Suspects in Demafelis murder arrested

GRIM REUNION As government officials look on, Jessica Demafelis weeps while hugging the sealed casket of her sister, Joanna, whose remains were flown in from Kuwait on Friday morning. Joanna, who was reported missing for a year, was found inside a freezer in an apartment abandoned by her employers. —LYN RILLON

The suspects in the murder of overseas Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait have been arrested by Lebanese authorities, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) revealed on Friday evening.

DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese national, and his wife, Mona, a Syrian national, were arrested by authorities in Lebanon.

They were identified as the principal suspects in the torture and murder of the 29-year-old domestic helper.

Demafelis’ remains were found in a freezer early this month in an apartment abandoned by her employers in Kuwait. An autopsy report showed she was severely beaten before being placed in the freezer more than a year ago.

“Kuwaiti authorities requested the assistance of Interpol in locating and arresting the couple who they believed fled to Lebanon or Syria shortly after the torture and murder of Demafelis,” Cayetano said in a statement.

“Kuwaiti authorities conveyed the arrest of Assaf to Ambassador Renato Villa during a meeting at the Ministry of Interior on Thursday,” he added.

Cayetano said President Rodrigo Duterte has already been informed of their arrests.

“The President welcomes the news that Nader Essam Assaf is now in the hands of authorities in Lebanon,” Cayetano said.

“Assaf’s arrest is a critical first step in our quest for justice for Joanna and we are thankful to our friends in Kuwait and Lebanon for their assistance,” the DFA chief added.


Facebook post leads PH Embassy to distressed OFW in Kuwait