The murder was committed by a woman wearing black gloves and a veiled niqab, who proved to be unknown to the victim. After committing the murder, the perpetrator planted a bomb at the home of an Arab–American physician. These attacks, taking place in the wake of a spate of recent attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia, attracted international coverage and raised concerns in the international security and business communities.
The stabbing, which took place in Boutik Mall, an Abu Dhabi shopping mall located on Al Reem Island, and was caught on tape in a routine surveillance video, unsettled citizens and the foreign population of Abu Dhabi because acts of terrorism are an extremely rare event in the United Arab Emirates.
The Emirates have classified the murder as a lone wolf terrorist attack inspired by terrorist ideology acquired online.
At the beginning of the investigation, authorities left open the possibility the murderer could have been a man in disguise. Two days after the murder, on 3 December, Abu Dhabi Police released a statement that, "Investigations are still under way to identify the suspect's identity and gender. Witnesses reported that the culprit was fully covered wearing an abaya, black gloves and face cover." Abu Dhabi Security Media Department at the Ministry of Interior posted a video on its official YouTube channel, showing CCTV footage of the suspect, dubbed the “Reem Island Ghost”, who stabbed the American kindergarten teacher Ibolya on Monday afternoon on Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi. On the CCTV footage, people on the scene can be seen reacting to the killing. One mother with a young child can be seen hurrying him away while security guards move towards the corridor. People appear to be alerted to something happening in the toilets and while a security guard moves along the corridor into them, the suspect moves towards the elevators. The video then shows the assailant fleeing the scene following the crime that took place inside the washroom of a shopping mall, wearing a black abaya, black gloves and the face-covering veil known as niqab.
Police said the victim was stabbed to death with a "sharp tool" following an argument in a women's restroom. On the surveillance footage, the robed suspect is seen stepping off an elevator, briefly interacting with a security guard, then taking a newspaper before walking toward the restroom. Some 90 minutes later, the suspected attacker runs back into the lobby as shoppers scatter, shakes off a woman who tries to stop the suspect, and boards an elevator to a parking garage before fleeing. The tape ends with footage of a bloody trail of footprints leading from one of the restroom stalls.