Ibolya Ryan’s ex-husband: Sheikh Saif bin Zayed’s interest in the case mitigated our pain

ABU DHABI: Paul Ryan, the ex-husband of Ibolya Ryan, the American schoolteacher who was stabbed to death in a shopping mall restroom on Reem Island in Abu Dhabi earlier this week by a veiled woman dubbed as “Reem Island ghost”, has expressed his heartfelt thanks and high appreciation for the efforts and personal follow-up of H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, to give full care for him and his 11-year-old twins following the crime.

In an exclusive statement to WAM, Paul Ryan, who lives in Vienna, Austria with their 13-year-old daughter, said that H.H. Sheikh Saif’s interest and personal follow-up of the crime and the capture of the suspect have “greatly mitigated our pain over the loss of Ibolya”.

“My family and I were greatly relieved at the way the UAE authorities dealt with this case, and with the civilised approach and high professionalism of Abu Dhabi Police who dealt with the case, my family and personally with me.” Following is WAM’s Q&A with Paul Ryan: :: Q: How can you describe the victim as a human being? :: A: She was a beautiful person with a pure heart. I knew she was going to be a wonderful mother for my children. After an amicable divorce, I moved to Vienna and she moved to Abu Dhabi where she found an job opportunity to achieve better financial and moral independence. We then agreed that our eldest daughter, now 13, would stay in her board school, and that our 11-year-old twins would live with her in Abu Dhabi for two years after which they would move to Vienna where my daughter and I live, or, as an alternative, that we all would move to somewhere in the United States.

:: Q: How do you describe your situation when you received the news? :: A: I first knew of my wife’s death from a friend of hers. She emailed me and first said, “Something has happened”, then she asked me to call her. When I called her and knew what happened, I decided to fly to Abu Dhabi, and when I arrived in Dubai, her friend told me that she had died. I was received at the airport by a community police officer who accompanied me through the customs then I met another police officer from The Victim Affairs Office (of Abu Dhabi Police). We took a car to Abu Dhabi where an officer from Abu Dhabi Police GHQ took care of me, and he still is (doing so).

:: Q: What about the support you received from your country and from others since the tragic event took place? :: A: The response from people in the UAE was really amazing. A police officer is taking care of me round the clock. My children and I were given a wonderful residence. The UAE and the Emiratis are fulfilling all our needs and we are grateful for that. Ibolya’s family and friends gave us full support and all of them made huge efforts to support us during this ordeal. The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and its officials communicated with me.

H.H. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed also called me on the phone and offered his personal condolences and on behalf of the people and government of the UAE. He told me that they will find the suspect who committed the crime and that they will do their best in this regard. He told me that they will spare no effort to help us until the end of our ordeal.

::Q: How do you describe how did you feel when you were told that the suspect was arrested? :: A: I felt fully satisfied, especially as the police were updating me and also when I viewed that video that showed the arrest and the crime scene. I felt grateful for capturing such a monster. When I learned that the perpetrator had been captured one or two days before that video was released, I then understood how professional and skilful the police in this country are.

::Q: Did you find close cooperation and communication from the authorities? :: A: The police regularly updated me on the developments of the case. I also followed the developments through the media and their reports which cited the police and witnesses.

:: Q: Did you have time to think about the future? :: A: My plan, in a way or another, was to find a way to stay here until the end of the semester of my children’s school. My daughter will go back to her school. Many friends of ours will take good care of her. The UAE government assured me on this and showed high generosity about how they are going to help my children and I to do anything we would like to. So I feel satisfied on this and I will not have to worry about any burdens or feel anxious at all because of that.

:: Q: What is your message that you would like to send across to all those feeling worried about you and your family? :: A: I’d like to say that I feel safe, thanks to the support given to me. I feel very grateful for what I’ve seen here. When I got here, I had some preconceptions about how the situation would be here. But what happened is that my doubts were dispelled, that I felt that the forces of darkness and terrorism that expressed themselves very clearly here in the Middle East will disappear with time, thanks to the forces of good that I saw here.

I am grateful for what I have seen here, and maybe that was because I was very doubtful when I first arrived here following the sad accident that struck my late wife. What I saw during the operation that led to the capture of the suspect, the information that H.H. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed gave out during the press conference, were very important for me. Hearing him speaking in Arabic made me think that he would not have done this only to assure the English-speaking audience there or to pay compliments to them. Rather he was addressing just everybody, as usual.

The way that he sent his message across made me feel that there is a great deal of hope. I am very grateful for what I found here and feel greatly comfortable about being here and about the idea of visiting this country again. Maybe the main reason behind that is the close relationship that formed between me and this country, and the way I was treated.