A British holidaymaker died after being ‘beaten and starved by guards’ in a Dubai police station, an inquest was told.
Lee Brown’s family claimed that British officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) did not do enough to prevent his death.
They charge the Foreign Office with prioritizing diplomatic relations over his well-being.
According to officials in the Gulf state, Mr Brown beat himself up after ‘throwing his arms around.’
But, at great personal risk, a fellow inmate called the family to tell them he was being beaten and starved by police and needed help or he would die.
Mr Brown had flown to the Gulf state on April 6, 2011, with the intention of stopping for a few days en route to visit his girlfriend in Indonesia.
According to Walthamstow Coroner’s Court, he allegedly assaulted a maid the next day at the Burj Al Arab Hotel before being taken to the Bur Dubai police station, where he died five days later.
Inquest jurors were told that despite requests, no footage of the alleged incident or his time in the police station was ever provided by UAE authorities.
Mr Brown, from Dagenham in east London, enjoyed traveling and was thinking about converting to Islam in order to marry his girlfriend, with whom he had been dating for about a year.
He would work seven-day weeks running his building, painting, decorating business to save money to jet off around the world.
Mr Brown claimed in a statement after his arrest that someone who did not work at the hotel had come in and pushed him out.
When he returned, he said 20 people were in his room and he was later beaten and dragged to the police station in just his underwear.
On April 8, he was taken to the public prosecutor’s office where he is said to have thrown himself on the floor, jumped on chairs and sustained superficial injuries to his face, arm and chest.
He then spent four days in the prison where his condition deteriorated.
In the evening of April 11, his brother Steve and sister-in-law Susanne received a panicked call from another detained Briton who told them their relative was ‘in a very bad way’ and at risk of dying in custody.
The inmate said: ‘You have got to get help. If it carries on, Lee could die.’
They said Mr Brown had blood on his forehead from an injury and was handcuffed in solitary confinement.
They added: ‘He has been beaten badly by the police, he is in a really bad way.
‘Get help and get the British Embassy to ask for help immediately.’
At around 2am the next day the same inmate called and told Susanne: ‘Did you call the embassy? They have got him in solitary, they have beaten him bad, he is unconscious on the floor, he needs help.
‘The Dubai police have beaten him very badly, he has not been fed or given water, he has been in solitary handcuffed. There are shackles around his ankles, he seems to be sleeping and is going in and out of consciousness.
‘There is blood dripping down his face and chest from a nose injury and he has a cut to the temple area of his head.’
Another inmate, who was French, also told them: ‘You have to get help for him, he hasn’t eaten or drank for days.’
His sister-in-law contacted the Foreign Office immediately after both calls, but claims officials were very ‘dry’ with the family.
Just hours later a Foreign Office official visited the prison but was told Mr Brown was asleep and turned away.
Days later after Lee’s death, Steve and Susanne flew to Dubai and visited the police station, prosecutors office and hotel within 24 hours before flying back as they were too afraid to sleep there.
Susanne told the court their conversation with a police station official was ‘vague and disjointed’ and their requests to see CCTV were turned down.
The couple were told footage showed Mr Brown had beaten himself up ‘by throwing his arms around’ but when they asked to see it they were told it was ‘too grainy’.
Susanne told the coroner: ‘This is something he kept repeating and repeating despite telling us footage from the police station showed him throwing himself around and injuring himself repeatedly.’
They also visited the chief prosecutor in his office who was said to have been ‘quite manic’ with the family and had a ‘bizarre presentation’.
Again they were not allowed to view footage.
Mrs Brown added: ‘He told me [after his death] the prosecution against him was being dismissed, as if we were supposed to be grateful for this as they could have continued to prosecute him after death. As if we should be happy they were being dropped.
‘He just wanted us to go away.’
She added: ‘There are many unanswered questions about the circumstances that led to his death.
‘I believe he was beaten, starved and left to die in the horrific circumstances of solitary confinement, and that the authorities in the UK did nothing to preserve his life.
‘If the inmates had not called then very little would be known about what happened to Lee.’
‘It really worries us as a family that Dubai is promoted as a really safe place to go and travel to, it is a friendly country.
‘It is not like Afghanistan, we trade with them, there are treaties in place, it is a safe country to travel to for a holiday.
‘I don’t know if people are aware that they would get very little support if something went wrong.’
Steve added in his statement: ‘I believe he was beaten to death by the guards whilst in custody at the police station.
‘Had the embassy forced the issue and gone to see him in person quickly, medical attention might have been sought and my brother might be alive today.
‘I feel concerned that protecting the safety of Brits is not as important to embassy staff as diplomatic relations with their hosts.
‘I feel let down that every piece of information came not from the Foreign Office but from prisoners and well-wishers at great personal risk to themselves.’
He added in a statement read out by the coroner: ‘He was a very hardworking person with a passion for travel.
‘He would work long hours and then travel for as long as his finances would allow him, before returning to do the same thing again.
‘He was calm and friendly. Apart from a flutter on the horse races he had no vices.
‘He was a pleasant, normal person who was much loved by his family.’
According to GP records read to jurors, he struggled with depression between 2001 and 2004, after his father died in his arms from a stroke.
He had no medical conditions and was not taking medication when he left for Dubai, but his sister-in-law told the coroner that a mental health episode was the only credible explanation for his alleged behavior at the hotel.
The jury inquest, presided over by Nadia Persaud, Area Coroner for East London, continues and is expected to last until Friday.