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In the morning of December 31 2014, an unknown man started calling the Future Inns hotel in the city of Cardiff, Wales claiming that someone was dead in their hotel. ‘There’s a woman dead in the room 203,’ he told them. The caller didn’t give his name but called a total of four times. When asked for more information, he replied, ‘Well the girl, the girl. 28 years old. A Muslim girl, we was together there in hotel and she kill herself.
Content warning: This episode includes mentions of domestic abuse, sexual assault and suicide.
In the morning of December 31 2014, an unknown man started calling the Future Inns hotel in the city of Cardiff, Wales claiming that someone was dead in their hotel. ‘There’s a woman dead in the room 203,’ he told them. The caller didn’t give his name but called a total of four times. When asked for more information, he replied, ‘Well the girl, the girl. 28 years old. A Muslim girl, we was together there in hotel and she kill herself.’
Shortly after midday, and about an hour after check-out time, a duty manager went to the room. Ignoring the Do Not Disturb sign that was hanging on the door, the duty manager unlocked and opened the door. Inside, he saw the figure of a young woman laying on the bed with the duvet pulled up to her chin and her hands together as if she were asleep. The mattress beneath her was bare.
Whilst it wouldn’t be unusual for a hotel guest to sleep in and miss checkout, especially in Cardiff; a city famous for its nightlife, this woman was too still to be sleeping off a late night. The stillness inside room 203 was haunting and it dawned upon the hotel manager that the woman was dead – just like the unknown caller had claimed.
When the police arrived, they noted the bedsheets, stained and discarded along with some towels in the bathroom. To the side of the bed was a hand-written note which looked to have been written quickly or under duress. In part, it read, ‘My love Sammy, I’m sorry we’ve come to an end. Love you.’ The note had been dated 12/29/14, written in the American format with the month first. In Wales, as with the rest of the UK, people usually write the day first. The woman’s clothes were twisted around her body and there was visible bruising around her neck.
The deceased woman was quickly identified as 28-year-old Nadine Abruas. Nadine had visited the US, but she was from the UK and lived in Cardiff. However, the hotel room her body had been found in had been booked by an American citizen named Ramahari Almahri. Ramahari also went by the name ‘Sammy’, the person named in the apparent suicide note. CCTV footage showed Nadine entering the hotel alongside Sammy Almahri shortly after 11pm the previous night, and Sammy leaving alone about an hour later.
Nadine Abruas came from a large family. She had six siblings and she was an aunt to nine nieces and nephews. Nadine had married when she was 21 but the marriage wasn’t what she’d hoped for, so she had ended it. Nadine was studying at the University of Cardiff and she wanted to pursue a career in architecture and wanted a husband who would support this and her other ambitions.
Nadine was an educated, independent woman who was very much in control of her own life and she had goals that she wanted to accomplish. After the break up of her marriage, she moved into her own flat not far from her family in Cardiff Bay. She was someone who wanted to be in a relationship, rather than needed to be in one. Nadine wanted a partner, a companion who also had aspirations and had similar values to her own. She certainly wasn’t about to settle for anyone who wouldn’t be a positive contribution to her life.
But, Cardiff is a small city and its Muslim population is even smaller. After experiencing several disappointments in finding someone in her local area, she somewhat reluctantly turned to online dating. With her mum and sister’s encouragement, but not much optimism, Nadine created a profile on MuslimMatch.com.
Even though she still lived in her hometown, she didn’t want to be limited by such a small city so she was open to meeting men from all over the UK, as well as abroad. In 2012, Nadine came across the profile of Sammy Almahri. Sammy lived in New York. His profile showed a seemingly confident, successful man. Nadine thought that something could be possible.
The two matched and soon began messaging each other. Sammy seemed to have a lot of the qualities that Nadine valued. He was witty and he made her laugh. They began to video call and their relationship developed. During one video call, Sammy showed Nadine around his apartment, which looked like the perfect home for the well-paid professional man he presented himself to be.
Sammy and Nadine began to talk for hours, and often well into the night. He was meeting all of Nadine’s requirements, and more. He was charming, funny, and charismatic. He told Nadine that money was no problem for him, he made enough he told her, and he came from money.
Nadine’s sister, Aneesa, thought their relationship was unusually intense, but she knew her sister wasn’t naive. Nadine was smart, and having already experienced what she doesn’t want from a relationship, she knew what she deserved. Aneesa trusted Nadine’s judgement.
Sammy started to send Nadine gifts including a phone and a laptop. He spoke about buying her a car on a few occasions and even offered to give her financial support. After a year, they began to speak about getting married, and not long after that, they finally met in person.
Sammy flew to the UK and met Nadine, and her family in Cardiff. He made a great effort to impress Nadine’s mum and sister and continued to shower Nadine with promises about their life together. During this visit, and despite not being officially engaged, Sammy visited a local Imam and spoke to him about marrying Nadine.
Before he returned to the US, Sammy offered Nadine money to pay for her studies telling her that they were going to be man and wife and that he’ll support her and sponsor her while she was in college. Nadine felt uneasy about taking money from him. Aneesa told Nadine to take it – it looked like he was going to be her husband and she deserved being treated well. But her doubts about Sammy began to reappear.
Sammy would constantly call Nadine late at night and in the early hours of the morning, but no matter what time it was, Nadine answered his calls. Nadine’s mother also began to have her doubts.
In July 2014, Sammy paid for Nadine to visit him in New York. Reasoning that if things didn’t feel right between her and Sammy when she got to New York, she could just leave, Nadine decided to go. She had always wanted to visit New York and by the time she flew across the Atlantic to meet him, was excited about the trip.
But all hopes Nadine might have had about any future with Sammy were shattered once she got to New York. Sammy revealed himself to be far from the devoted partner he had presented himself as. Not long after she arrived in New York, Nadine called her family and said she was coming home on the next available flight. She sent her family some photos of herself, but rather than showing her standing in Times Square or on the Brooklyn Bridge, they showed a cut and bruised lip. Sammy Almahri had attacked Nadine, tried to strangle her and raped her. By the time Nadine got home, bruises had emerged across her torso and on her face.
Notsurprisingly, Nadine wanted nothing to do with Almahri, but when she was in New York, he had photographed her and had images that showed her breasts. Unable to take being rejected for his heinous behaviour and attempting to force Nadine to be with him, Almahri began to threaten her with the images. He threatened to send them to her brother, post them online and taunted that she’d have to leave Cardiff.
In September 2014, Nadine called the police and reported that Almahri had raped and tried to strangle her in New York.
Almahri continued to barrage Nadine with text messages and phone calls. Episode 1 of true crime TV series, Swipe Right for Murder, focused on Nadine’s murder played the automated voice of an answering service saying there were 45 new messages on Nadie’s phone. They also played some of the messages Almahri left. In one he repeats, “Pick up. Pick up. I love you. Hello. Are you there? Hello? Hello?” In another he demands, “Pick up the phone,” and continues, “You want money? You want a car? I will do anything. Hello? I love you. Hello?”
By this time, it had been almost three years since they had first met online, and Nadine had met someone else. When Almahri had somehow discovered this, the messages he left Nadine became even more abusive, “I have been calling you a lot,” he says in one, “I will never ever stop now or give up. I will harm you.” In another he threatened, “You will pay very bad”
Nadine could see that he was an abusive psychopath and she just wanted to be free of him. She didn’t think Almahri wouldn’t stop harassing her or trying to blackmail her while he was in possession of the images of her. So, she came up with a plan to get them back. She would invite him to Cardiff, her city, and show him that she wasn’t afraid of him. She also wanted him to acknowledge that he had destroyed everything that could have been.
On 27 December 2014, Nadine drove to London and picked Almahri up from the airport. The next day, she told the man she had been seeing that an ex-boyfriend had “made things a bit complicated” and cancelled the date they had arranged for that evening. That same day, security cameras at Nadine’s building captured her and Almahri arriving at her flat at around 4pm. Almahri stayed there for the next 24 hours before CCTV cameras caught him leaving just after 5pm on December 30th.
However, Almahri returned a short while after and followed someone else into the building rather than being buzzed in. A couple of hours later, one of Nadine’s brothers arrived. He had seen one of the pictures Sammy had of his sister. A fight allegedly broke out between him and Almahri inside Nadine’s flat. After about 20 minutes, Nadine’s brother escorted Almahri outside and drove him to Cardiff Central train station. He kicked Almahri out of the car and told him to leave Cardiff and not come back. Nadine’s brother warned that he feared what would happen to him if he returned.
But Almahri seemed to have no intention of letting Nadine get on with her life without him in it, and instead of buying a one-way train to the airport, he went into a store at the front of the station and bo ught a bottle of gin. In the store, Almahri realised that he had left his phone and passport at Nadine’s. Shortly after 8pm, he got into a taxi and headed back to Cardiff Bay.
Around 8:25pm, Almahri entered the Future Inn hotel, which was only a few hundred metres away from Nadine’s flat. After checking in, Almahri went to the bar and started downing shots of tequila. He used a phone in the hotel to call Nadine and asked her to bring his passport to him at the hotel. Nadine got to the hotel at 9:10pm. In the 45 minutes Almahri had been in the hotel, he had drunk 9 tequila shots.
I think it’s safe to assume that Almahri didn’t make the passport handover easy. He had first asked Nadine to bring his passport to the front of the hotel but after half an hour, Nadine was still at the hotel. Then they left the hotel and drove to a restaurant named Lilo’s. Nadine had previously been a waitress at this restaurant and her mother, Andrea believes that she went there to be around people she knew.
Those working at Lilo’s that night could see that something wasn’t right between Nadine and Almahri. Not long after they ordered their food, Almahri became aggressive. Other witnesses in the restaurant noticed that he appeared drunk. They left after about 20 minutes.
At 11:11pm, CCTV captured them returning to the hotel. This was the last time that Nadine was seen alive.
That night and the next morning, Nadine’s family didn’t have any reason to worry about her. As far as they knew, Almahri had left Cardiff, and was either on his way back to New York or already there. As the morning turned into the afternoon, and they still hadn’t heard from Nadine, they called her, but got no answer. Her sister left a message saying, “Hey Nads it’s Aneesa, wake up! Bye.” As the hours passed, they became increasingly worried. The concern Nadine’s mum had for her daughter can be heard in her voice as she left Nadine another voicemail saying, “Please call home, I’m really worried. I hope you’re OK”
Nadine’s mum and sister continued to call her until around 10pm when the police arrived at their door. Two of Nadine’s brothers were with them. In 2017, Nadines mum described what is likely the worst moment of her life to the TV documentary called Swipe Right for Murder. She remembered being asked to sit down and then begging the police officers to take her to see Nadine. When Aneesa learned that her sister had been found dead in the hotel, she fell to the floor. Nadine’s mum immediately said Almahri was responsible. Aneesa said that they didn’t know that, to which her mother replied, “Yeah we do.”
The post-mortem examination reveled that the cause of Nadine’s death was fatal strangulation from pressure to her neck and face. Whoever had killed her, held one hand over her mouth and nose.
South Wales police had collected CCTV evidence from the hotel which showed Almahri leaving the hotel alone after receiving directions to Cardiff Bay Casino at nine minutes past midnight on December 31.
Securtity footage from the casino shows the police’s only suspect entering and withdrawing money. Footage from the ATM he used showed a bruise on his forehead. Almahri drank constantly in the casino and then returned to the hotel. At around 3am, he asked the on duty manager for directions to the M4 motorway. The manager walked Almahri outside and pointed to the road that would take him to the M4 and on to London. Almahri took Nadine’s car and headed for Heathrow.
The police used automatic number plate recognition technology which confirmed that he had driven to London. Security cameras at a Heathrow airport car park showed him leaning out of the window to get a ticket at 7:49am. Once inside, he bought an aeroplane ticket and got on a 10:30am flight from Heathrow to Bahrain, and then on to Doha, Qatar.
On new year’s day, 2015, South Wales police searched Nadine’s flat where they found Almahri’s phone which was full of incriminating evidence. Nadine’s mobile phone wasn’t in her flat and it hadn’t been found in the hotel, but the police were able to retrieve some of the many intimidating messages Almahri had left. When they pressed play, they heard some of Almahri’s demands and abuse, “Pick up the phone you’ll be very very very very sorry, ” he threatened, “You will be very very sorry.”
As their suspect had left Wales and the UK, South Wales police contacted The International Criminal Police Organization, known as Interpol, who issued an international arrest warrant.
It transpired that Almahri had taken Nadine’s mobile phone and in the days after killing her, he began to taunt her family with text messages in which he accused Nadine’s family of causing her death. One text said, ‘It’s your fault you’re next,’ and another, ‘Your brother killed her. It wasn’t me.’
On Monday January 5, as the police narrowed in on Almahri’s location by tracking Nadine’s phone, Andrea made a televised plea in which she directly addressed her daughter’s killer saying if he had truly loved her like he claimed, he would turn himself in. “Sammy, please,” she pleaded, “I’m asking you as Nadine’s mother please hand yourself into the authorities and please help us find the answers that we need so we can let Nadine rest in peace.”
Not knowing where he was, or whether he had returned to Wales, Aneesa didn’t feel safe walking to school alone and her older brother had been walking with her.
A week after Almahri had checked into the Future Inns hotel, the police released the CCTV footage of him checking in and appealed for the public’s help with any information of his whereabouts. They urged the public not to approach him but to inform them of any sightings.
The police knew Nadine’s telephone number and so they had tried calling it to get hold of Almahri. Suprisingly, he had answered. The documentary I mentioned earlier, played a recording of part of one of the conversations he had with the police. When the officer asked where he was, Almahri responds with a really disturbing laugh. When the officer asked what was so funny he taunted, “I’m so far you cannot get me I’m in Cuba. Cuba Havana.” But this was a lie. The police had tracked him to Tanzania in East Africa where they believed he was hiding out with some friends.
On January 8, a small group of South Wales police officers flew out to Tanzania. They arrived in the huge, densely populated port city of Dar es Salaam on the Indian Ocean coast, where they had no jurisdiction. They were assisted by the Tanzanian police and the two forces worked together to find Almahri. A spokesperson for the Tanzanian police told the BBC, “We’re told he is in Tanzania – he could be in any part of the county. But for security and investigation purposes we cannot say too much.” However, both police forces remained one step behind him. It’s possible that it was after this when that Almahri had answered Nadine’s phone and claimed that the police had just missed him. Nearly three weeks after they suspected Almahri had murdered Nadine, the South Wales officers returned to the UK without him.
The Tanzanian police spokesperson told ITV that they were doing their very best to get him and stated, “It is our high expectation that we are going to catch him.”
On January 19, the Tanzanian police did exactly that. They found Almahri hiding in a bush near Zambian boarder and arrested him. In his possession was Nadine’s phone, her bank cards and her laptop.
South Wales police officers returned to Tanzania on March 22 to extradite Almahri to the UK. One of the officers who went out to get him spoke of the arrogance he emitted.
Almahri was charged with the murder of Nadine Abruas on the night of December 30 2014.
The information that the police uncovered in their investigation exposed the real Ramahari ‘Sammy’ Almahri. He worked as a limo driver and wasn’t a millionaire businessman. In 2009, three years before he met Nadine, he jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge in a suicide attempt which he had survivied. Following this, he was put on a seven month alcohol treatment programme. In September 2012, which was either when he had already met Nadine online, or not long before they met, Almahri voluntarily entered another detox programme.
Forensic examinations of the laptop and phone he had given to Nadine as gifts found that Almahri had installed spyware on them.
In July, Almahri appeared in Newport Crown Court via video link and pleaded not guilty to murder. Over the next eighteen months, there were various delays and adjournments. In early 2016, Almahri was admitted into Ashworth psychiatric hospital in Liverpool. In March 2016, after a number of clinical assessments, he was found fit to stand trial. Almahri admitted unlawful killing but maintained he was not guilty of murder because his responsibility was diminished.
The prosecution didn’t accept this and on Tuesday October 18, 2016 a jury of four women, eight men and two reserves was selected and sworn in. The judge instructed them not to do any research or view social media in relation to the case, or discuss it once they left the court.
On Wednesday October 19, 2016, at 10:30am the murder trial began. Barrister Roger Thomas QC laid out the prosecution’s case, “The admitted killer of Nadine Aburas is the defendant. He admits that he unlawfully killed her and will, I believe, later plead guilty to the offence of manslaughter.” He continued, “That plea is not acceptable to the Crown and it’s for you to determine whether the true verdict is one of murder.” The barrister told the jury that Almahri claimed he was suffering from ‘abnormality of mental function’ and that they reject that claim. He told the court, “We submit quite simply this was the killing of a defenceless woman by a jealous and dangerous man.” He told the jury that Almahri had put spyware on Nadine’s devices and showed them the security video footage of him entering the Future Inn hotel shortly before Nadine was killed.
On the second day of the trial, with the public gallery full, Almahri’s defence barrister, John Charles Rees QC told the court that after seeing the reaction of Nadine’s family during the prosecution’s opening the previous day, his client had decided to change his plea to guilty.
With Almahri having admitted he was guilty to murder, the trial was over. On the steps outside the courtroom, detective Constable Jennifer Coleman read a statement on behalf of Nadine’s family in which he thanked everyone who has assisted them and asked that they would be given the time to grieve and remember their beautiful Nadine.
On November 2, the sentencing hearing began and the aggravating and mitigating factors were discussed. The prosecution spoke of Almahri trying to control Nadine by threatening to post the photographs he had taken of her online. Roger Thomas QC called him “cold and callous.”
Almahri’s barrister argued that there was no evidence that Almahri had used what he called ‘intimate photos’ against Nadine. He told the judge that Almahri suffered from mental health disorders and that his actions weren’t pre-meditated – he hadn’t used a ligature and Nadine had no other injuries. He highlighted that they had discussed marriage and that his client’s guilty plea has saved Nadine’s family from having to go through a trial.
Nadine’s mother was given the opportunity to give an impact statement. She said:
“No-one has really asked who Nadine was. She was a sister to six and an aunt to nine. Nadine was a ray of sunshine to everyone in her life. There is a huge void left in all our lives and she can never be replaced. She was very talented to the point we were in awe of her. Nadine won over the hearts of everyone she met daily.
I couldn’t bear to think what must have even going through her mind when he took her life. We allowed him [Almahri] to come into our family and he took our child. He made us wait two years to grieve for our child. He has destroyed us.”
At 12:20pm, sentencing was adjourned until the following day.
On November 3, the judge, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, sentenced him to a minimum term of 17 years. She thanked Nadine’s family for the dignity and courage they had shown and told them, “Your loss is immeasurable. To each of you, I offer my deepest condolences.”
Following the sentencing, the Senior Crown Prosecutor, David Wooler, read a statement which said:
“Nadine Aburas was a popular and caring young woman with a bright future to look forward to. Sammy Almahri’s callous and brutal actions took that future away from her and left her family dealing with the immense distress that resulted from her loss.
Having taken Nadine’s life, Almahri immediately sought to avoid responsibility for his actions by fleeing the country. Thanks to a swift and professional multi-agency response he was quickly brought back to Wales, where he has now been made to face up to what he did.
Today’s sentencing marks the conclusion of the criminal justice process, but we are acutely aware that the process of dealing with Nadine’s loss continues for those close to her. I would like to thank them for their bravery and dignity throughout the investigation and prosecution of this case.”
Major Crime Investigation’s Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Morgan then read a statement on behalf of South Wales Police. He spoke of how the now convicted murderer exacerbated Nadine’s family’s grief by his continued telephone calls and messages and noted that Almahri thought he could avoid having to take responsibility for what the detective called an ‘abhorrent crime.’
In 2017, when the filmmakers asked Nadine’s family what they thought of Almahri, Aneesa said she doesn’t give him the time of day. Her mother echoed her strength and said, “He’ll never take the memory of Nadine. The unbelievable privilege of having a daughter so beautiful so kind so considerate of others, he will never take that away.”
So, what do I think? Please remember that I have no background or education in law or law enforcement and that these are purely my personal thoughts and opinion based on the information I was able to find about this case.
Wales Online, who reported live updates throughout the trial, wrote that Almahri’s change to a guilty plea came as some surprise to his defence team and quoted his barrister, Mr Rees, as telling the court that, “On the medical evidence, it was perfectly reasonable for Mr Almahri to run the defence of diminished responsibility.”
I agree that diminished responsibility was a perfectly reasonable defence but I think it would have been difficult to prove. Section 2 of the Homicide Act 1957 says that someone isn’t to be convicted of murder if they were suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning from a recognised medical condition which substantially impaired their ability to either understand the nature of their actions, form a rational judgment, or to exercise self-control, and that resulted in them killing someone or being a party to the killing.
I’m sure Almahri had a few recognised medical conditions but I don’t think they were responsible for him killing Nadine. He had told Nadine that he would hurt her several times and the jury would have heard that in Almahri’s own voice from the endless messages he left her. The spyware he put on her devices was planned and premeditated, again something the jury would have heard about.
The jury would also have heard about Almahri’s actions after he killed Nadine. I wasn’t able to find out from my research if the prosecution mentioned the apparent suicide note on the first day but if you remember it was found on next to the bed and said in part, ‘My love Sammy, I’m sorry we’ve come to an end. Love you.’ It had been dated using the American format of putting the month first and I’m sure the prosecution wouldn’t have been short of experts who would have been able to speak about similarities between the handwriting in the note and Almahri’s handwriting. I think the jury would have had a hard time accepting diminished responsibility with proof that Almarhi took such calculated steps to cover his crime. That’s not even considering the fact that he left the country and then taunted the police that were trying to find him and Nadine’s family.
I doubt he would have been found not guilty of murder if he had gone through with the trial but I’m glad Nadine’s family didn’t have to sit through a full trial to find out.
Like me, you might have wondered why Nadine didn’t report Almahri’s threats of revenge porn. She may have told the police about it when she reported the assault in New York and it just wasn’t made public, but it’s also likely that she didn’t think much could be done about it. Revenge porn, the act of sharing private sexual materials without the person’s consent and with the intent to cause distress, wasn’t made an offence in its own right in England and Wales until 2015, which was the year after Nadine’s death.
I also wondered what happened when Nadine reported the assault. Newspapers reported that Nadine didn’t pursue the complaint. In the UK, it’s not up to victims to pursue a criminal complaint, it’s up to the police and The Crown Prosecution Service. I imagine the problem would have been that the assault happened in the US so would have to have been investigated by the police who have jurisdiction there. Although I would have thought that UK legislation regarding other crimes such as stalking, harassment, malicious communications and blackmail may have been applicable in this case.
The first episode of Swipe Right for Murder was my main source for Nadine’s family’s insights and I think it told their story in a very respectful manner. The show did include a forensic psychologist who spoke a bit about abusers like Almahri, although her comments were brief and mostly surface-level. I understand that shows need an angle and that their’s was the dangers of online dating, but it did irk me a little that that was the focus. Online dating didn’t kill Nadine. Her ex-partner did, and I think he would have killed her had they met in any other way.
In my opinion, when shows like this, and news reports, and podcasts focus on a medium as the problem, it takes away from the true issue. When someone who is over the legal limit drives a car and kills someone, we don’t demonise the car. I wish the angle had been more towards how online dating makes it easier for abusers to portray themselves as someone they’re not and the focus had been on signs to be aware of in any relationship, regardless of how it started.
Almahri use of expensive gifts is typical of lovebombing, which can be a form of manipulation. In the early stages of their relationship, Almahri seemed to be exactly what Nadine was looking for. Nadine knew what she wanted from a partner and what she was attracted to. It seems to me that Almahri used this to his advantage by moulding himself into her perfect partner.
Almahri was 45 years old when he was convicted and sentenced which means he’ll be 62 when he completes his minimum term of 17 years and has any chance of parole.
Thank you for listening to Turned Up Dead. All sources for this episode can be found at turnedupdead.com.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of or is being threatened with revenge porn, please report it. There are laws in place to protect you and the police in the UK take this crime very seriously. You can call the revenge porn helpline on 0345 6000 459 or email email@example.com to get information and advice.
Remember, if you listen carefully, even the words of liars will tell you the truth.
Crime Files S02 E04, ITV Cymru Wales
Y Ditectif, ITV Cymru Wales
Online news articles