UK inquiry into 1984 murder of Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan embassy is dropped over national security fears

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2017, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2017, 10:19pm

The UK investigation of a man arrested over the 1984 murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London has been dropped after it was decided that much of the evidence gathered could not be presented because of national security concerns.

Detectives said on Tuesday they believed they could identify those responsible for the 1984 murder of Fletcher, but that the evidence prosecutors would be able to present to a court would not be enough to get a conviction.

A statement from Fletcher’s family said: “We are deeply disappointed and frustrated that a prosecution cannot proceed at this time. We had hoped that the latest turn of events would finally lead to some closure for the family.”

The man, who was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, was believed to be still in the UK, said Ken Marsh, the chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation. Marsh said of the news that the suspect would have no action taken against them: “It is disappointing because we will never cease to try and get the perpetrator who killed Yvonne Fletcher. We still cling on to hope we will get who did it.”

Scotland Yard said: “The man, arrested on 19 November 2015, has today been released from police bail and advised that the investigation against him will not be proceeded with at this time.”

The Guardian previously identified the man arrested as Dr Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk, a former minister in Muammar Gaddafi’s government and a high-ranking member of the team tasked by the regime with suppressing opposition. Police refused to confirm his identity on Tuesday.

Fletcher, who was 25, was hit in the back by automatic gunfire from the direction of the Libyan embassy on the morning of April 17, 1984. Libyan exiles in the UK, some of whom were also injured, had been protesting against the Gaddafi regime. Fletcher died later that day at Westminster hospital. Her fiance, Michael Liddle, who was also a police officer, was at her side.

The murder led to a 10-day police siege of the embassy and the severing of diplomatic relations with the Libyan regime, as well as the deportation of 30 of the people who were inside the building.

Police said their investigation had “resulted in a deeper understanding” of the circumstances surrounding the killing and the “associated terrorist activity targeting Libyan dissidents in the UK and across Europe in the 1980s”.

Detectives said: “We believe our investigation has identified enough material to identify those responsible for WPC Fletcher’s murder if it could be presented to a court. However, the key material has not been made available for use in court in evidential form for reasons of national security.

“Therefore, without this material and following a review of all the evidence that was available to prosecutors, the Crown Prosecution Service – who we worked closely with throughout – have informed us that there is insufficient admissible evidence to charge the man.”

Mabrouk was with the demonstrators outside the embassy on the day Fletcher was killed and was deported from the UK after the murder. But that order was later lifted, allowing him to return to Britain under an initiative to improve relations with Libya that formed part of a deal ultimately aimed at bringing the Libyan Lockerbie bombing suspects to trial.

Scotland Yard said that counter-terrorism officers had pursued “hundreds of lines of inquiry”, including making visits to Libya to gather evidence and reviewing material previously unseen by the police, as they investigated what they said was an “act of state-sponsored terrorism”.

Although the investigation would remain open, police said the suspect’s release on Tuesday left little chance of the case ever being solved, which could have provided a “degree of closure for the victims and their families”. Fletcher’s family thanked officers, who they said had “left no stone unturned” in the investigation.