Irish stewardess charged with attempted suicide & alcohol consumption in Dubai as campaigners seek release

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A 28-year-old Irish air stewardess, who was charged with attempted suicide and abusing alcohol, has had her travel ban lifted and will return home “as soon she is ready to go”.

Tori Towey, who works in the United Arab Emirates as an airline cabin crew member, was allegedly attacked by her husband, leaving her with severe bruising and other injuries in a series of domestic abuse - resulting in her wanting to take her own life.

The flight attendant from Co Roscommon, was charged with attempted suicide and alcohol abuse - both of which are historically illegal in the UAE - after waking up in a police station following an attack. Dubai authorities had also banned her from leaving the state, the Dail chamber heard.

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Addressing the Irish parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Irish premier Simon Harris said: “I’ve just been informed that the travel ban has been lifted, that the embassy will take Tori to the airport as soon as she is ready to go and that the embassy of course will continue to follow up on the case, which is still active as of now.” He also thanked the Irish embassy in the United Arab Emirates for their work on the case.

Towey, from Boyle in County Roscommon moved to Dubai in April 2023 when she was offered a job with the airline. Not long after, she met her South African boyfriend through work and quickly married. Her mother told Detained in Dubai - a UAE civil and criminal justice specialists - that her husband was “constantly threatening Towey and her friends.”

Tori ToweyTori Towey
Tori Towey | Detained in Dubai

She also endured a harrowing experience of domestic violence when her husband brutally attacked her, according to the organisation. Apart from physical abuse, her husband also allegedly threatened to kill her and destroyed their passports.

During her recovery, Emirates Airlines granted her time off. However, when attempting to replace her passport, Towey discovered a travel ban against her, a tactic often used by abusive spouses in Dubai to protect themselves from criminal charges. Despite the abuse, she returned home, hoping for a change in her husband's behaviour.

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Her husband was later fired by the airline for behavioural issues and allegedly began using Towey’s credit cards excessively. Towey noticed the high spend and put a stop on the card, knowing debt in Dubai can lead to travel bans and even jail. She then left to stay in a hotel room arranged by her mother to hide.

Tori Towey’s injuriesTori Towey’s injuries
Tori Towey’s injuries | Detained in Dubai

She then arranged to fly home to Ireland but upon arrival, she was told a case against her by her husband had been dropped by the travel ban remained. She then attended a police station who assured her the travel van would be lifted but it never happened, according to Detained in Dubai.

The next day, after drinking wine, Towey's husband is said to have become enraged and accused her of having an affair. Fearing for her life, she attempted to commit suicide. She was later awakened by ambulance personnel and police and taken to the police station, where she was detained for several hours.

Her mother sought help from the Irish Consulate but, receiving no immediate assistance, flew to Dubai. Upon arrival, she was not permitted to see her daughter alone due to the husband's interference. The three of them met at Emirates Mall before visiting the prosecutor's office to understand the charges filed against Towey.

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Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Ireland’s main opposition party Sinn Fein, had raised the case in the Irish parliament on Wednesday for the second day in a row, criticising what she said was the “medieval, grotesque treatment of women” in the United Arab Emirates. “(Tori) does not belong to Dubai, she belongs at home in Ireland,” Ms McDonald said.

The Taoiseach thanked Ms McDonald and Roscommon TD Claire Kerrane for raising the “distressing” case and said she had spoken to Ms Towey and her mother Caroline, who is with her in Dubai. He said the Irish embassy in the United Arab Emirates has been in constant contact with Towey.

“We want Tori Towey back in this country, we want her back home in Roscommon,” Mr Harris said. “No effort will be spared by us, by Ireland, to make progress on this matter, to get Tori home. She’s not a criminal, she’s a victim of gender-based violence.”

Her aunt Ann Flynn said both were trying to stay positive. “They’re very nervous and can’t wait to get home,” she told RTE’s Morning Ireland. “It’s really terrible that this has happened to a young woman that was full of life, full of adventure, she loved travelling.”

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Radha Stirling, founder of the Detained in Dubai group, said the support of the Irish people and the Irish Government had “really warmed” them and “given them hope and inspiration”. She said the case is due to be heard in court on July 18.