Andree Bajjani’s fatal passivity in the jungle of a New York luxury hotel

A news site called The National, which seems to be based in the United Arab Emirates, has a story with many revealing personal details about Andree (Sara) Bejjani, murdered last week in her condominium apartment in the luxurious, Arab-owned Jumeirah Essex House in Manhattan (formerly the Essex House). She had made numerous complaints about her possessions being stolen from her apartment, including several complaints to her eventual murderer, Derrick Praileau, the head of housekeeping. She had expressed fears about her safety at the hotel to several people. Yet she apparently hadn’t done anything about her fears. In fact she seemed fatalistic, even asking an associate for an extra business card that she could leave with the front desk for them to contact him “if anything happened to her.” She didn’t even secure her door with a chain lock!

Now add on to all of that the fact that she was a “passionate supporter of Barack Obama.”

What does this sound like? A beautiful woman, of pronounced liberal sympathies, residing in a hotel/condominium with a large nonwhite staff, at least one of whom (she knew) was preying on her, and she undertook no actions to protect herself. Notwithstanding her business experience, international lifestyle, and sophistication, notwithstanding her origins in the Arab Near East (not known as a place of naive liberals), she was a typical Eloi. Rather than take affirmative steps to defend herself from what turned out to be a black rapist-murderer, she preferred to do nothing, which led directly to her death.

Murdered woman ‘had been worried about her safety’
Loveday Morris
The National
September 22. 2009

The Dubai businesswoman killed in a New York hotel had lodged complaints about personal items being stolen from her apartment and seemed worried about her safety in the weeks before she died, according to her friends.

Andree Bejjani, 44, known to her friends as Sara, was found dead in a private flat at Jumeirah Essex House, a luxury Manhattan hotel overlooking Central Park on Saturday afternoon. A maid discovered her body face down in a pool of blood with a skipping rope around her neck and bread knife protruding from her throat.

Ms Bejjani had made several complaints to the hotel and to Derrick Praileau, the head of housekeeping, after jewelry had gone missing from her apartment, according to Carlos Alvarez, who had known her for several years.

Mr Praileau, 29, a long-standing employee of the hotel, was arrested on Sunday and charged with the murder. Police believe he used his own key cards to gain access to the apartment.

“It all makes sense now,” said Mr Alvarez. “She thought it was the maid that was taking her jewelry, but he seems to have just been able to let himself in and out.”

The hotel, operated by the Dubai-based Jumeirah Group, is frequented by stars such as Angelina Jolie and Samuel L Jackson.

Michael Feldman, who also works in property, said Ms Bejjani had mentioned that “personal items” had disappeared several times, and acted strangely the last time he saw her socially a few weeks ago.

“She asked for another one of my business cards so she could give it to the front desk and they could contact me if anything happened to her,” he said.

“I just thought it was really odd. She said she was also going to give me her sister’s contact details but she never got around to it.”

He said he didn’t press her on what was wrong.

“She was a private person, she would have told me if she wanted to,” he said. “She didn’t divulge a lot of information about herself.”

Her friends said she had never mentioned Mr Praileau, who pleaded not guilty to a charge of second degree murder at his arraignment on Monday.

He is due to appear again tomorrow, according to a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s office. Police said they did not believe the two had any previous relationship.

Ms Bejjani, who lived in Dubai for 20 years, had split her time between New York and the UAE for the past two years, according to Mr Alvarez, and kept an apartment here until earlier in the summer.

Press reports have speculated that the killing was sexually motivated. The New York Post suggested Mr Praileau was under the influence of alcohol when he allegedly gained access to Ms Bejjani’s apartment in the early hours of Saturday morning and left evidence tying him to the scene including his work schedule. [LA notes: Press reports did not “speculate” that the killing was sexually motivated; they said that it was sexually motivated, based on Praileau’s own statements to police.]

Originally from Lebanon, Ms Bejjani was unmarried, and according to Mr Alvarez had always attracted a lot of attention from men, but “gracefully dismissed” unwanted advances.

“She was absolutely very attractive and that made her a target for men,” he said, describing her as “a diamond in an emerald city”.

Her friends and colleagues said they were shocked by the brutal nature of her death. Michael Campbell, a partner at Carlton Advisory Services, a property investment company in New York, where Ms Bejjani worked for almost a year before leaving earlier this summer, said the attack “doesn’t make sense”.

“I don’t know why anyone would want to do this to her and I know she wouldn’t have done anything to provoke anyone,” he said. [LA replies: Has Michael Campbell never read a bleeping newspaper in his life? He’s not aware that men are raping and murdering women all the time?]

“Our business is rough and tough but she was always, always very cordial. She was good at defusing situations and never yelled or raised her voice. It doesn’t make sense.”

Carlton Advisory Services hired Ms Bejjani a year ago as vice president, charged with finding Gulf investors.

Mr Alvarez said he had been “horrified” when he heard that Ms Bejjani had died, especially when details of the brutal nature of her death were disclosed.

“I keep on thinking about how scared she must have been,” he said. “But she would have put up a fight, she was a tall woman and relatively strong, so I’m sure she didn’t give in easily and that’s why she ended up with a knife in her neck.”

He added that although Ms Bejjani did not have a “tremendous number of friends” she was nevertheless a “true friend”.

“You could always trust her, and she’d never say anything she didn’t mean. That’s rare,” he said.

Ms Bejjani was also a passionate supporter of Barack Obama, according to Steve Behar, who met her at a function during his campaign.

“She was very interested in US politics and also Middle East politics,” he said. “I met her briefly at a function and we became friends, we weren’t close but we communicated back and forth about politics.”

After Mr Behar failed to win a seat in the New York City Council elections last week Ms Bejjani had sent him a message consoling him.

“Please don’t be sad. I don’t know what else to say. But please don’t be sad,” it read.

“It’s ironic because I was thinking that now that I’m not campaigning and have more of a social life, I’d like to get to know her better,” he said.

“I was going to send her a message and see if she’d like to get together in Manhattan, but then I found out what had happened. It was awful.”

- end of initial entry -

September 23

Richard S. writes:

Michael Campbell’s “doesn’t make sense” comment warrants discussion. Assuming Campbell is a normal heterosexual man isn’t he aware of the enormous force-field that surrounds a voluptuous woman? How could he not be? Which leads me to speculate that he is self-censoring when he states that the rape and murder of Bajjani “doesn’t make sense.” He knows how affected men are by an attractive woman, in this case a voluptuous woman. He knows that even an ordinary law abiding man with an ordinary sex drive is capable of doing anything, anything, under the sway of passion. But he denies it. Or, more accurately, he smooths it out of his conscious mind. Comments of the Campbell variety come up again and again when these horrors occur. Which can only mean that a significant number of men (and women) know but don’t know. To know that the world is thin ice over hell is … an embarrassment. It messes up the dream of niceness.

Unkind as it is to say, maybe Miss Bajjani’s failure to secure her inside lock was the flip side of Campbell’s dream of niceness.

LA replies:

While I agree with the main thrust of Richard’s comment, I dispute his implication that sexual desire makes any man capable of rape and murder. So let’s be a little more precise in what we’re saying here. We know that in modern society there is steady incidence of sexually motivated murders of women by men. I don’t know how common they are and I would like to know. But we read about them in the news every week, sometimes every day. So there is this common phenomenon and there is no excuse for someone not to know about it, and Michael Campbell’s statement that it “doesn’t make sense” suggests that he is closing his eyes to obvious facts of reality. But at the same time, Richard goes way too far when he says that “an ordinary law abiding man with an ordinary sex drive is capable of doing anything, anything [emphasis added], under the sway of passion.” Our subject here is sexually motivated criminal behavior. All men are sexually motivated. Only a relatively small percentage of men engage in sexually motivated criminal acts such as rape and murder.

Richard S. replies:

I stand by my assertion. Example: when a woman has been a man’s lover for some period of time, when she has been granting him her favors and then withdraws those favors: that is a moment which can be and often is so rage inducing in the rejected man that he is capable of anything. Call it momentary madness if you will. It can sweep over the most decent and controlled of men. Needless to say it is a rarity that a decent man loses control so completely that he rapes or murders under that duress. But it can and does happen.

LA replies

Well, we did discuss this phenomon in the very interesting thread, “Why has the female sex lost its mind?” I had been thinking of crimes by a stranger. Richard was more thinking of situations where a man kills a woman because she’s dumped him, which is the subject of the linked thread.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 22, 2009 05:48 PM | Send

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