Suspect in 1984 murder of Yvonne Fletcher loses bid to appeal ruling

Prime suspect in 1984 murder of police officer Yvonne Fletcher loses bid to challenge High Court ruling that he was jointly responsible for her death in shooting outside Libyan embassy

  • Judge ruled Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk ‘jointly responsible’ for PC Fletcher’s death
  • Mr Mabrouk has been seeking to appeal that judgment, made back in November
  • Today judges refused to grant Mr Mabrouk permission to appeal the judgment
  • PC Fletcher, 25, died after being shot while policing a protest in London in 1984 
  • Protest, against ex-Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi, took place outside embassy
  • Mr Mabrouk, a top official in group who ran the embassy, denies any wrongdoing

A former aide to Colonel Gaddafi accused of having a hand in the fatal 1984 shooting of police officer Yvonne Fletcher has today suffered a setback in a bid to clear his name.

Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk has been seeking an appeal to overturn a judge’s conclusion that he was ‘jointly responsible’ for the death of PC Fletcher’s death in London.

In an incident that horrified the nation, the 25-year-old Met officer was shot while policing a demonstration against the former Libyan leader outside the country’s embassy in St James’s Square.

PC Fletcher’s former colleague and close friend John Murray, who cradled her as she lay dying and promised to find those responsible, last year brought a civil action at the High Court in London against Mr Mabrouk.  

At the time of the shooting, Mr Mabrouk was a senior member of the pro-Gaddafi Libyan Revolutionary Committee that ran the embassy.

Mr Justice Martin Spencer ruled in November that Mr Mabrouk – who denied any wrongdoing – ‘clearly assisted in the commission of the shooting’ and was jointly liable with the unknown gunmen.

Speaking after the ruling, Mr Murray, then 66, said justice for his friend and colleague was ‘finally achieved’.

However, Mr Mabrouk – who did not participate in the High Court trial, but previously denied any involvement in PC Fletcher’s death – brought a bid to appeal against the ruling.

His lawyers asked Court of Appeal judges for permission to challenge the ruling at a hearing on Wednesday.

But Lords Justice Coulson and Warby refused to grant permission, saying they would give their full reasons at a later date. Lawyers for Mr Mabrouk say they could now take the case to the UK’s Supreme Court.

Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk has been seeking an appeal to overturn a judge’s conclusion that he was ‘jointly responsible’ for the death of PC Fletcher’s death in London in 1984

 In an incident that horrified the nation, the 25-year-old officer (pictured) was shot while policing a demonstration against the former Libyan leader outside the country’s embassy in St James’s Square

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Murray said: ‘I am obviously pleased with what has happened today, my faith in British justice has been restored again.

‘Now we will be fighting very hard for the costs to be recovered.’

Mr Mabrouk’s barrister, Samantha Kane, said outside court after the hearing that he may try to take his case to the Supreme Court.

Ms Kane said: ‘My client asked me to say how appalled and how sorry he is and how much sympathy he has with the deceased… and Mr Murray and her colleagues.

‘But justice cannot be achieved without a fair trial, which he would like to have and he will continue fighting.’

Ms Kane argued the civil trial last year was not fair because Mr Mabrouk was unable to attend by video-link from Libya due to the damaged electrical and internet infrastructure in the country.

She also argued the High Court judge who considered the case should have applied the criminal standard of proof given it was a serious allegation of a murder which ‘shook the nation’.

However, Philippa Kaufman QC, for Mr Murray, said the issue of Mr Mabrouk’s participation in the trial was dealt with during the proceedings and there was no evidence to support his claims that he was unable to attend.

During the three-day trial last year, the court heard Mr Murray, who has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the incident, was seeking ‘vindicatory’ damages for assault and battery.

Mr Justice Martin Spencer said in his judgment that ‘those responsible for the shooting of Yvonne Fletcher also bear liability’ to Mr Murray.

PC Fletcher’s former colleague and close friend John Murray (pictured), who cradled her as she lay dying and promised to find those responsible, last year brought a civil action at the High Court in London against Mr Mabrouk

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.’

The judge said the evidence pointed to Mr Mabrouk being an ‘active participant’ in a ‘common design to fire upon the demonstrators’.

He concluded: ‘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 High Court heard Mr Mabrouk was arrested in 2015 in connection with PC Fletcher’s death, but two years later the Metropolitan Police said charges could not be brought because key evidence had been kept secret to protect national security.

While Mr Mabrouk did not engage with the proceedings, the court heard he had previously denied any involvement in the shooting, having highlighted the fact he was under arrest at the time.

He had also noted that Libya previously admitted responsibility over PC Fletcher’s killing and paid compensation to her mother.

In 2019, Mr Mabrouk was ‘excluded’ from the UK over his ‘suspected involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity’, the court was told.

Mr Murray brought the civil claim for a nominal amount of £1 against Mr Mabrouk as part of his decades-long campaign for justice.

He said he was awarding 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’.

The judge added that Mr Murray, who said he blamed himself over his colleague’s death, should be ‘proud’ and feel ‘no guilt’ over the incident.

Hailing the ‘incredible bravery’ of officers who rushed to help her, the judge added: ‘No-one could have foreseen the cowardly shooting of a police officer in the back and the sad fact is that Yvonne Fletcher was, in every sense of the phrase, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.’

Mabrouk, who is thought to live in the Libyan town of Bani Walid, has evaded facing justice for more than 30 years.

Without a prospect of a criminal trial, Mr Murray decided to fight in the civil courts, where the bar for success is based on a ‘balance of probabilities’ rather than guilt ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

The High Court (pictured: Library image of the the Royal Courts of Justice in London) heard Mr Mabrouk was arrested in 2015 in connection with Pc Fletcher’s death, but two years later the Metropolitan Police said charges could not be brought because key evidence had been kept secret to protect national security

Mabrouk, who had been arrested before shots were fired from the embassy in St James’s Square, emailed Mr Murray’s lawyers to deny guilt. 

But Mr Murray said ‘I made a promise to Yvonne. If it had been me murdered that day, Yvonne would be here doing this.’ 

He has used his own savings to fund the legal fight, including trips to Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. He has spent £130,000 and, in November last year, it was reported that he was £40,000 in debt.

He is divorced and lives in a rented flat in Chingford, North-East London, with his daughter Laura, 33. His other daughter Sarah, 37, lives in Hertfordshire.

‘It’s been worth every penny,’ he said back in November. 

‘As far as my daughters are concerned, I should have been able to give them a lot more than I have. It sounds a sad story, but the sacrifices have been worth it.’

Yesterday he visited Miss Fletcher’s grave in Semley, Wiltshire.

He said of his daughters: ‘It would be wrong of me to place the grief on to them. One day, when it’s all over, I’ll tell them the full story.’

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