Gaddafi minister orchestrated shooting of PC Yvonne Fletcher, court told

A former minister in Muammar Gaddafi’s government “orchestrated” the shooting of PC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984, the high court has heard.

Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk is accused of being jointly liable for the death of 25-year-old Fletcher, who was killed by automatic gunfire aimed at anti-Gaddafi protesters and police outside the embassy in St James’s Square on 17 April 1984.

Mabrouk was arrested over Fletcher’s murder in 2015. In 2017, Scotland Yard detectives said they believed they had identified those responsible for the crime but were dropping the investigation because key evidence could not be used in court for reasons of national security.

John Murray, a close friend who was on duty alongside Fletcher on the day of the shooting and cradled her as she lay dying, has brought a civil claim against Mabrouk in an attempt to obtain justice for his colleague.

Opening the trial in central London on Wednesday, Murray’s lawyer Phillippa Kaufmann QC said that although Mabrouk, who has refused to participate in the proceedings, was not the gunman and was arrested before the shots were fired, he was a “key participant” in the planned use of violence. She said Mabrouk:

  • Told a meeting after he and his peers took over the embassy that they had to teach a lesson to anti-Gaddafi people and spoke of carrying out “bombings and murders”.

  • Asked a colleague on the morning of the protest to collect another man to show those at the embassy “how to put together and dismantle a gun”.

  • Told a police officer putting out barriers before the protest: “We have guns here today, there is going to be fighting.”

  • Instructed protesters at a pro-Gaddafi counterdemonstration where to stand “so they wouldn’t get shot”.

  • After the shooting, sought to pass on advice to the man who had fired the shots not to comment if questioned by police.

Kaufmann said: “The orchestration of the shooting was entirely consistent with the official functions he had been given under the Gaddafi regime. It fell to the defendant to put Gaddafi’s instructions into action and consistently with this he had already started to do so shortly after moving into the embassy.

“He – together with a small number of others – was in control of the embassy, the weapons being harboured there and who was permitted to gain entry. It is inconceivable that the individuals who fired from the first floor window were not acting under his direction, instruction, inducement, incitement and/or persuasion.”

Murray, who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is claiming nominal damages of £1 for assault and battery. His main aim is to achieve justice for Fletcher, having promised her as she lay dying that he would find those responsible for shooting her.

Before going into court, he said: “It’s something we shouldn’t have had to do because I do think criminal charges should have been brought.

“What I fought for for all this time is for the full evidence to be heard in front of a judge, and let the judge decide.”

Murray also hopes that if he wins his civil claim, which must be proved on the balance of probabilities rather than the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt, it may persuade the Crown Prosecution Service to charge Mabrouk, even without access to the evidence being withheld for national security reasons.

Mabrouk, who is in Libya, denied any involvement in the shooting in email correspondence with Murray’s lawyers but is not represented. The trial is expected to last three days.

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