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Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Friends left in the dark over family murder motive

Sharjah - Nov.01: They fell in love 17 years ago; Kumar Acharya Vasudevan even converted from Hinduism to Christianity to marry Lynette Almeida. He was known as Kevin.

Then why would he strangle his wife and smother his little daughter with a pillow? This question still baffles his closest friends.

Kumar, 33, from Mumbai, killed his 32-year-old wife and daughter before jumping to death from their flat in the Al Fardan building in Al Qasimiya in Sharjah.

Life, it seemed, had been good to them ... Kumar had risen up the ranks and been promoted a month ago to training manager for the entire Gulf region at Baskin Robbins.

And it all started when they were in college. The young couple  from Goregoan in Mumbai decided that they would grow old together.

"I knew Kumar when he was working as a DJ in Hostinn International in Andheri, where I worked in the restaurant. He was a jovial person. I cannot imagine that he could do such a thing," a friend said.

Another friend was choked with emotion. "They were a lovely couple, they enjoyed partying and attended church functions. Lynette was devoted to him."

Neighbours said he cared a lot for children and cannot fathom what drove him to smother his daughter to death. "He seemed very loving whenever he was around his daughter, and was always friendly with the children in the building," said one woman.

Lynette, who worked in a car showroom in Dubai as a salesperson three years ago, was remembered by her colleagues as a woman with a sense of style. "She had a very innocent look about her. She was very pretty," said one of her former colleagues.

The family moved into the Al Fardan building in 2001, and the landlord said he was one of the few tenants who did not complain when the rents would increase. "Even though I would only see him once a year to renew the contract, he was always calm," said Hussain Keshwani.

But a few weeks ago, neighbours said they noticed something was amiss. "For some reason, food was delivered outside their home, and they would leave it out there for days," said a neighbour. The one questioned that remained unanswered was: how did the love story turn so tragic.

Kumar leaves behind clues to murder-suicide 
Sharjah - Nov. 01: Police officials close to the investigation into the grisly murder-suicide yesterday said evidence in their possession holds vital clues to the crime.

Kumar Acharya Vasudevan, 33, from Mumbai in India, strangled his 32-year-old wife Lynette, with a rope, and then smothered his two-year-old daughter with a pillow as they slept on Monday. He then committed suicide 7am by jumping out of their 10th floor flat in Al Fardan Building in Al Qasimiya.

Police officials told Gulf News yesterday that Kumar had left video tapes recorded secretly. Investigators said it seemed Kumar had grown suspicious of his wife's behaviour. He also wrote a letter to his mother where he refers to 'betrayal'.

He said he had to kill his wife along with her daughter before committing suicide.


Yesterday's Story:

Suicide and a Fatal Jump - Kumar was best known as problem-solver in company

Sharjah - Oct. 31: Kumar Acharya Vasudevan was best-known as the problem solver in the company. He was a role model.

This was how one of his colleagues at Baskin Robbins described Kumar, who strangled his wife with a rope, smothered his two-year-old daughter with a pillow and then jumped to his death with a tape around his mouth so he would not scream.

His colleague who saw him for the last time on Saturday, said Kumar was enthusiastic and happy. "I am still in shock ... I can't believe that he out of all people would commit suicide."

Brigadier Saleh Ali Al Mutawa, Chief of Sharjah Police, said Kumar, 33, from Mumbai in India killed his 32-year-old wife and daughter as they slept. He then jumped from their 10th floor flat in the 15-floor Al Fardan Building in the Al Qasimiya area.

Brig Al Mutawa said: "The operations room received information at 7.39am that a man was found dead in the parking lot behind the building with a tape on his mouth after falling from a building. CID patrols found a man bleeding from the nose and his mouth was tied with a tape. Passersby saw a man wearing beige shorts and a red T-shirt fall out of the apartment."

Police broke into the one-bedroom flat to find the mother and her daughter lying in the bed. There was a rope near the mother's body and its marks were clear on her neck, police said. The window in the hall was open and there was a chair near the window, which police believe was used by Kumar to jump to his death.

"The apartment was tidy and clean. This showed the family was well-educated and came from a good background. Everything was in its place, clean, shiny, sparkling and quiet. There was also a computer in their room," he said.

Kumar's wife's sister was called by police to identify the bodies. She could not control her emotions as she cried and wailed, begging to know what had had happened.

Some residents of the building who left for work earlier in the day were contacted immediately by family members when news of the incident spread.

"When I left for work in the morning everything was normal. But half an hour later, I got calls from my family asking me to come back as they were terrified by what had happened," said Hassan, a resident.

The family was paying rent of Dh26,000 a year. Kumar started off in the company as a sales accountant, and gradually worked his way up by becoming a brand trainer and finally was promoted last month to a training manager for the entire Gulf region.

Brigadier Al Mutawa said the case has been transferred to the public prosecutor for more investigations, while the three bodies have been sent to the forensic laboratory.



Move out, board tells Rashid colony tenants

Dubai - Nove. 01: Tenants living in the first three blocks of the Rashid colony will have to move out, said officials from the Dubai Development Board yesterday.

The eviction deadline given to tenants by the Board ended yesterday. The tenants received their first eviction notice on May 1 while the second was served on October 10.

A team of officials from the Board who visited the blocks held discussions with a group of tenants who requested an extension on humanitarian grounds. The officials said that under circumstances where tenants refuse to vacate the flats the Board will be left with no choice but to take legal action.

The officials told Gulf News that the Board had received signatures from 192 tenants who have agreed to vacate their flats.

Hamui Mounzer, director of the properties department of the Board, defended the move to demolish the blocks. He said: "The blocks are over 35 years old. Lack of hygiene over the years has turned them into health hazards."

He said that the Board, in one of the inspections, had come across 20 to 25 people living in a single flat. "There is no air circulation. Then we also have the problem of tenants sub-letting their flats to blue collar workers. They have turned it into mini labour accommodation. The key money asked by tenants for subletting goes up to Dh50,000," said Mounzer.

He said that the Board has given ample time to tenants to look for alternative housing. "Tenants want us to give them an extension until the academic year ends. Some say they cannot find alternative housing. But the same scenario that we have today will be repeated in six months and in five years."

The officials said the Board is not a profit making body and have taken the tenants in consideration. "If we wanted to make money we would have increased the rents but we did not do that. The average rent is Dh10,000," said Mounzer.

He said that out of 384 tenants who stay in the three blocks only 180 are families and the rest are single men living together. "We have taken all this into consideration and decided to demolish the blocks. The Rashid colony will be replaced by low cost residential blocks catering to the middle income group," said Mounzer.


Errant motorists face full force of the law

Dubai - Nov. 01: Police will cancel the driving licences of motor-ists who jump red signals and are involved in traffic accidents, a senior police official said yesterday.

Police are implementing these procedures upon orders from His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to crack down on reckless drivers.

Shaikh Mohammad instructed officials to draft strict rules to punish errant motorists. He ordered police to increase patrols to combat reckless driving and ensure punishment of offenders.

Brigadier Dr Jamal Mohammad Al Merri, Acting Chief of Dubai Police, said the directions of Shaikh Mohammad are being implemented immediately.

"There will be tougher procedures against offenders of traffic laws," he said. He said preliminary procedures being implemented include supporting the traffic department with more force and equipment and forming traffic teams to monitor dangerous highways. The teams will work as groups round the clock.

"Traffic control by radar has also been reviewed. Mobile radars will monitor roads 24 hours. The number of mobile radars will be doubled to 70 by the end of next year," Brigadier Dr. Al Merri said.=


Strict rules aim to lower road deaths

Dubai - Nov. 01: Police want to reduce the traffic death rate from the current 19.5 per 100,000 to the lowest in the world, a senior police official said yesterday.

Brigadier Dr. Jamal Mohammad Al Merri, Acting Chief of Dubai Police, said Dubai Police's goal is to see the rate down to the lowest in the world. "I am sure that Dubai will witness a qualitative leap in terms of traffic safety," she said.

Brigadier Dr. Al Merri said police have started implementing strict traffic procedures which include, 24-hour monitoring of the roads, electronic monitoring of all interchanges, increasing the number of mobile radars and stiffening procedures against dangerous offences.

Brigadier Dr. Al Merri said according to him, speeding and jumping red signals were the main reasons behind most traffic accidents. He said police reported 467 traffic offences as part of a campaign organised during the Eid holidays. The traffic offences included parking on pavements, blocking traffic, reckless driving, jumping red signals and lane line violation.

Reward: Courteous drivers to win prizes

Safe drivers will be rewarded for their courtesy and driving skills starting next week.

The five-day Caltex RoadStar Contest, Dubai's biggest road safety campaign organised by the Emirates Motor Sports Federation (EMSF) in association with Dubai Police will reward safe drivers from November 5 until November 9.

Drivers who observe basic principles of good driving such as wearing seatbelts, using child safety seats, using indicators and hands-free mobile phone sets, observe lane discipline and display courtesy in addition to adhering to speed limits will be observed.

Together with Dubai police and with support from local media partners, Radio 2 and Gulf News, the official newspaper, Bridgestone, Jabra , Lexus and Al Futtaim Motors, the Caltex RoadStar team will patrol the streets of Dubai during morning and evening rush hours to spot safe drivers.

Safe drivers will be rewarded with Dh750 each in addition to other prizes. Winners will also receive a certificate endorsed by Dubai Police..


Ministry announces new plan to battle breast cancer

Dubai - Nov. 01: A comprehensive strategy to battle breast cancer, including routine screening programmes and a national cancer registry, is in the works to lower breast cancer mortality rates in the UAE.

The UAE has no programmes to screen for breast cancer currently or a detailed cancer registry. Current cancer rates are based on the number of patients registered at a public chemotherapy centre in Al Ain.

Dr Ali Shakar, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Health, announced that the new breast cancer policy would be fully implemented within five years.

"We will extend the cancer registry in Al Ain. We will also build more centres to educate and screen people in all the emirates, and some in the peripheral areas of the UAE," he told Gulf News.

He added that patients would have to pay a nominal fee to undergo screening.

Dr Houriya Kazim, specialist breast surgeon at Well Woman Clinic, told Gulf News that a comprehensive national cancer registry and exact data on breast cancer cases were critical to develop health policies as breast cancer risk factors were not applicable to women in the Gulf.

"Women here are avoiding risk factors, such as having children early, having many children and not taking hormone-replacement therapy, but the rates are still high," she said.

"We know from neighbouring countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, that women are also getting breast cancer ten years earlier than their Western counterparts and we don't know why," she added.

She said the breast cancer screening policies should also take into account the cost of screening, such as making it a federal requirement for insurance companies to cover preventive screenings.

workplace: Offices to raise awareness

UAE offices are the new site in the battle against breast cancer with employers taking the initiative to educate female employees and emphasise the importance of early detection.

The Breast Cancer Workplace Awareness and Corporate Responsibility Project, part of the US-UAE Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research, was launched yesterday.

The one-year pilot programme will take place at all participating workplaces, including the Dubai Business Women's Council (DBWC), by providing free mammograms to employees and including breast cancer educational inserts in the office mail.


Bag used in 'kidnap case' to be examined

Dubai - Nov. 01: A defence lawyer has asked a court to allow him to examine a bag which five suspects reportedly used to put a kidnap victim in while transporting him from Dubai to Sharjah.

Dubai Public Prosecution charged the suspects, an Iranian, two Azerbaijanis and two Russians with kidnapping the Indian victim, identified as J.P., assaulting him and threatening to kill him.

Defence lawyer Samir Al Azrak asked the Dubai Court of First Instance yesterday to allow him to examine the bag in which the suspects reportedly put the victim.

Police said the five suspects kidnapped the victim, who is a company owner, at knifepoint and tortured him with a hot iron.

In yesterday's hearing, the presiding judge adjourned the case and ordered the public prosecution to bring the bag for examination. Evidence including two knives, eight credit cards and a number of cheques which belonged to the victim, were shown to the defence lawyers.

The Iranian confessed earlier that he had planned to torture and attack J.P., over a financial dispute. It is alleged the suspects heated an iron and placed it on the Indian company owner's face, hands and stomach. It is said they took him to a house in Sharjah in the bag and held a candle under his left leg and forced him to sign some cheques.


Opening of Dolphinarium in Dubai delayed

Dubai - Nov. 01: Dubai’s controversial dolphinarium will open at least two months late and will not be ready until January 2007 at the earliest. The Dubai Creek Park project, which includes two pools to house three dolphins, was scheduled to open at the beginning of this month.  But delays in the construction of the 1,500-seat stadium and a building to hold restaurants, cafés, classrooms and a gift shop have made that impossible, said Christopher Richardson, project manager for Royal Sergrex, the company managing the project in partnership with Dubai Municipality.

“It’s really tough because it’s the story of most projects in Dubai. Construction companies are backlogged with other projects and getting anything finished on time becomes a matter of who begs the most,” Richardson told 7DAYS. He said delays in supply, delivery and shortage of manpower have also contributed to the late opening. The three dolphins aged 15, 17, and 19 will be transported to Dubai from Royal Sergrex’s aquarium in the Ukraine by the end of December. 

The project has been criticised by animal welfare groups, who say captivity radically alters the dolphins’ natural behaviour and has been proven to shorten their lifespan. But officials have maintained the dolphinarium is no different than a zoo and that the dolphins heading for Dubai are second and third generation captives and don’t even know what freedom is.

The project has faced delays since its inception with the start of construction held up because of building licences. “It’s out of our control and there is no way around it.  But we prefer to finish the project late than rush and strain our workers which could end up in injuries and accidents,” he said. Richardson hopes the dolphinarium will open in time for the Dubai Shopping Festival.  “We expect a full house.  So we are not going to heavily promote the opening to avoid chaos and overcrowding,” he said.


Accident stop-off

Dubai - Nov. 01: Brigadier Jamal Al Marri deputy commandant general of Dubai police has said police are planning  to work with petrol stations to provide a convenient stop-off for motorists who have minor accidents. “These will be to give the accident reports to the motorists,” he said, “so you don’t need to go to the police station.”


Dubai ranked top for GCC business

Dubai - Oct. 31: The gap between Dubai and Abu Dhabi as the most favoured place to do business in the GCC (and, by extenion, the UAE) is widening, with Dubai destined to go further ahead over the next 12 months, according to a survey of business leaders in the Middle East. The ‘Leaders in Dubai Business Forum – 2006 Doing Business in the GCC’ survey questioned more than 400 senior executives from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt and Syria, about their plans and attitudes towards doing business in the GCC.

The report from the survey found that Dubai was the undisputed business capital of the GCC with more than half (52 per cent) of the companies represented doing most of their GCC business in the emirate and 23 per cent wanting to do more. By comparison only 4.4 per cent  did most of their business in Abu Dhabi and although 13.5 per cent of all of the companies said they wanted to increase their business in the capital it meant Abu Dhabi would continue to slip further behind Dubai.

Only Saudi Arabia appears able to challenge Dubai, with 25 per cent of companies doing most of their GCC business there and 31 per cent wanting to do more. However, Saudi Arabia was voted the most difficult to do business by some margin while the UAE was overwhelmingly the easiest. Overall, business confidence in the GCC is among the highest in the world. The survey found that a massive 92 per cent of the companies surveyed expect to increase the amount of business they do in the region over the next 12 months.


Dubai Metro will ensure environment protection

DUBAI - Nov. 01 – The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has sought help from both national and international organisations to protect the environment while the Dubai Metro is being constructed.

At a recent workshop on environmental protection organised by the Quality Safety Environment and Health (QSEH) department of the Rail Agency, Dr Qoutaiba, who heads the department, said, “The construction of underground tunnels may affect the soil; pollute the air, water and also lead to noise pollution. The responsibilities include reviewing the project at every stage and tackling waste disposal, noise pollution and emission of gases like  Carbon Monoxide,” he added.

“Everything that surrounds us is our environment and anything we do to alter it affects us directly or indirectly. As such, we have sought national as well as international cooperation to help us protect our natural resources,”  he added.

The workshop dwelt on integration of QSEH standards for the Rail Agency that are being adopted through an Integrated Management System involving ISO 9001 Quality, ISO 14001 Environ and OHSAS 18001 Safety.

Dr Qoutaiba also said that the department’s goal was zero fatality. He added that the department is assessing the risks involved in the project.

Emphasising on Deming’s PDCA Cycle, (Plan, Do, Check and Act) he said, “The vision of our department is to pose minimum risk to the environment. Every country today is doing its best to protect environment and constructions like the Metro Project affect the ecosystem. In the interest of protecting people living around the metro construction sites, we have developed key strategies that revolve around catering to emergency responses, vehicular safety, and have also established performance measurements.”

“We have planned to set up onsite air purification systems and are setting up monitors to measure gas levels. Besides this, construction wastes will be picked up and placed in containers which will be emptied regularly as per the prescribed Environment Management System, he said. We will not use plastic during construction and in line with the waste treatment application, we encourage all our contractors to reduce, reuse and recycle,” he added.

The success indicators will be measured against the degree of damage to human or natural resources, the complaints received and other factors.



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