Why the mystery of a murdered woman in the emirates resurfaced after nearly 40 years

Disappearance of Sabrina Taylor to feature in a new book and an Instagram story

Image of missing Sharjah woman Sabrina Taylor published in local newspapers in 1980
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Sabrina Taylor was an attractive, vivacious young woman from Sharjah with everything to live for.

When she went missing, nearly 40 years ago, it sparked a massive hunt. Her body was never found.

The story of the 22-year-old had been long forgotten until it was unearthed by researchers for the second volume of a book into the darker side of life in the UAE.

It is a follow up to Catastrophes, Crashes and Crime in the UAE, published last year, and which dealt with the 1970s.

This new book will look at the next decade, and is based on research using local newspapers stored at the National Archives in Abu Dhabi.

For the past month, volunteers have been combing the archives, led by Athol Yates, a professor who lectures at Khalifa University, and Mohammed Alolama, a young Emirati whose day job is with Expo 2020.


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Mr Alolama says there is a distinct difference in the feel of life in the UAE with the two decades.

“One of the things that came to my mind is that the ‘70s saw the country getting to know each other,” he says.

“With the ‘80s, we see more of a focus on institutions coming together to realise the President’s dream for the country.”

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, November 16, 2017:    Dr. Eng. Athol Yates of Khalifa University, right, leads volunteers, Tiffany Malnor, centre, and Angelika Hamilton while researching past UAE disasters in archived newspapers at the National Archives near the Zayed Sports City area of Abu Dhabi on November 16, 2017. Christopher Pike / The National

Reporter: Mina Aldroubi
Section: News
Dr Athol Yates of Khalifa University with Tiffany Malnar and Angelika Hamilton while researching past crimes and disasters at National Archives. Christopher Pike / The National

The search has recovered around 1,000 articles, which will serve as the basis for the next book, with a planned publication date of April 2018.

The categories of stories, compared with the 1970s, saw more reports on weather conditions and flooding, says Mr Alolama, while the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted almost the entire decade, figures large in stories.

There were many reports of ships and oil tankers being damaged in the Arabian Gulf by military action. The opening of Dubai Dry Docks in 1983, meant that many were sent to the UAE for repairs, providing an economic boost for the city.

As a taste of what is to come with the printed version, Mr Alolama has created an Instagram account. Momentsinuaehistory, to post scans of some of the articles, and also others of general interest, including old advertisements, some of which recall the early days of Emirates Airline.

Which is where the mystery of Sabrina Taylor comes in. This Friday, the Instagram story-telling feature shows how her disappearance unfolded.

The 21-year-old was last seen on December 9, 1980, with the case remaining open for two years. She had left the family home near Sharjah Police Headquarters for the office of Inca Tanvir Advertising where she worked as a receptionist and advertising coordinator.

Ms Taylor never arrived, but her white Mazda 323 was found that evening in Al Wahda Street with her purse and ignition keys still inside.

Her increasingly desperate parents, Ronald and Joyce Taylor, made their own efforts to find her. Mr Taylor, an air force maintenance controller, printed and handed out leaflets asking for information about his daughter’s disappearance.

“I am trying to reach the poor, who may not have a radio or TV set,” he told the local newspapers.

Her body was never discovered, but the case soon became a murder inquiry that involved both Sharjah and Dubai police. Although suspects were identified, there was a disagreement between the two forces about their guilt.

Four decades later, what really happened to Sabrina Taylor still remains a mystery.