|Pike with his then girlfriend Kelly Doyle in 2010
London, April 10: Lawyers acting for a Briton who was left paralysed after trying to escape the 26/11 siege of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai are seeking compensation from the Indian Hotels Company.
Will Pike, 32, now confined to a wheelchair, has retained the firm of Leigh Day & Co, which has decided to pursue the claim for compensation through the London courts.
Russell Levy, partner at Leigh Day & Co who is representing both Pike and his former girlfriend Kelly Doyle, 35, is pinning liability on Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata group, because of remarks he purportedly made during a TV interview.
“In an interview on CNN Asia, the chairman of the hotel group Mr Ratan Tata, one of the world’s richest men, explained how they had been warned of an attack on the hotel and that some security measures had been put in place but he admitted that ‘All our arrangements were at the front’ and that the terrorists entered the hotel at the back,” said a statement from the legal firm.
Levy has set out his argument: “This case is quite simply about a failure by the hotel to protect its residents and the negligence of management in failing to institute appropriate and effective security measures to prevent terrorists from entering the hotel despite warnings of an impending attack, or to put in place proper procedures to evacuate guests and staff safely.”
He added: “We are proceeding with legal action in England…. They (the hotel owners) have instead suggested that Mr Pike return to India to pursue legal action.”
Levy told The Telegraph: “No one holds the Taj responsible for the terrorists but they were negligent.”
The firm confirmed it had served legal proceedings on the owner of the hotel, the Indian Hotels Company, at its five-star London hotel, the Crowne Plaza, in Victoria. The case could go on for two years, according to Levy.
Pike was injured when the makeshift rope he had made from bedding and curtains gave way and he fell 50 feet on to the concrete below on November 26/27, 2008.
Doyle remained behind in the couple’s third-floor room and was later rescued.
Pike has fought an exhausting and exhaustive battle with the British government which offers compensation of up to £500,000 to victims of terrorism, even to foreign citizens, at home but does not cover British nationals when they are affected by acts of terrorism abroad.
Pike and Doyle have since split up.
Pike, an advertising copywriter from Islington in north London, told the Evening Standard recently about the break-up with Doyle: “It is tragic. We were deeply in love but it all became too much. Not being able to walk is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many things I can’t do now.”
In another interview, with the Mail on Sunday, back in January 2010, he had been more explicit: “I can never even enjoy a full sex life nor father children normally. But the worst part has been fighting bureaucracy. I assumed the government would compensate us because we’d been caught up in an outrage triggered largely by government policy.”
Legal experts say that a court battle in London could serve the purpose of establishing whether the compensation claim is best pursued with the Pakistan government, although it has insisted “non-state actors” were involved.
They point out there is a precedent. Libya denied responsibility for the Pan Am 747 which blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, killing a total of 270 people. America and Britain used their muscle to force the late Muammar Gaddafi to pay $2.7 billion by way of compensation.