Letchworth murder trial: Syrian businessman ‘stabbed to death by son-in-law, who saw the Devil’

Police outside the house in Whitethorn Lane where Nicolas Daher, inset, died in January.

Police outside the house in Whitethorn Lane where Nicolas Daher, inset, died in January. - Credit: Archant

A wealthy Syrian businessman was stabbed to death in Letchworth by his son-in-law who said he had seen the Devil standing in front of him, a jury heard today.

Nicolas Daher, 85, was knifed three times by 60-year-old Sami Ozone over resentment at alleged controlling behaviour – with Mr Ozone afterwards claiming to have “saved my children from this Devil”.

Mr Daher died on January 4 this year, while staying at the house in Whitethorn Lane that Mr Ozone shared with his wife Samar, also 60.

Mr Ozone denies murdering him, and is now standing trial before a jury of seven women and five men at Luton Crown Court.

Prosecutor Robert O’Sullivan QC told the court that while denying murder, Mr Ozone had pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

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The prosecutor said: “For a number of years the defendant had ill-feeling towards his father-in-law. Mr Daher was a very wealthy man, who had funded their lifestyle in Syria – where they came from.

“Mr Ozone resented his father-in-law’s controlling behaviour.”

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He said that father-of-two Sami Ozone attacked Mr Daher in the kitchen of the house at 2.15pm, stabbing him once in the back and twice in the chest.

Mrs Daher-Ozone, who was elsewhere in the house, heard her father make a high-pitched sound before rushing to the kitchen – where she saw her father lying on the floor, and her husband trying to stab himself in the stomach.

Mr O’Sullivan said that after she called 999, Mr Ozone also spoke to the operator, saying: “I have just saved my children from this Devil.”

Emergency services were on the scene in less than 10 minutes, with an air ambulance also despatched – but despite paramedics’ best efforts, Mr Daher was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Ozone, who himself had cuts to his wrists, was taken to Stevenage’s Lister Hospital for treatment.

While there, with a police guard nearby, he is alleged to have said without prompting: “Is the Devil alive? I didn’t mean to do it. I saw the Devil in front of me.”

He told a doctor that he had taken a knife to harm himself, and that his father-in-law had been smirking and speaking to him in a derogatory way when he stabbed him.

Questioned by police, he said something had “flipped” when he went into the kitchen, adding that his father-in-law had “a devil face”.

He said: “He was evil. He was mad. He laughed at every step in our life.”

Drawing up the background of the case, Mr O’Sullivan told how Mr Ozone and his wife had met and married in Syria before moving to this country in 2006. Mr Daher remained resident in Syria, but visited family in the UK.

Mr Daher arrived in England on December 14 and stayed at the house in Whitethorn Lane, during which time Mr Ozone stayed five nights in a nearby hotel and visited a daughter in Dubai from December 20 to January 3.

Mr O’Sullivan said after Mr Ozone returned home that evening, the two men talked about “money and the way Mr Ozone perceived the way he was treated by his father-in-law”.

These discussions continued on January 4 until Mr Ozone left in the family’s Volkswagen Passat to visit a GP over discomfort from a hernia.

Mr O’Sullivan said tension between the two men had been “simmering” for many years – Mr Daher having owned and financed a restaurant in Damascus that Mr Ozone had run.

He said: “Mr Daher would criticise his son-in-law’s ability to run the business. In 2006 Mr Daher proposed letting out the restaurant to investors. Mr Ozone took it as a personal criticism.

“He had a long standing grievance against his father-in-law. Mr Ozone tried to run a restaurant in St Albans using several hundreds of thousands provided by the sale of the Damascus restaurant – the business failed and the money was lost.

“Samar was considering divorcing Mr Ozone, who told the police he thought the idea of the divorce came from pressure brought about from his father-in-law.

“There was a lingering resentment and anger against him. Mr Ozone saw it as interference in family life.”

The case continues. Sami Ozone, of Whitethorn Lane, denies murder.

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