A lovesick woman committed suicide by jumping from the 148th floor of the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – after a relationship with a wealthy businessman apparently turned sour, according to Mail Online. The death of Laura Vanessa Nunes, 39, in November last year has gone unreported in the autocratic Emirate, where public information is tightly controlled.
And her devastated mother has claimed that Emaar, the property group behind the 2,700ft high Burj Khalifa, has refused to return repeated requests for information about the tragedy.Leona Sykes, from South Africa, travelled to Dubai to seek answers because she can’t believe how easily her daughter was able to leap from the major tourist attraction with supposed modern safety features.
She convinced Dubai police to show her the CCTV taken from the observation deck, despite the harrowing nature of the footage. According to Ms Sykes, the video shows Ms Nunes walk towards the viewing platform’s glass security panels and put her head through a small gap designed to allow tourists to look out and take photographs. She then rushes to the back of the observation deck, apparently in fear.
‘I think she got a fright when she looked down. She was a panicky terrified young woman,’ said a distraught Ms Sykes. ‘She walked back to the pane of glass, turned around and looked up, maybe to get strength or to make a prayer. ‘Then she put her head out, tilted her body and slipped through. And nobody noticed.’ After falling 1,640ft, her body was found on the terrace of the 3rd floor Amal restaurant, part of the Armani hotel.
Although the Burj Khalifa is a popular attraction among both tourists and those living in Dubai, Ms Nunes’ death, on November 16 2014, has gone unreported until now. The suicide took place on a Sunday afternoon, when the Amal restaurant would typically be packed with guests. The Emaar group has quietly improved the safety barriers that proved so easy for Ms Nunes to elude.
Photos of the At The Top observation deck taken before and after the tragic incident, appear to show that a safety rail has been put in place since her death. Sources in Dubai said the change had been made at the request of the Dubai police. Ms Nunes, a qualified masseuse who was in Dubai on a tourist visa hoping to find work, is understood to have been distraught over an on-off relationship with a wealthy Emirati businessman, who MailOnline is not naming for legal reasons.
The pair met in 2009 and saw each other when Ms Nunes was in Dubai, in between stints working in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Messages on mobile phone app WhatsApp show appear to show how Ms Nunes became increasingly distraught over her relationship with the businessman whom she first met in 2011. Ms Sykes told MailOnline that she believed her daughter, who held South African and Portuguese citizenship, was to meet the man two nights before her death.
Ms Sykes fears that clues about her daughter’s decision to end her own life may have gone missing. A BlackBerry mobile phone recovered from Ms Nunes’ body was returned to Ms Sykes without its SIM card or memory card. The SIM card would have contained any messages that Ms Nunes sent while she was on the viewing platform of the Burj Khalifa contemplating suicide.
When Ms Sykes contacted the businessman, he initially denied having any recent contact with Ms Nunes. But he later admitted that they had been in contact when presented with evidence of messages sent between the pair. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of the businessman. But Ms Sykes wants to know how the Burj Khalifa, built at a cost of nearly £1billion as a shining monument to Dubai’s oil wealth, could ever have installed safety barriers that proved so easy to elude.
She believes Emaar Properties should already have been aware of the risk of suicides, after an Indian man jumped to his death from the 147th floor of the Burj Khalifa in 2011. ‘It’s horrifying,’ said Ms Sykes. ‘My daughter unfortunately wanted to kill herself. But it should not have been possible for someone to do that. How can you have a top tourist attraction where that’s possible?’
Despite repeated requests for information, Ms Sykes claims that Emaar Properties has refused to answer any of her questions about the her daughter’s death or the safety of the Burj Khalifa’s observation deck. She said: ‘I sent messages on their website. My ex-husband phoned and they weren’t prepared to speak to him.’ Emaar Properties has not responded to enquiries from MailOnline and the businessman said that he had ‘no comment’.
Ms Sykes, paid tribute to her ‘good-hearted’ daughter, who adopted a stray cat she found and took up Reiki massage because she ‘always wanted to heal people’. ‘I think she loved Arabs and the Arab culture and she liked exploring different religions.’ But her love of the Middle East, which led her to convert to Islam and adopt the name Noora, also drew her into a romantic relationship that made her unhappy.
‘She was besotted with him. But he didn’t love her as much as she loved him.’ She said Ms Nunes was vulnerable, partly due to a facial disfigurement at birth. ‘She was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, which created a lot of insecurity for her. She was teased as a child. She had surgery to correct it, even in her early 30s.’