A retired police officer today celebrated winning ‘justice’ for murdered PC Yvonne Fletcher after the High Court ruled a Gaddafi loyalist helped implement a plan to fire on demonstrators.
Pc Fletcher, 25, was killed while policing a demonstration against the former Libyan leader outside his country’s embassy in St James’s Square in central London on April 17, 1984.
Former officer John Murray, 66, promised his dying colleague he would find those responsible for her death and waged a decades-long campaign to do so.
The gunman was never identified, but Mr Murray brought a civil claim for a nominal amount of £1 against Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk, saying that while he did not fire any shots, he was part of a group of pro-regime officials who ‘orchestrated’ the violence that led to Pc Fletcher’s shooting.
Today a judge agreed, and said the evidence pointed to Mr Mabrouk – who lives in Britain after claiming asylum in Britain in 2011 – being an ‘active participant’ in a ‘common design to fire upon the demonstrators’.
No one has ever been convicted over the murder, and in 2017 the Met said the best chance to find the killer had been passed due to evidence that was inadmissible in court for national security reasons.
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s former aide Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk was today found to me jointly liable for the fatal shooting of Pc Yvonne Fletcher in 1984
Former officer Mr Murray, 66, brought a civil claim for a nominal amount of £1 against Mabrouk as part of his decades-long attempt to find ‘justice’ for his dead friend
‘We have finally achieved justice for Yvonne’
In a statement following the ruling, Mr Murray said: ‘I am very relieved that it’s finally all over and the court has found in our favour. This has been a battle lasting 37 years. It is a huge weight off my shoulders. My promise to Yvonne Fletcher to find those responsible for the shooting and to get justice has taken a huge step forward after all these years.
‘This trial over the last few days should not have been necessary. If you go back six years ago to Mabrouk’s arrest, a report was submitted by the police to the CPS recommending he be prosecuted. The CPS agreed with that report. But due to late interference from the Home Office and Foreign Office, when they refused to allow vital evidence to be used, the prosecution did not go ahead.
‘The Government’s interference in the judicial process was disgraceful. We have faced many obstacles to get here. But, today, we have proven that we were right all along. Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk was responsible for Yvonne’s death. Everything we have done leading up to this verdict has been for Yvonne. Today we have finally achieved justice for Yvonne.’
A three-day trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in London heard that Mr Murray, who has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the incident, was seeking ‘vindicatory’ damages for assault and battery.
The court heard that Mr Murray, from Chingford, east London, promised his dying colleague he would find those responsible for the shots that were fired from an embassy window.
Giving his judgment this morning, Mr Justice Martin Spencer said that ‘those responsible for the shooting of Yvonne Fletcher also bear liability’ to Mr Murray.
He added: ‘I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that there existed a common design to respond to the planned anti-Gaddafi protest by using violence.
‘Mr Murray has succeeded in showing that the defendant Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk is jointly liable with those who carried out the shooting of Yvonne Fletcher, for the battery inflicted upon her’.
The judge described Mr Murray and Pc Fletcher, who worked together in central London’s Covent Garden, as ‘salt of the earth’ who were ‘the very best of friends’ and ‘the first port of call if anyone in the community had a problem’.
He told the court that Pc Fletcher died as a result of ‘a cowardly attack’ when gunmen armed with Sterling submachine guns opened fire from the first-floor windows of the embassy on ‘unarmed and unsuspecting lawful demonstrators’, and who were ‘uncaring of the risk posed to police officers going about their normal duties’.
The judge added that there seemed to be ‘little doubt’ that the actions of the gunmen were ‘orchestrated and sanctioned’ by Gaddafi, who ‘could not tolerate dissent or disagreement’.
The judge’s ruling was met with applause in a packed courtroom, with Mr Murray shedding tears as the judgment was read out.
Pc Fletcher, 25, was killed while policing a demonstration against the former Libyan leader outside his country’s embassy in St James’s Square in central London
In a statement following the ruling, Mr Murray said ‘we have finally achieved justice for Yvonne’.
He said: ‘I am very relieved that it’s finally all over and the court has found in our favour.
‘This has been a battle lasting 37 years. It is a huge weight off my shoulders. My promise to Yvonne Fletcher to find those responsible for the shooting and to get justice has taken a huge step forward after all these years.
‘This trial over the last few days should not have been necessary. If you go back six years ago to Mabrouk’s arrest, a report was submitted by the police to the CPS recommending he be prosecuted. The CPS agreed with that report.
‘But due to late interference from the Home Office and Foreign Office, when they refused to allow vital evidence to be used, the prosecution did not go ahead.
‘The Government’s interference in the judicial process was disgraceful.
‘We have faced many obstacles to get here. But, today, we have proven that we were right all along. Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk was responsible for Yvonne’s death. Everything we have done leading up to this verdict has been for Yvonne. Today we have finally achieved justice for Yvonne.’
Officers attempt first aid on PC Fletcher as she lies mortally wounded on the pavement outside the Libyan Peoples Bureau
Speaking outside court following his victory, Mr Murray said: ‘I’m over the moon with today’s decision. It vindicates everything I’ve done … The best thing today is my promise to Yvonne as she lay dying has been now fulfilled.’
After Mr Justice Martin Spencer gave his ruling, the group of around 30 serving and former officers began to applaud in court as Mr Murray appeared emotional.
The retired police officer said: ‘I wasn’t expecting that at all. It just goes to show you the support that we have.
‘There were obviously a lot of former officers there, there were serving officers as well and it means so much to everybody, this decision.’
He added: ‘We’ve achieved a tremendous amount just by being here, many, many people didn’t think I would get this far and there’s been so many obstacles placed in my way.
‘I do feel guilt for the murder of Yvonne, I don’t think that will ever go away, but I take comfort in the words of the judge, he has put my mind at rest and we carry on.’
When asked about his win of £1 in damages, Mr Murray added: ‘It wasn’t about the money at all, I could have asked for much more. I’m not here to make money, I’m not here to get money, I’m here for justice and today I think we’ve got it.’
Fight for justice that began with a promise to a friend as she lay dying
April 17, 1984
Pc Yvonne Fletcher, 25, is shot by a sniper while policing a protest outside the Libyan embassy in St James’s Square, London, and 11 students are wounded. John Murray, 66, promises her he will find whoever is responsible. She is pronounced dead shortly afterwards at Westminster Hospital.
Her killer is thought to have been smuggled out of the country and back to Libya after the shooting. Her death leads to an 11-day siege of the building and the severing of diplomatic links between the UK and Libya.
The Libyan government accepts ‘general responsibility’ for the killing and agrees to pay compensation to Pc Fletcher’s family. British detectives also fly to Libya around that time to interview suspects but reportedly get little help.
Efforts to investigate the killing are stepped up when then prime minister Tony Blair meets Colonel Gaddafi after he agrees to dismantle his country’s weapons of mass destruction.
Police form a guard of honour as as Yvonne Fletcher’s body travels to Salisbury Cathedral for her funeral service
British detectives are able to interview the chief suspect for the first time following the normalisation of political ties with Libya. Detectives spend seven weeks in Libya interviewing witnesses and suspects.
It emerges that the Foreign Office has conceded that any trial for the shooting will take place in Tripoli. It is reported that the agreement was struck three years previously, when trade deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds were being negotiated. Campaigners for Pc Fletcher’s family brand the matter ‘an absolute disgrace’.
Major political protests begin in Libya against Gaddafi’s government and civil war breaks out.
The Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) says that Abdulqadir al-Baghdadi, one of the suspects for Pc Fletcher’s murder, has been shot in the head. Junior diplomat Abdulmagid Salah Ameri, who was suspected of firing the fatal shots, is also thought to have died.
Tony Blair met Colonel Gaddafi in 2004, raising new hopes the case might be solved
October 20, 2011
Gaddafi dies after being captured by rebel troops, leading to scenes of wild jubilation in the country he formerly ruled as well as across the world. His death leads to new hope that Pc Fletcher’s killer will be brought to justice.
A senior British diplomat says he is confident that Scotland Yard detectives will soon be allowed to visit Libya.
May 24, 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron announces that a Metropolitan Police team is to fly to Libya to continue the investigation after discussing the matter with the country’s interim prime minister Abdurrahim El-Keib during a visit to Downing Street. Mr El-Keib promises Libya will ‘work very closely’ with the UK.
May 25, 2012
Mr El-Keib visits the spot where Pc Fletcher died and leaves a wreath of white roses and carnations.
May 26, 2012
Mr El-Keib tells the Guardian Abdullah al-Senussi, one of Gaddafi’s most senior henchmen who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, is the ‘black box’ who knows who carried out the killing. ‘I guarantee he was almost directly or indirectly involved in most if not all of the crimes (of the Gaddafi regime),’ he tells the paper. ‘That doesn’t mean others weren’t involved. But he definitely knows who they were.’
An officer lays flowers at the site of the shooting during a memorial service in 2014
June 14, 2012
Scotland Yard says two detectives from its counter-terrorism team have visited Tripoli where they met Libyan officials for ‘preliminary discussions’ about how the investigation can be taken forward.
April 17, 2014
A memorial service is held in St James’s Square to mark the 30th anniversary of Pc Fletcher’s murder. In a statement after the service, her family said: ‘We have had to move on with our lives but it is difficult to move forward when the past remains unresolved.’
November 19, 2015
Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouki is arrested in south-east England on suspicion of conspiring to murder Pc Fletcher, in what police describe as ‘the first significant arrest’ of the investigation into her death.
November 20, 2015
The Libyan suspect is released on police bail the day after his arrest.
May 17, 2017
Scotland Yard says its ‘best opportunity’ to solve the case is ended by a decision that crucial evidence is inadmissible in court for national security reasons. The Libyan suspect is released from police bail without charge and told the investigation against him will not proceed ‘at this time’.
2019 – Mr Murray launches a civil claim against Mabrouk in an attempt to force him to appear in court and reveal who killed his friend.
November 2021 – Mabrouk is found liable for the shooting by a High Court judge. He failed to name who was the gunman.