, a lawyer representing Ms Elson’s family, said a leg print near the window and bruises on her thighs were consistent with her being assaulted before her fall.
Ms Hewitt said: “It does seem to me likely that there would have been some physical contact between the couple if Abigail was placing herself in a dangerous position as Mr Emmett suggests.
“I do not consider that Mr Emmett has provided me with a full and truthful account in this regard.”
But the coroner ruled out a finding of unlawful killing because of insufficient evidence.
She acknowledged a long history of violence in the couple’s turbulent relationship and said that Ms Elson had sought medical and police help on multiple occasions after Emmett had assaulted her.
History of violence
On one occasion, Ms Elson was hospitalised and housed in a women’s refuge but she withdrew her police statement before Emmett could be prosecuted.
Ms Hewitt said: “In the absence of an account from Mr Emmett which I can accept is complete and true as to precisely what happened in the bedroom before Abigail fell, I am unable to make relevant findings as to the facts.
"The fact violence was a feature of Abigail's relationship with Mr Emmett is not in itself a basis for finding that there was violence at or about the time of Abigail's fall, or that Mr Emmett was responsible for her fall."
Ms Hewitt also ruled out a finding of accidental death or suicide because it was impossible to understand Ms Elson’s state of mind without a reliable account from the only other person present in the room at the time.
The couple married in a beach wedding in Cape Town, South Africa, on February 6, 2013. They travelled to Dubai on a two-night stopover on February 18 as part of their honeymoon but Ms Elson died during the first night of their stay.
The inquest heard that they had been drinking heavily at their hotel resort for nearly 12 hours, downing three bottles of wine and at least 18 beers between them.
Emmett said that when they returned to their hotel room, Ms Elson had been exuberant, dancing to loud music and jumping on the bed, but denied he had been annoyed by her behaviour.
He told the inquest she became tearful after accidentally dropping her wedding ring while smoking by a large window in their suite.
The coroner said she did not believe his claim that they had not been arguing when she lost the ring.
CCTV footage showed the couple leaving their room and searching hotel grounds 3ft away from the window, suggesting that Ms Elson had thrown rather than dropped the ring.
Security cameras showed her returning to the room just after 1.30am, followed by Emmett 10 minutes later. Ms Elson fell to her death nine minutes later.
'Impossible' to know what really happened
Ms Hewitt said that those nine minutes were critical to understanding how Ms Elson came to fall to her death but without a reliable account of that period, it was impossible to reach a firm conclusion.
She said her finding of an open conclusion was “appropriate if the evidence fails to satisfy requisite proof”.
Emmett was investigated by Dubai police for suspected murder in relation to Ms Elson's death. The case was eventually closed in December 2013 due to insufficient evidence.
He flew back to the UK, where he was arrested by Surrey police on the same matter but was cleared three years later.
He was sentenced to three months in prison in 2015 for an assault on his then girlfriend, now wife, Lana Saoud, whom he met while on bail in Dubai. Ms Saoud was at the inquest hearing when Emmett gave evidence.
Emmett did not attend Thursday’s hearing. Ms Elson’s parents, Carolyn and Christopher Elson, declined to comment.