Gaddafi aide part of plan to use violence at Libyan Embassy protest, court told

·6-min read

An ex-aide to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was a “leading participant” in a “common design to use extreme violence by gunfire” at the protest outside the Libyan Embassy where a policewoman was shot dead 37 years ago, the High Court has been told.

Pc Yvonne Fletcher, 25, was killed while policing a demonstration against the former Libyan leader outside the building in St James’s Square in central London on April 17 1984.

Retired police officer John Murray, 66, is bringing a civil claim for a nominal amount of £1 against Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk, who has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Murray, who has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since being at the incident, is seeking the “vindicatory” damages for alleged assault and battery in a bid to bring to a “judicial forum” the evidence surrounding his friend’s death.

His barrister, Phillippa Kaufmann QC, told a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Wednesday that “nobody has ever yet been brought to justice for killing Yvonne Fletcher”.

Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk court case
Retired police officer John Murray arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Mabrouk was arrested in 2015 in connection with Pc Fletcher’s death but two years later the Metropolitan Police said that, while detectives could identify those responsible, charges could not be brought.

This was because key evidence had been kept secret to protect national security. Ms Kaufmann said Mr Murray’s claim did not rely on that evidence.

Ms Kaufmann told the court that Mr Murray’s “primary aim” is to bring evidence to court so a finding can be made over whether Mr Mabrouk was “liable” for the “assault” on him and Pc Fletcher.

She added that Mr Murray hopes the case might also give the Crown Prosecution Service an opportunity to “reflect again on whether or not a prosecution can be brought or not”.

The court heard that Mr Mabrouk has chosen not to participate in the proceedings and he was not represented on Wednesday.

Writing to Mr Murray’s lawyers in September last year, he said he could not settle a claim and that he “cannot be held liable for something I didn’t do”.

The court was told that Mr Mabrouk said he was not present when Pc Fletcher was killed, adding: “Nor did I instruct anyone to kill her, nor did I encourage anyone to kill her.”

But, in written submissions, Ms Kaufman said it is “inconceivable” that Mr Mabrouk was “not at the heart of decision-making in relation to the use of armed violence against the anti-Gaddafi protesters” at the embassy.

“The orchestration of the shooting was entirely consistent with the official functions he had been given under the Gaddafi regime,” she said.

Pc Yvonne Fletcher (PA)
Pc Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead outside the Libyan Embassy in London in April 1984 (PA)

The court was told that Mr Mabrouk, a member of the pro-Gaddafi Libyan Revolutionary Committee, was among the men who controlled the embassy on April 17 1984, with him being described as having “fanatical” pro-Gaddafi political views at the time.

In preparation for a planned student protest over political executions carried out by the Gaddafi regime, men from the Surveyors Department of the Met, including John Sullivan, set up barriers that morning.

They were met with “objections and hostility” from men coming out of the embassy, including Mr Mabrouk, who allegedly told Mr Sullivan “We have guns here today, there is going to be fighting”, the court was told.

After continuing to obstruct efforts to erect barriers, Mr Mabrouk and another man were arrested and taken to Vine Street police station.

Pc Fletcher was later among 50 to 60 officers deployed to respond to the anti-Gaddafi protest and two counter-demonstrations, and died after being struck by shots fired from an embassy window, Ms Kaufmann said.

Footage of the moment Pc Fletcher was shot was played to the court. Mr Murray sat with his head bowed as the video was shown.

Mr Murray, who was supported in court by former police officers, cradled his colleague as she lay dying, promising on the way to hospital that he would find her killers.

Witnesses allegedly saw a gun barrel and a cloud of smoke at a first-floor window of the embassy, and a spent 9mm cartridge case, firearms residue and guns were later discovered, Ms Kaufmann said.

She said Mr Mabrouk did not fire any shots from the embassy as he was detained, but claimed the evidence “overwhelmingly” established there was a “plan” to use violence at the protest which he was allegedly part of.

Flowers are left at the Yvonne Fletcher memorial (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Flowers are left at the Yvonne Fletcher memorial (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Early in 1984, according to evidence from a Libyan engineering student who had infiltrated “pro-Gaddafi elements” in the UK, Mr Mabrouk was allegedly “very aggressive” at a student union gathering in London, the court heard.

He is claimed to have told those present that Colonel Gaddafi had instructed him and others to take the embassy and “use the facilities, the guns, all the weapons, the money and the power of the embassy” and “teach the British a lesson for letting the opposition work freely in the UK”.

Mr Mabrouk also allegedly talked about “bombings and murders” to “scare the British authorities into withdrawing support from anti-Gaddafi movements”, the court was told.

At a different meeting at the Libyan ambassador’s house later, Mr Mabrouk allegedly told peers “they had to teach a lesson to anti-Gaddafi people”, indicating they had a number of “targets” in the UK, Ms Kaufmann said.

The same unnamed student was also allegedly told the night before the protest by a friend and roommate, who was financially supported by the Libyan Consulate, that there was “going to be a shooting”.

The court also heard that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office received warnings about the protest and a police officer in charge of operations outside the embassy allegedly received information from “numerous agencies” that “trouble was expected”.

Ms Kaufmann also alleged the “pre-planned” nature of the shooting was indicated by the positioning of pro-Gaddafi protesters.

According to one witness, whose name was redacted in court documents, Mr Mabrouk allegedly told protesters where to stand “so they wouldn’t get shot”.

The court was told an unnamed Libyan witness to the shooting claimed Mr Mabrouk asked him to bring a soldier named “Jaffa” to the embassy because he wanted him to show those there “how to put together and dismantle a gun”.

Ms Kaufmann said it was claimed Mr Mabrouk “sought to pass on advice” to the man who fired the shots to not say anything to police if questioned.

She said Mr Mabrouk and others were controlling entry to the embassy on the morning of the shooting and the weapons inside and it was “inconceivable that the individuals who fired from the first floor window were not acting under his direction, instruction, inducement, incitement and/or persuasion”.

In 2019, Mr Mabrouk was “excluded” from the UK over his “suspected involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity”, the court heard.

He has denied being involved “in any form of terrorist violence” and noted that Libya has previously admitted responsibility and paid compensation to Pc Fletcher’s mother.

The hearing before Mr Justice Martin Spencer, which is due to last three days, continues.

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