"A retired police officer who cradled his colleague Yvonne Fletcher as she lay dying has said justice over her fatal shooting is “finally achieved” after a High Court judge found a former aide to Col Muammar Gaddafi was jointly liable for her shooting.
John Murray, 66, said he had “now fulfilled” a promise to his fellow officer to find those responsible for the killing.
PC Fletcher was shot and killed in 1984 while policing a demonstration against then Libyan leader Col Gaddafi outside the country’s embassy in central London. The 25-year-old was killed by rounds fired from a first-floor window.
“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,” he said in a statement, released after the ruling.
“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.”
He added that the High Court trial “should not have been necessary”, claiming that the government had prevented a criminal prosecution from proceeding by it refusing to allow “vital evidence” to be admitted.
As part of a decades-long pursuit of justice for his friend and colleague, Mr Murray brought a civil claim, for a nominal amount of £1, against Mr Mabrouk, who had been a member of the pro-Gaddafi Libyan Revolutionary Committee that controlled the Libyan embassy in London in 1984.
Mr Mabrouk had previously been arrested in connection with PC Fletcher’s death in 2015, but two years later the Metropolitan Police said that charges could not be brought as key evidence needed to be kept secret to protect national security.
In all proceedings, Mr Mabrouk has denied any wrongdoing in regard to PC Fletcher’s death and has pointed to the fact that he had been arrested earlier in the day, before she was shot.
Despite this, Mr Murray’s lawyers accused Mr Mabrouk of being “jointly liable” for the shooting, during the three-day trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. They argued that while Mr Mabrouk did not fire any of the shots himself, he had been “instrumental” in the “orchestration” of a plan to use violence at the demonstration where PC Fletcher was killed.
Mr Murray’s lawyers presented to the court disclosed material from the Met’s investigations in 1984 and 2015, a ballistics report, transcripts from the inquest into PC Fletcher’s death, and photos of the shooting.
Phillippa Kaufmann QC, one of Mr Murray’s barristers, also read aloud accounts from unnamed Libyan witnesses. She argued that their accounts linked Mr Mabrouk with a plan to use violence at the demonstration.
Ms Kaufmann claimed that Mr Mabrouk told a man who was setting up barriers ahead of the protest that “we have guns here today, there is going to be fighting”.
The court also heard that Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials received warnings ahead of the protest, over potential consequences, which Ms Kaufmann suggested meant that knowledge of a plan to use violence went “way up the hierarchy” in Libya.
She added that it was “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 in 1984.
Mr Mabrouk did not take part in the court proceedings but previously noted that Libya had admitted responsibility for PC Fletcher’s death, and paid compensation to her mother. The court heard that Mr Mabrouk had been “excluded” from the UK in 2019 over his “suspected involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
In the ruling delivered on Tuesday, Mr Justice Martin Spencer said: “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 inflected upon her.
“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.”
He said that the evidence presented to the court pointed to Mr Mabrouk being an “active participant” in a “common design to fire upon the demonstrators”.
And he added that there seemed to be “little doubt” that the actions of the gunmen were “orchestrated and sanctioned” by Col Gaddafi, who “could not tolerate dissent or disagreement” and who was “prepared to approve murder on the streets of London”.
Mr Justice Spencer said that he would award the damages sought by Mr Murray to “vindicate his 37-year fight to bring to justice at least one of those responsible for the death of his colleague”.
He told the court that PC Fletcher had died as a result of a “cowardly attack” in which armed gunmen opened fire from the first-floor windows of the embassy on “unarmed and unsuspecting lawful demonstrators”.
The judge also hailed the “incredible bravery” of Mr Murray and others those who rushed to the fallen police officer’s aid.
The judgment was met with applause in a courtroom packed with Mr Murray’s supporters.
Following the ruling, PC Fletcher’s family released a statement through the Metropolitan Police. “We acknowledge the court’s judgement which has been made today,” they said.
“It serves as a reminder to us all how tragic the events at St James Square, on the 17th of April 1984, has had a devastating and lifelong effect on Yvonne’s family and colleagues.
“Yvonne will always be in our thoughts and we will continue to be in close contact with New Scotland Yard regarding all aspects of her case.”
The statement added that the family would not be making any additional statements."
'The Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, broadcast in April 1996, posited that the shots were fired from a different building, from an upper floor that had been rented by MI5, and that the shots had been from agents of MI5 or the American CIA, to discredit the Libyan regime.[f] The contents of the programme were raised in question in the House of Commons by Tam Dalyell, and answered by David Maclean, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, who stated that "The programme asks us to believe that WPC Fletcher was murdered by, or with the connivance of, a British or American intelligence officer. If it were not so offensive and obscene, it would be laughable." He concluded that it was the Libyans in the bureau who should co-operate with the murder investigation.
In July 1999 the Libyan government publicly accepted responsibility for the murder, agreed to pay compensation of £250,000 to Fletcher's family and agreed to support the investigation into Fletcher's murder. In a statement to the House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook announced:
Libya accepts general responsibility for the actions of those in the Libyan People's Bureau at the time of the shooting. It expresses deep regret to the family of WPC Fletcher for what occurred and offers to pay compensation now to the family. Libya agrees to participate in and co-operate with the continuing police investigation and to accept its outcome.
On 24 February 2004 the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 reported that Shukri Ghanem, the Libyan prime minister, had claimed his country was not responsible for Fletcher's murder or for the Lockerbie bombing. Ghanem said that Libya had made the admission and paid compensation to bring peace and an end to international sanctions. The following day a statement on Libyan radio said that Ghanem's comment was "inaccurate and regrettable"; the Libyan government offered entry to Libya for the Metropolitan Police to undertake its investigation in Tripoli. Although they were able to undertake some steps during their four-day investigation, they were not allowed to arrest anyone. On their return it was announced that a joint investigation by British police and a Libyan magistrate would undertake a formal investigation under Libyan law.'