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Former Gaddafi aide loses bid to challenge ruling in Pc Yvonne Fletcher case

Pc Yvonne Fletcher was shot outside the Libyan embassy in London on April 17, 1984 (PA)
Pc Yvonne Fletcher was shot outside the Libyan embassy in London on April 17, 1984 (PA)

A former aide to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has lost a bid to challenge a judge’s conclusion that he was jointly responsible for the fatal shooting of police officer Yvonne Fletcher in 1984.

Pc Fletcher, 25, was shot 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.

Her 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 Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk – a senior member of the pro-Gaddafi Libyan Revolutionary Committee that ran the embassy at the time.

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”.

Retired police officer John Murray
Retired police officer John Murray (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

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.

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.”

John Murray
Retired police officer John Murray, second right, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London after his High Court victory (Jess Glass/PA)

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.

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”.

Yvonne Fletcher death
The memorial to Yvonne Fletcher in St James’s Square, central London (Metropolitan Police/PA)

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.”