British Grandfather Faces 3 Years Jail in UAE For Touching Man’s Hip

“The police were taking seriously the accusation that I, a 52-year-old, churchgoing grandfather had repeatedly sexually assaulted two giant, aggressive young guys, in a crowded hotel lobby.”


A British grandfather is facing up to three years in prison in the United Arab Emirates after being accused of sexually assaulting a hotel security personnel when he touched his hip to get past him during an argument.

John Murphy, a grandfather from Blackheath in South London, was sent to jail after the altercation and the sexual assault charges. He is out on bail after spending six weeks in a “hellhole” Abu Dhabi prison but faces up to three years in prison.

Murphy, who oversaw operation management for the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, has reportedly lost his job over the ordeal and has been unable to pay his rents.

“It feels like I'm staring down the barrel of a gun. Utter despair. It is only my faith in God that keeps me getting out of bed and facing each day. I daren't even let myself think about the years of hell to come,” Murphy told The Daily Mail.

He said his passport has been confiscated by U.A.E. authorities while he awaits his conviction.

“My passport is held until my final hearing, where I have been told to expect a sentence of two to three years, followed by deportation. I have had no opportunity to offer a defense, and have lost all of my savings. My landlord is suing me for non-payment and has confiscated all of my possessions. It feels like my life is over,” he said.

According to Murphy, the altercation which led to his arrest began when he and his wife were enjoying a weekend break at the Armed Forces Officers' Club and Hotel in nearby Abu Dhabi last month.

The churchgoing grandfather said things went south when the couple invited his wife’s cousin to their room for an evening coffee.

The cousin worked as a sports massage therapist at the hotel.

According to Murphy, the hotel security mistook their informal encounter for an “out-of-hours” massage and despite his many attempts would not let him explain that they were family members.

“We tried explaining that he had none of his equipment, and even showed them some Facebook pictures of us at church outings [to prove we were related], but it was like talking to a brick wall,” he said of the argument with the two security guards.

Murphy said the security guards were becoming “increasingly aggressive” and he feared he would get assaulted or “manhandled.”

“Their body language was confrontational and the larger man slipped behind me,” he said. “The other one got right in my face, telling me he didn't like being lied to, and that business only happened in the hotel with his approval. Every time I started to explain, he cut me off with more shouting. It was very humiliating and demeaning. I was trying not to match their aggression, as it was beginning to feel dangerous. There were people watching and even videoing the confrontation. In that moment it felt to me like I was either about to be assaulted, or manhandled to somewhere that they could assault me.”

It was then the Briton used a move taught to him by his father to get out of an argument that was clearly getting heated.

“I needed to escape and used a trick my father had once shown me. With the biggest guy, the one in front of me, I tugged his jacket on the left side with my left hand, and gave a slight push on his right hip, to the left with my right hand. This maneuver allowed me to dart past him and head down the corridor to the lift where there were a lot of people,” Murphy said.

It was the next day that his world began to unravel, as he went to file a police complaint against the hotel staff.

Murphy found out the hotel employees had submitted a counter complaint that he had sexually assaulted them.

“The police were taking seriously the accusation that I, a 52-year-old, churchgoing grandfather had repeatedly sexually assaulted two giant, aggressive young guys, in a crowded hotel lobby,” he said. “Apparently there is a strict physical behavior code. To my disbelief, I was taken to the police station, then put in actual chains like in an old movie and whisked away to a hearing in a small court office. This was all in Arabic, with the judge instructing me through an interpreter to do things like stand up and sit down.”

Murphy was then jailed in the prison at the police station for 10 days, where he was allegedly chained throughout, before being transferred  to the notorious Al Wathba jail which he referred to as “Dante’s Inferno.”

“There was incessant noise, I felt my life was in danger and I honestly didn't expect to get out alive. It was baking hot all the time, the food was rotting garbage, and the place was so overcrowded that people had to take it in turns to sleep,” he said. “It smelled powerfully of sweat, feces and sewage. The sanitary conditions were shocking and people were always sick. The slightest cut would quickly lead to infection and there was no chance of any medical attention. I finally got bail six weeks later, and I believe I'm still suffering from PTSD. I can't sleep, and have the most awful flashbacks.”

After a prolonged career in the British army, first with the with P Company, then with the Territorial Army, in the Royal Kent Sharpshooters, and the parachute regiment, the Briton worked as an engineer and landed a job at for the Emir flagship as the project manager for Burj Khalifa.

Murphy awaits his fate in the final hearing, however, this is far from the first case of detained British citizens in the U.A.E.

Radha Stirling, CEO and founder of human rights NGO “Detained In Dubai,” said the case highlights one of the many cases like Murphy’s who come to the U.A.E. thinking it of as a liberal nation, unaware of the fate that awaits them.

“The danger of the UAE is that they spend vast amounts of money marketing themselves as a desirable destination for both tourism and business. This can often mislead Westerners to believing it is a safe country to visit, when in fact the risks are high,” she said. “Countless lives have been ruined because people used to more advanced and trustworthy legal systems travel to the UAE, expecting the same due process and legal protection, when it does not exist.”

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: REUTERS/Tony Gentile

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