Abebech Gradisa, 23, spent 16 days in a stark prison cell where slept on the floor after Mo Farah complained money and personal items had been stolen from his room
A young chambermaid who was thrown in jail after being accused of stealing from Sir Mo Farah today pleaded: ‘If you believe I am innocent, then apologise to me’
Abebech Gradisa, 23, spent 16 days in a stark prison cell where slept on the floor, showered from a bucket after Farah complained money and personal items had been stolen from his room.
Softly-spoken Abebech fought back tears as she told how her nightmare began when Farah called in police and she immediately came under suspicion as she had serviced his room.
She said: ‘I knew I was innocent, but I was scared. There was no evidence against me, but they still put me in jail.
‘I had serviced his room for two months and he would leave his laptop and money out and I would always put it on the table for him.
‘I have never stolen anything and I have worked at the hotel for eight months without any complaint against me. I clean 12 rooms every day.’
Abebech, who has a three-year-old daughter, was arrested with four other staff members at the Yaya Village Hotel after they became was caught up in the middle of a bitter dispute between Sir Mo and fellow Olympic legend Haile Gebrselassie.
Farah claims a £8,000 Tag watch, two mobile phones and cash worth £2,600 were stolen from this hotel room 133 (pictured) at the Yaya Village Hotel while he was training on March 24
Farah says the room was broken into and thieves stole the Tag watch given to him by his wife and cash in four currencies. The hotel says it has a policy that guests are required to leave items worth over $350 (£271) at reception for safekeeping or use the room safe (pictured)
Farah posted a video of the suitcase he says he found upon the bed in his hotel room that had been opened and items stolen on Instagram
Farah was staying at The Yaya Africa Athletics Village in Ethiopian where he alleges that hotel staff stole money and other items from his room
In a war of words with Ethiopian running legend Gebrselassie, who owns the hotel, Sir Mo has been sensationally accused of hitting a fellow athlete in the neck in a row at the resort’s gym
Sir Mo has also been accused by Gebrselassie of leaving the hotel without paying a bill for 81,345 Birr (£2,178) (pictured) which he said was still outstanding on Farah’s account
The alleged theft, which is being investigated by police, happened at the hotel owned by Gebrselassie and the two athletes have been embroiled in a public spat.
Today Gebrselassie, 46, told MailOnline: ‘Until Wednesday [when Farah made public his allegation] we were friends. If you ask me today…we are enemies.’
Gebrselassie has said he and Farah had also been in disagreement after he had he had refused to host a running coach accused of doping offences.
He told the Daily Telegraph Farah, the four-time Olympic champion, was angered by his stance in refusing to let Jama Aden stay at the Yaya Village.
Gebrselassie claimed Aden, who was the target of a 2016 drugs swoop in Spain, wanted to stay at at the resort in the months after he became president of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation in 2016.
In turn, Farah claims room 133 where he had stayed for three months was broken into and thieves stole a Tag watch, two mobile phones and about £2,600 cash in four currencies.
Abebech gained entry on the day Farah made his complaint March 24 to the room, made the bed, cleaned the bathroom and drew the curtains before leaving.
He had been on a Sunday training run and left his locked case inside his locked room.
She said she distinctly remembered seeing Farah’s black suitcase on the floor with its combination lock engaged.
She said: ‘I went home and received a call from the manager to come back to work. I didn’t know what it was about.
‘When I got here there were police officers and they began asking me about his suitcase, watch and money. I didn’t know anything about this.
‘I was very scared when they arrested me, but I knew I was innocent. It was a nightmare time.
‘Normally people are held for two to three days, but the police went to court twice to keep us in the jail for 16 days. It was terrible.’
The woman who earns £50 a month was freed on £80 bail and had to raise the funds from her family.
Also taken into custody and separated from their families were a bell boy, receptionist and two other auxiliary staff.
Abebech (pictured) came under suspicion because she gained entry on the day Farah made his complaint March 24 to the room, made the bed, cleaned the bathroom and drew the curtains
Abebech told MailOnline she remembered seeing Farah’s black suitcase on the floor with its combination lock engaged in the room (pictured) where he had been staying for three months
The chambermaid says she cleans 12 rooms a day at the Ethiopian training camp earning just £50 a month and has never stolen anything in her life. She was freed on £80 bail, having to raise the funds from her family
Farah, the double Olympic gold Medallist from London and Rio games, is adamant that he was robbed in the room (pictured) and has demanded a full investigation by the Ethiopian police
Their ordeal has led them to quit their jobs accusing the hotel of not properly supporting them or caring for their welfare.
Abebech added: ‘I had to leave my daughter with my family in another part of Addis Ababa. I am married but separated.
‘It was very difficult not seeing my daughter for so long. My parents didn’t bring her to the prison.’
She said despite cleaning his room for more than two months, the runner never gave her a tip.
Farah, the double Olympic gold Medallist from London and Rio games, is adamant that he was robbed and has demanded a full investigation by police.
He said the watch was an anniversary present from his wife Tania and it has a special sentimental value.
He claimed cash 20,000 birr (£534), $1500 (£1159), £800, €100 (£86) and two phones were stolen, along with the watch.
He told a London Marathon press conference that Gebrselassie had failed to give his full attention to the robbery.
He said: ‘There was no working safe in the room, hotel staff were dismissive and I had to force the police to investigate.
‘So I sent Haile a message to tell him what had happened but he didn’t reply. He didn’t respond even though that’s his hotel.’
He then sent a stinging text to Gebrselassie saying: ‘I want to inform you I’m disappointed you have not made any effort to find my stolen money, and especially my watch.
Runner Sisay Tsegaye (left picture, with his wife Dagmawit Kibiru) has alleged that Farah hit him during a brawl. The British runner is also accused of assaulting Chala Diriba (pictured right), the manager of the gymnasium, in February last year
The hotel’s fitness instructor Kennedy Girma (pictured) said he had witnessed an altercation between Farah and two other gym members
‘I have tried to contact you by telephone several times.
‘Know that I am not responsible for what I say during the press conference in London and what influence it will have on your personality and your business. Greetings, Sir Mo.’
Aides for both Farah and Gebrselassie had hoped the tension would die down, but Gebrselassie today fuelled the row even further by calling him his enemy.
He added: ‘We were good friends. But everything changed when he sent me that message.
‘This all happened a month ago. He was waiting for the world’s media (at the London Marathon). He chose this moment and it was not an accident.
‘I don’t know why he is trying to damage me in this way. He should break world records and not the name of Haile Gebrselassie.’
His staff produced a bill for 81,345 Birr (£2178) which they said was still outstanding on Farah’s account and Gebrselassie said he expected the London Marathon favourite to settle his bill.
Melkamu Mekonnen, director of the Haile Hospitality Group, said he had talked with Farah about the theft and the police inquiries were continuing.
The gym spat allegedly took place between Farah, Dagmawit Kibiru and her husband and trainer, Sisay Tsegaye
Tsegaye said Farah and his entourage had complained that his marathon training regime was somehow being ‘spied’ upon
Kennedy, speaking today, said Farah wanted to protect his training techniques which included an exercise where he would squat with a weight bar (pictured)
He added: ‘ Mo wasn’t over friendly with the staff. When we asked him about his unregistered friends he said ‘I don’t have to ask, I am a VIP.’
A safe in the star runner’s room had been reported faulty the day before the theft as the batteries were making a whirring noise which has disturbed him, but the safe remained in the room.
He said Farah chose to keep his valuables in his room instead of safe keeping with the reception.
He said he was confident all his staff would be cleared of any involvement and added that Farah had ten unregistered guests in his room as visitors and he hoped they would also give statement.
The hotel’s fitness instructor Kennedy Girma said he had witnessed an altercation between Farah and two other gym members.
It allegedly took place between Farah, Dagmawit Kibiru and her husband and trainer, Sisay Tsegaye.
Tsegaye said Farah and his entourage had complained that his marathon training regime was somehow being ‘spied’ upon.
‘I have an injury at the moment so I was in the gym to help train my wife when one of Mo’s training mates started claiming that we were copying his regime,’ Tsegaye said.
‘Then one of them insulted me. I don’t want to state what [he said] because it was rude language.’ Some pushing and shoving ensued.
‘In the middle of that, Mo hit me from behind on my neck. It really was not a serious [punch] but I was angry, so a brawl erupted. Police came to the scene but it was resolved with mediation by the marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa [who got a silver medal at the Rio Olympics].’
‘In all of this, my wife was not hit, as claimed by some people. I am on good terms now with Mo. Generally he is a disciplined athlete, but not some of the people around him.’
Kennedy, speaking today, said Farah wanted to protect his training techniques which included an exercise where he would squat with a weight bar.
‘He told me that I must not see his training as I would tell it to Ethiopian athletes.’
Another gym instructor Chala Diriba, 22, said today that Farah had pushed him out of the gym in an incident back in 2016 with the same complaint that spying was taking place on his training.
‘I was Ok about it and since then any time he comes in to the gym, I go outside.’
Gebrselassie said he would not watch Farah on TV in Sunday’s London Marathon.
‘It is Easter and I will be with my family. But I can beat him in a race…why not?
‘But we need him to keep getting winnings as we need him to pay his bill. But good luck to him.