It is as much the circumstance of her death as the death itself that has left the close family and friends of 51-year-old Filipina Lorna Lim Varona devastated.
Speaking to Emirates 24|7, a day after this website first broke the news that Lorna’s body had been found in her car, and that her friend had murdered her, Lorna’s youngest daughter, 24-year-old Lisa, retraces the last time she saw her mother alive.
“On Sunday, August 26, it was 8.45am. I was talking to her about work. We would always talk about work and I was updating her about what was going on.”
Lisa says she noticed a glow on her mother’s face.
“She was in a good mood that morning. She was very happy. I saw my mom’s face glowing.”
Lisa knew that her mother was going to meet the friend now alleged to have killed Lorna.
The Filipino in his 50s has been arrested and Emirates 24|7 cannot reveal his identity due to the ongoing investigation.
Lisa believes money was a key factor in the murder.
“She drove out on Sunday morning to meet him to collect money he had borrowed and to return his passport,” says Lisa.
“This was not the first time he had borrowed money from my mom. He had done so before and had returned it. My mom trusted him and knew him well.”
“My mother was a very kind-hearted person. Whenever someone, especially from Philippines, was in need of help, she would always step in,” says Lisa.
It was the last time she saw her mother alive.
Lorna Lim Varona owned Seaworld Tourism and her employees, understandably, are still grappling with the news of her murder.
“I was shocked when I heard the news,” recalled Niita Casano, who worked with Lorna.
“When she went missing, we were all worried, but no one expected this to happen.” Nita had started work with Lorna in 2003, but went back to Philippines in 2004, only to return to Dubai in 2005, after Lorna called her back.
“You could say I am the oldest employee. I have been working for her ever since 2003.
“She used to get angry with me sometimes, but it was only for work. She was a good boss.”
Nita admitted seeing the Filipino suspect at the office many times.
“Yes, I have seen him around, but you could never tell that he could do such a crime.”
She mapped the beginning of Lorna’s business in Dubai to Capricorn Bakery (which was sold in 2004).
“She started Seaworld Tourism, another trading company, a typing centre and Capricorn Star technical services. The firm was named Capricorn after her star sign.”
The family raised an alarm when Lorna could not be traced the entire day and wasn’t even answering her phone.
“My mom would always return calls if she could not take them. So, when she didn’t do that we knew something was wrong.”
Lorna’s secretary also contacted the family, insisting it was unlike Lorna not to return their calls. The next day, the family reported the case to the Dubai police.
Lorna’s body was found, stuffed in a bag, in her abandoned Jaguar in Sharjah’s industrial area, with the suspect admitting guilty.
Lorna is survived by her husband and four children – Lourdes, Luke, Louis and Lisa.