US businessman "murdered girlfriend in Cardiff hotel" court hears
A "jealous and dangerous" US businessman murdered his ex-girlfriend in a hotel in Cardiff before fleeing to Africa, jurors have been told.
Cardiff Crown Court heard that Sammy Almahri strangled 28-year-old Nadine Aburas at the Future Inn in Cardiff Bay before placing a "do not disturb" sign on the room door.
Prosecuting counsel Roger Thomas QC said New Yorker Almahri then took his victim's car and drove to Heathrow Airport, then boarded a flight to Qatar before eventually ending up in Tanzania.
The court has been told the defendant admits killing Ms Aburas - who he met through an online dating site - but he claims diminished responsibility after saying he had heard "the voice of god telling him to kill".
The Crown rejects those claims and argues that the defendant had previously tried to blackmail Ms Aburas by threatening to post naked photographs of her online.
Mr Thomas said: "The body of Nadine Aburas was discovered in room 203... by the hotel's duty manager on New Year's Eve 2014.
"The room had been locked and there was a do not disturb sign placed on the door.
"He (the defendant) fled the scene with the only conceivable intention of avoiding responsibility and the consequences of his own actions.
"At the time of the killing, Mr Almahri claims he was suffering from an abnormality of mental function. He claims he was in a psychiatric state of hearing the voice of god telling him to kill Ms Aburas.
"The prosecution reject that claim. We submit quite simply this was the killing of a defenceless woman by a jealous and dangerous man."
Mr Thomas said Almahri, who the court heard may be aged either 45 or 50, met Ms Aburas on internet dating site MuslimMatch.com in 2013.
"They became friendly and contacted each other regularly by telephone, text and Skype," he added.
"The friendship developed and though her family can't recall the exact date, it's clear Mr Almahri visited Nadine on two or three occasions in 2013 and she travelled to New York to see him in the summer of 2014.
"There can be no doubt their friendship developed into an intimate relationship."
The court heard that Almahri had claimed he worked and travelled on behalf of the FBI, but Mr Thomas said that was "fictitious".
The Crown also said Almahri was "besotted" with Ms Aburas and provided her with money and expensive presents, including a car.
However, the jury of eight men and four women was told that the relationship became strained during Ms Aburas's visit to the US.
When she returned to Wales, she was described as looking "tired" and "drained" as well as having a lip injury.
The court heard that Almahri had topless photographs of Ms Aburas, which may have been taken "against her wishes" during an online Skype conversation.
Mr Thomas said at one point the defendant had sent her a text message saying "I'm going to post these on Facebook you motherf****** ho".
And the Crown said this threat, along with several other abusive messages, showed that Almahri was starting to act in a "jealous, possessive and increasingly threatening way".
Among the messages drawn to the jury's attention was one on December 21, after the defendant discovered that Ms Aburas had gone on a date with another man in Cardiff.
The message read: "You will be so sorry ... I know your (sic) with someone else."
Then on December 27, Almahri flew into Heathrow and was met by Ms Aburas before the pair travelled back to the Welsh capital together.
In the days running up to the alleged murder, jurors heard that Almahri had been in a fight with Ms Aburas's brothers, Ayman and Jamal, as well as being told by his ex that she wanted nothing more to do with him.
However, the court heard that Almahri insisted he "loved her" and "would not let her go".
He was driven to Cardiff Central station by Jamal - who, jurors heard, believed his sister's ex was catching a train to London.
However, the CCTV footage - taken on December 30 - showed Almahri buying a bottle of gin from Marks & Spencer before later checking in at the Future Inn.
After drinking nine tequilas in the bar, Ms Aburas arrived at the hotel following a call to her mobile phone.
The pair later went to the Lilo Grillhouse in City Road - where restaurant staff described them as shouting and arguing during a 50-minute stay.
CCTV footage then showed the couple returning to the hotel at around 11.10pm - which Mr Thomas said was the last time Ms Aburas was seen alive.
At around midnight, Almahri left Room 203 and asked hotel staff where he could withdraw money before heading to the Grosvenor casino and signing up as a new member.
After arriving back at the hotel at 12.35am, he ordered two bottles of lager.
Three hours later, at 3.05am, Almahri left the Future Inn again, asking for directions to the M4 motorway and telling staff he had placed a "do not disturb sign" on the door because his sister was sleeping.
The defendant arrived at Heathrow Airport at 7.05am - some five hours before Ms Aburas was found dead in Room 203.
Mr Thomas said it appeared that her body had been washed and cleaned.
Jurors were also told that Ms Aburas was a slim and petite woman, who was 5ft 3in and weighed little over nine stone.
The court heard that after leaving the UK, Almahri spoke with police negotiators via telephone claiming to be in Cuba or Thailand.
Mr Thomas added: "In various conversations Mr Almahri had in the next few days, he suggested Nadine Aburas committed suicide and he said he helped her because she effectively couldn't live without him.
"If that is a conclusion you appeared to accept, it shows how Mr Almahri's mind was working very shortly after he killed her.
"He was seeking to establish Nadine Aburas hadn't been killed, but he had assisted her suicide."
Mr Thomas said while the calls were "rambling, self indulgent (and) self-serving", they showed little doubt that the defendant was there when Ms Aburas was killed.
The court heard an international arrest warrant was issued by Interpol and Almahri was arrested by local police in Tanzania before being brought back to the UK on March 26.
Mr Thomas said: "It is for you to decide whether the state of mind he was in at the time (of the killing) and whether he was hearing voices.
"But we submit that this was deliberate killing and thereafter he did his best to avoid detection and arrest."
Almahri denies murder.
The trial continues.