A former minister in Muammar Gaddafi’s government was jointly liable for the shooting of PC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984, a high court judge has ruled.
Reaching his decision on the lower civil standard – which requires proof on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt – Mr Justice Martin Spencer said on Tuesday that although Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk did not fire the shots himself, he was a “prime mover” in the killing of 25-year-old Fletcher.
John Murray, a close friend who was on duty alongside Fletcher on the day of the shooting and cradled her as she lay dying, brought a civil claim against Mabrouk for assault and battery after frustration at the failure to bring criminal charges against the defendant.
In Spencer’s judgment, which was greeted with tears from Murray and applause from fellow ex-officers at its conclusion, the judge said: “The defendant, who was notably described as having possessed ‘fanatical’ pro-Gaddafi political views, in my judgment clearly assisted in the commission of the shooting, pursuant to the common design … he was a prime mover in the plan to shoot the anti-Gaddafi demonstrators and, if necessary, any police officer who was in the way.”
Mabrouk was one of four members of a revolutionary committee who had taken over the embassy in February, 1984. The judge said that although the defendant was in police custody at the time of the actual shooting on 17 April 1984, having being arrested earlier that day, he had allowed the shooter(s) into the building to position themselves to fire their guns, knowing they would do so.
He also recruited volunteers to “deal with” the anti-Gaddafi protesters, directed counter-protesters to stand away from the line of fire and attempted to bring a solider into the embassy that day to instruct people in the firing and dismantling of weapons.
The judgment is unlikely to result in any criminal action against Mabrouk, who is in Libya.
Spencer said Mabrouk’s comment to a police officer putting out barriers before the protest was of “critical importance” in the case. The defendant had said: “We have guns here today, there is going to be fighting. We aren’t going to have responsibility for you or the barriers.”
During his judgment, Spencer appeared to be overcome by emotion as he told Murray, who has spoken of his guilt that he could not save Fletcher, that he should feel proud of his conduct on the day of the shooting, including rushing to his friend’s assistance despite danger to himself.
After the judgment, Murray, who was awarded the £1 in nominal damages he had sought, said: “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.”
Mabrouk insisted in a letter to the court that he was innocent of any involvement, but did not participate in the proceedings. He was arrested over Fletcher’s murder in 2015, but in 2017, Scotland Yard detectives dropped the investigation, saying key evidence could not be used in court for reasons of national security.