British tourist is 'beaten to death' in Dubai police station

A British tourist was beaten to death in police custody after being arrested for an argument with a hotel cleaner while on holiday in Dubai, it was claimed yesterday.

Lee Brown, 39, died after six days at the notorious Bur Dubai police station and yesterday British diplomats met police in the Gulf emirate at the "highest level" to demand an urgent investigation into the case.

The self-employed maintenance man left his end-of-terrace house in Dagenham, Essex, on Wednesday last week for a last-minute holiday in one of the world's most luxurious hotels. But within hours of checking in at the Burj Al Arab, where the cheapest rooms are £1,000 a night, he was arrested over an alleged argument with one of the room staff and was facing charges of assault, intimidating behaviour and use of abusive language.

While there were some claims he had simply sworn at a hotel maid, the Dubai Public Prosecutor's office said yesterday that he had been arrested for trying to hurl a maid from the sixth floor and traces of hashish were found in his urine samples. The prosecuting authority also said the cause of death was asphyxiation from Mr Bradley choking on his own vomit.

A spokesman for the Jumeirah Group, which owns the seven-star hotel, a sail-like structure that dominates the skyline and is billed as the world's most luxurious, said: "It is our policy not to disclose any details or information about guests who stay in our hotels." The first Mr Brown's family in Essex knew of the situation was when they received a call from a fellow inmate on Sunday, who had found their details on a photocopy of Mr Brown's passport that was left in a cell. The caller claimed that Mr Brown had been stripped, cuffed and repeatedly beaten, despite his cries for help, before being thrown in solitary confinement.

Mr Brown's frightened relatives contacted the British embassy in Dubai but an official who tried to visit the man was told that he had declined consular assistance. His family received another call on Tuesday to say that he had died. Relatives said they had been unaware he was planning a trip but he had spoken of feeling stressed and needing to get away.

His mother, Doris Shafi, 67, described it as "every mother's nightmare", adding: "The first thing I knew Lee was on holiday in Dubai, the next thing I know he's dead."

A neighbour in Dagenham, who put up a poster saying "Justice for Lee" in his window, said: "He was a nice, pleasant man. He kept himself to himself, he was quite a private person. I think he went on holiday to Dubai on his own, I saw him getting into the taxi. I cannot believe what has happened to him, it's terrible. I hope the authorities don't brush it under the carpet."

Yesterday a Foreign Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that Lee Brown died on 12 April while in police custody. The consul general has spoken directly to the Dubai police at the highest level a number of times to stress the importance of a full investigation. The police have assured us that they are investigating and we are remaining in close touch with them."

Yesterday the Dubai police said: "We are now waiting for the forensic report to see the cause of death and have nothing more to reveal for the moment."

But one source told a regional newspaper that there had been no bruises on Mr Brown when he died. The unnamed official claimed he had been vomiting but had not asked for medical help, adding: "These reports in the media that he was beaten by police are a pack of lies."

Radha Stirling, from London-based Detained In Dubai, said the police stations were notoriously brutal and violent, with prisoners often kept in cramped, filthy conditions. "They put you in the cells but they don't monitor you. You're at risk of violence from the police and you're at risk of violence from the inmates."

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