Exclusive: Former Leeds United boss talks about treatment after Dubai trauma as he describes street mugging

A former boss of Leeds United has spoken about the moment he was mugged on a busy central London street during a period in which he is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
David Haigh.David Haigh.
David Haigh.

Two men on a motorcycle mounted the kerb in Regent Street and snatched the ex-managing director David Haigh’s phone as he was outside the Apple store on his way to get a new battery.

Accompanied by a nurse, Mr Haigh was a short walk away from a psychiatric hospital where he is staying.

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He told The Yorkshire Post that he has undergone eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy after he claims he was tortured and abused while in police custody in Dubai.

Speaking about the robbery, Mr Haigh, who is now based in Penzance, said: “Before I know it something grabs my wrist and rips the phone out of my hand and it’s a bike. There was loads of screaming because I think people thought it was something like a terrorist attack going on.”

Mr Haigh, 39, chased after the culprits without success and suffered swelling from his hand to his elbow on June 24.

He added: “I’m in hospital at the moment for treatment for post-traumatic shock from the torture. That’s bad enough.”

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Mr Haigh was arrested and thrown into a police detention centre in May 2014 after travelling to the United Arab Emirates to meet with officials from Gulf Finance House (GFH), the former owners of Leeds United.

He spent 18 months at a temporary holding site at Bur Dubai police station, where British tourist Lee Brown died in 2011 following an alleged beating by local police.

Mr Haigh claimed that while in custody he was punched, tasered and hit with a broom handle, as well as once being tortured.

He was convicted in Dubai of taking more than £3m from his former employers GFH, but has always protested his innocence. His time in custody was extended by several months after GFH claimed he had abused them on Twitter, though he was ultimately cleared of cyber-slander, a criminal offence in Dubai.

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PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

Mr Haigh said: “Mentally I’m not 100 per cent. Anyone that’s been through what I’ve been through is not going to be. Soldiers have to go through this every day of their life, but they have trained for it.”

EMDR involves making side-to-side eye movements, usually by following a therapist’s finger, while recalling a traumatic memory. The psychotherapy aims to relieve the distressing memory.

After receiving the treatment, Mr Haigh said: “It’s [the time in custody] still in my head but I can’t access the full memory and it doesn’t disturb me.”

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He has previously stayed in The Priory Hospital, which treats people with mental health conditions and has been used by various celebrities. Mr Haigh is now on the committee of Penzance AFC, and is trying to get people and schools more involved in football in an area mainly interested in rugby.

He said that Leeds United’s recent re-acquisition of its Elland Road ground was an “extremely promising move”, believing the team is a “Premier League club playing in the Championship”.

Mr Haigh was in charge of the day-to-day running at Leeds United following GFH’s 2012 take-over of the club.