In April 2011, Lee Brown, an unemployed young handyman from Essex, travelled First Class on Emirates to Dubai and checked in at one of the world’s most expensive hotels, the Burj Al Arab. Allegedly, he threatened a hotel maid while drunk, was arrested and died in prison six days later.
A year later, the case is still “under investigation” and the Foreign Office do not seem to be putting the Dubai authorities under very much pressure to find out exactly what happened to Mr Brown.
The lack of action by the FCO is probably not so surprising. They appear to live in terror of upsetting any important trading partner. However, it is very strange that the story has not been taken up by the tabloids because it seems tailor-made for them. A press that is shell-shocked by the Leveson Inquiry surely have little to fear from doing an in-depth report on this – and it would no doubt be welcomed by Mr Brown’s parents, even if some of the detail did prove a little embarassing.
It seems that Lee Brown’s trip to Dubai was paid for by a local lady he had met on the internet. Now, it is possible to add two and two together and jump to the conclusion that someone in Dubai might not have been very happy about Mr Brown’s arrival. Even if he had been drunk and abusive when he was arrested at the hotel, he did not die of alcohol poisoning because he was in prison for six days before he died. There is credible evidence that he was badly beaten by prison guards and the beatings were the cause of death. Could it be that a local Mr Big (of whom there are many in Dubai) objected to Lee Brown’s interest in the local lady and arranged for him to be arrested on trumped-up charges and beaten up? Maybe things went further than planned. Who knows?
It is also conceivable that the story of the Dubai authorities is reasonably close to the truth – though, quite clearly, their “care” for him in jail was unacceptable. Unfortunately, those in power in Dubai prefer to stick their heads in the sand whenever some problem appears. They do not want to harm the image of Dubai and hope that they can keep promising a report “soon” and that, eventually, people will forget. This is very naive and, if their friends at the FCO really wanted to help them, they should point out that the only way Dubai will ever gain respect in the world is by facing up to issues such as this rather than hiding them.
Dubai has a very curious take on the law and morality. Alcohol is allowed but drunken behaviour is not – yet hotels offer “all you can drink buffets” and then get upset when this leads to the inevitable. Sex is another thorny issue but prostitution is rife – from the very seedy brothels for workers from the Indian sub-continent to the Five Star hotels where leggy Russian blondes ply their trade in a very open and aggressive manner that would not be acceptable in many western countries.
Dubai has had massive growth in the last twenty years but if it ever wants to be taken seriously, it will have to tackle its own demons. Maybe they could start with producing an honest report into what really happened to Lee Brown.