Whenever you get into someone else’s vehicle, whether that vehicle is a taxi, an Uber, a bus, a plane, or even the personal car of a friend or loved one, you’re taking a chance. Most of the time, that chance is negligible. After all, we have an intrinsic need to trust those who drive us around.
It’s in their best interests as well as ours to get us safely to our destination. But one wrong move and one wrong driver can spell disaster for themselves and their passenger, especially if that driver is a criminal to begin with…
Gemmayzeh, a neighborhood in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, is a place known for its restaurants and cocktail bars. It is a center of the tourist trade and the place that one is most likely to find some shady deals going on in its many shadowed alleys. Then again, what capital city doesn’t have its share of shady back alleys?
Rebecca was 30, beautiful, and successful. Her job as a program and policy manager for the Department for International Development was going swimmingly and after years of cutting her teeth on similar political pursuits, things were starting to come into place. It came as a shock to everyone when, after a night of partying with friends in Gemmayzeh, she turned up dead…
When authorities first discovered the young woman’s body on the side of a Lebanese highway, with no phone, no money, and no form of ID, they had no idea what they were dealing with. At first, they assumed it might be just another random tourist death: that someone perhaps ran afoul of something they shouldn’t and met their end because of it. As it happens, it was hardly that simple.
Prior to her death and indeed prior even to her working for the Dept. of International Development, Rebecca had volunteered for VSO in Bahrain. She had worked on conflict and stabilization issues across a range of sub-Saharan African countries including Libya and covered gender and conflict in Iraq. She was a go-getter with a talent for international aid…
Above all else, Rebecca Dykes was a humanitarian with a real knack for compassion, caring, and perhaps most impressive of all, commitment. She was a fierce friend, a hard-working colleague, aunt, a sister, and a daughter any parent would be proud of: and her life had been cut short. People wanted to know why.
Perhaps even more disheartening for Rebecca’s friends and family was the fact that this occurred so close to Christmas. Rebecca had been planning to fly home for the holidays the very next day. Now the Lebanese police had to do their best to piece together her last night and figure out what might have happened…
Call an Uber
What they knew for sure was that Rebecca Dykes was out with friends until a little before midnight when, knowing she had a flight the next day, she decided to call a cab to take her home. She logged into her Uber account and had someone come pick her up at the bar. That’s when things went awry…
Drop Off Point
The Uber driver, a native of Lebanon, drove her to the neighborhood where she lived. That much was true from the app’s log. What police didn’t know at the time was that he didn’t drop her off at that time. Instead, he decided to take some liberties with the slightly drunk embassy worker: and that didn’t go well for anyone…
Raped and Disposed Of
Though she fought back with all her might, Rebecca was no match for the villainous Uber driver. He sexually assaulted her several times over the course of the next few hours. Then, beaten and abused, he proceeded to wrap a tiny rope around her neck: he wasn’t about to let her get away after to tell the tale.
Forensic evidence indicates that even as beaten as she was, Rebecca continued to fight back against her attacker, up until the moment she was killed. Time of death was about 4 a.m and after he had killed her, the Uber driver took her belongings, and tossed her out onto the side of the road. Unfortunately for him, they had it all on camera…
You see, the car the assailant was driving was easily tracked through surveillance cameras all along the highway where Rebecca’s body was eventually found. By going back along the trail, the police were able to locate the man’s car in the Gemmayzeh area and therefore prove without a doubt, who had picked her up that night.
The main suspect, a Lebanese national named Tarek Harb, was tracked down and detained at his apartment for his part in the death of Rebecca Dykes. Harb was a man with several charges on his record already, and though they were simple drug charges, his history made it clear that he was not above something like this. Finally, once they got him into custody, he came clean…
Harb admitted to attempting to rape Rebecca before strangling her with a rope. He did not say if he fully “did the deed” but tests will eventually be undertaken and reveal the whole truth. Preliminary investigations into the murder showed the motive was purely criminal and not political, which may be a comfort to some, though not the people who have suffered from Rebecca’s death.
San Francisco-based Uber has been having problems with it’s drivers over the past few years. In September, Uber was stripped of its operating license in London over concerns about its approach to reporting serious criminal offenses and background checks on drivers. And the rape and murder of Rebecca Dykes was just the tip of the iceberg…
Uber India was sued twice by a woman who was raped in 2014 by an Uber driver. The first lawsuit was for failing to maintain basic safety procedures and the second was for alleging that Uber executives improperly obtained her medical records. In the end, the driver was convicted of the rape and sentenced in 2015 to life in prison but the stain was still upon Uber.
The issue was brought up again in Houston, Texas in 2016, when city investigators found that Uber‘s background checks were insufficient. The company had apparently cleared drivers with criminal histories that included: murder, assault, and 17 other crimes. This is not even mentioning the many reports of sexual harassment by drivers throughout its tenure…
As for Rebecca Dykes’ case, though justice was done, her friends and coworkers are still feeling her loss. The Department for International Development, a division within the British Embassy where Dykes worked, announced the other day that, “The whole embassy is deeply shocked, saddened by this news. Our thoughts are with Becky’s family, friends and colleagues for their tragic loss.”
Hugo Shorter, who is Britain’s ambassador to Lebanon, also mentioned the situation in a Tweet the day after Rebecca’s death was announced saying, “We’re providing consular support to her family & working very closely with Lebanese authorities who are conducting police investigations…”
Rebecca’s family meanwhile, though devastated by their loss, are doing their best to take this tragedy and turn it into something meaningful: something Rebecca herself would have been proud of. To that end, they have launched a charity foundation to support her humanitarian causes.
Her family and friends have established the charitable fund to continue her work. Much of what they do is focused on supporting refugees and empowering and preventing violence against women.”We want to ensure that this work continues in her name.” explained the family. To date, the page has made over £30,404 towards continuing Rebecca’s good work.