This website is dedicated to my daughter.

On 16 November 2014 my daughter Laura Vanessa Nunes fell to her death from the At the Top Sky observation deck on the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, the tallest building in the world, a month after the deck was officially opened to the public. Her death was covered up by the government of Dubai.

On 18 May 2015, Rob Davies from the Daily Mail exposed the government of Dubai and the Emaar Property Group’s best kept secret, Laura’s suicide from the Burj Khalifa. It was promptly denied by General Khalil Ebrahim Al Mansouri, Assistant to the Dubai Police Chief for Criminal Investigation Affairs, who said that “the 39-year-old woman jumped out of her 14th-floor Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) apartment.” Laura had been staying in Room 309 at the Abidos Hotel Apartments, Dubailand.

On 16 November 2017, the third anniversary of Laura’s death, Mark Saunokonoko of Nine, published the official confirmation of the location of Laura’s death.

‘Portuguese embassy emails obtained by Nine under Portugal’s freedom of information laws confirmed that Laura had jumped from the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa’.

Luis Camara of the Portuguese Consulate in Abu Dhabi, had received the information from the Dubai Police a day after Laura’s death.

The truth. Laura fell to her death from the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa.

This question still remains. On 10 May 2011, thirty-eight year old Athiraman Kannan, who came from Tamil Nadu in India, and who worked as a cleaner for Arabtec at the Burj Khalifa, fell to his death from the 147th floor of the Burj Khalifa.

Interestingly, his death was acknowledged by the Dubai Police, i.e. the government of Dubai, and the Emaar Property Group. Laura’s was covered up. Why? Athiraman was an Indian national, Laura was a Portuguese national? Why did the government of Dubai conceal Laura’s death?

And when the truth came out, the Dubai Police lied about the location of Laura’s death, and the Emaar Property Group and the Armani Hotel, Dubai, refused to comment on her death. Laura’s body was found on the third floor balcony of the Burj Khalifa, outside the Amal restaurant of the Armani Hotel.

Laura Vanessa Nunes_Suicide at the Burj Khalifa_Laura's Voice Whispers from an Angel_Leona Sykes img-125103352-0001

Part of the Coroner’s Report, in Arabic and translated into English, from the government of Dubai, issued on 17 November 2014. Another interesting factor is that Laura’s surname was not included in the report…all part of the elaborate cover-up.

Part of Laura’s story.

Laura was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 1 July 1976 and spent her childhood years in Portugal and South Africa. She qualified as a beauty aesthetician and masseuse in 2006, and in 2007 she left for Dubai, spending most of the remainder of her life in the Middle East.

When she first arrived in Dubai in 2007 she worked at The Six Senses Spa at the Jumeirah Madinat but was retrenched in 2009 when the Debt Crises hit Dubai. For the next few years she crisscrossed the Middle Eastern deserts, broken by a years’ stay in Portugal. She travelled from Bahrain to Oman, to Abu Dhabi, to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but she would always return to Dubai. In a message to one of her few friends, Asima, (her name has been changed to protect her identity), she wrote, “For me Dubai is my world but maybe not good for my future. Allah knows and I ask Him to guide me.”

Laura would visit South Africa every couple of years. She was very mysterious about her life in the Middle East, especially about her relationship with a man named Mubarak, the Emirati she had met towards the end of 2009/beginning of 2010. I didn’t even know his surname.

Laura and I would have little or no contact with each other over extended periods of time. It wasn’t unusual for us.

After Laura’s death the Dubai Police would not disclose where Laura had been staying at the time of her death, and in one of the emails to Luis Camara, deputy consul at the Portuguese embassy in Abu Dhabi, they said that they had no record of where she had been staying in Dubai.

Laura had dual nationality, South African and Portuguese, as her father is Portuguese and I am a South African. She entered Dubai from Qatar on 18 October 2014, using her Portuguese passport.

Her handbag arrived in South Africa on 7 January 2015 along with her ashes. Laura had checked it in at the courtesy desk on the ground floor of the Burj Khalifa on the afternoon of her death, and after her death the Dubai Police had retrieved it.

In it was her iPhone, which fortunately was not password protected. With the phone came the identity of the Emirati, Mubarak bin Fahad, his telephone number, and his email address. I also found WhatsApp messages between him and Laura which they had exchanged over the last few days before her death, and on the day of her death, at 3:43:56PM, the last message on her phone was from him. “Yes.”

There is no suggestion that Mubarak was responsible for Laura’s death. Her love for him was obsessive and she was not strong enough to break free.

Some of the contents of Laura’s handbag revealed where she had been staying in Dubai. Room 309 at the Abidos Hotel Apartments in Dubailand. At last I knew where she had been staying and was able to locate her ‘hidden luggage’ and arrange for it to be sent to me in South Africa.

Amongst her documents was a Certificate for Accepting the Islamic faith, dated 19 June, 2004. She had been studying in Johannesburg at the time. There was also a Certificate of Embracing Islam in April 2014, in Dubai. She had chosen the name Noora as her Muslim name, meaning light. Many years earlier, before she left for the Middle East, she started calling herself Nura, and then Noura. I had not realised that Laura had been so serious about Islam. In part of an email which Laura sent to Mubarak, she said, “Because of you I have become closer to Islam, and the mystery of Allah and His love.”

As a child, Laura did not approve of being controlled or guided. She was stubborn and determined and nothing would change her mind, even if she knew that she was in the wrong. She was forthright and transparent, and due to her sometimes fiery temperament, she would often voice her opinion about the places where she was working, criticising the staff and managers, and would ultimately end up leaving with no reference to help her secure new employment.

She was mainly positive about life, intuitive and sensitive, and would walk away from negative people, but she could also be moody and unpredictable, her moods often influenced by the full moon. But she was always a fighter and a survivor.

Or so I thought.

Laura also had an almost childlike innocence and purity that gave her a sense of serenity in the face of so much adversity. Her defiance hid the hurt and pain which were her daily mantle. Everyone hurt her. I hurt her.

Her love for Mubarak, her need to be loved by him, brought out an intense vulnerability in her. In another message to the same friend, she said, “Mubarak messed me so much. I fell so hard, until the end, because I needed to know the truth. I could not let go of him until life forced me to. I stuck it through until the end, even though I knew I was falling and he would not pick me up. I had to see it to the end…but my feelings for him are not that easy to forget. But it is a part of my path in life. I had to walk that way. I feel, yes, I control my life, but life controls us, if you understand. I followed life. Everything that happened since I met him, and things that happened before I met him, all pointed to him.”

I didn’t realise how fragile she was…

By the end of her life Laura had become a sad, disillusioned, and tragic figure. She found peace in Islam and trusted in Allah to guide her. Always a loner, she became more withdrawn and isolated, almost friendless. Facebook became her best friend, where she would share her life in cyberspace. We would often miss each other by minutes in the early morning, but she would be back again in the afternoon or evening when I wasn’t there, sometimes choosing the ‘only me’ posting option which only she could see, or she would customise some posts, often excluding me. After the shock of Laura’s death her facebook page filled in some of the gaps of the life she had concealed from me, and from which I have tried to understand what made her take her life, but of course there is never any sense to suicide and unanswered questions will always remain.

I visited Dubai on 16 March 2015, and stood on the At the Top Sky observation deck, four months after Laura’s death, at the same time she would have been there. The following day I went to the Bur Dubai police station and viewed the CCTV footage of the last minutes of Laura’s life, something no mother would want to see, but I had to make sure it was her. I had still clung to the hope that she was alive.

Initially I wanted to write the story about Laura’s death, to ensure that the cover-up of her death would be exposed. After the Daily Mail report on 18 May 2015 and the subsequent denial from the government of Dubai that Laura had fallen to her death from the Burj Khalifa, it became even more important to write the book. However, it has been difficult to focus my mind as I have suffered from complicated grief. Twenty-nine days after Laura’s death, my husband, (not Laura’s father), died from cancer, and the shock of their two deaths within a month of each other affected me badly.

All the material for the book is in place, I just need to put it together. When I am ready I will finish it…the whole story.

I self-published a book written posthumously by Laura, ‘Laura’s Voice WHISPERS from an ANGEL’, an insight into Laura, which I compiled with what she left behind. I have delisted it as it needs to be rewritten.

Page one, from Laura:

July 2014…Doha, Qatar                                                                                                                 

“Just thoughts

So my journey began with a man…his name Mubarak…

A man who opened me up to a world, maybe an awakening,

that made me question everything in this world.

I feel like he has turned my life upside down,

for I feel lost, confused yet found, but don’t know where to start.

Where your beliefs, religion, life, the world is questioned.

What is truelly right and wrong…

Rules, what are they, to guide or to control us?

To live by them or live by our own truth.

My soul is connected to him yet I am not sure if he is the devil himself,

or my angel and light, as clashes between darkness and light.

They say it is in your heart where truth and treasure lies,

yet to follow your heart can be the biggest downfall.

Love is truth, yet it is also deceit and betrayal!”

I would like to thank the following people:

Luis Camara, deputy consul at Portugal’s embassy in Abu Dhabi, for his patience with me following Laura’s death, (I was inconsolable and very difficult), and for finally giving me closure by publicly confirming the location of Laura’s death three years later.

Luisa Fragoso of the Portuguese embassy in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Some members of the Bur Dubai police station, for showing such compassion and kindness towards me, as I tried to find answers to Laura’s death, and for allowing me to see the CCTV footage of Laura at the At the Top Sky observation deck. I hope that you are all safe.

Will Jordan of Al Jazeera who was touched by Laura’s story.

Rob Davies of the Daily Mail for exposing the cover-up.

Mark Saunokonoko of 9news Australia for giving me final closure.

Bits of the ‘about’ section of this website comes from the introduction in ‘Laura’s Voice WHISPERS from an ANGEL’.

(17 December 2018)

Leona Sykes




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