Vigil for WPC Yvonne Fletcher as hopes grow for prosecution 40 years after 'callous' murder

By John Mercury April 16, 2024

More than a thousand people are expected to flood a pretty London square to celebrate the life of a police officer murdered there exactly 40 years ago.

PC Yvonne Fletcher, 25, was shot dead by a bullet fired from inside the Libyan embassy while she was policing a demonstration outside the building.

No-one was ever charged with her murder, but campaigners are hoping this year to bring a private prosecution against a former Libyan minister who was there that day.

Former PC John Murray, who comforted PC Fletcher as she lay dying, said: “I cradled Yvonne’s head in my hands and I promised her that one day I would get justice for her. I’m still fighting for it.

“I knew that as soon as the Crown Prosecution Service said it wasn’t interested, that it would be down to me. We are nearly there.”

Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said he would join the Metropolitan police force in paying tribute to PC Fletcher, who “had her whole career and her whole life ahead of her” when she was “callously murdered”.

PC Fletcher’s family said in a statement released by the Met police that they would be observing the 40th anniversary of her “tragic” death privately, as in previous years.

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“Over the years Yvonne has always been in our thoughts,” they said, before thanking the Met police for “their continued support”.

Several demonstrators, who were protesting against the Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, were injured by shots fired by two weapons from embassy windows overlooking St James’s Square, off Pall Mall on 17 April, 1984.

After an 11-day siege at the embassy, Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk and other Libyans were eventually allowed to leave the UK unchallenged under diplomatic immunity.

Mabrouk later returned to claim asylum in London and was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, but he was not charged because some evidence would have threatened national security. He denied any involvement.

In a High Court civil case three years ago, a judge branded Mabrouk jointly liable for the shooting – on the balance of probabilities, rather than the criminal test of beyond reasonable doubt.

The claim for civil damages against Mabrouk for assault and battery was brought by PC Fletcher’s friend and colleague Mr Murray, who has campaigned for a criminal prosecution since the shooting.

In the High Court ruling the judge, Mr Justice Martin Spencer, said although Mabrouk had not fired the shots – and had been arrested earlier and was in police custody at the time – he was “a prime mover” in the plan to shoot demonstrators and any police officer who got in the way.

As he made final preparations for Wednesday’s memorial service, Mr Murray said: “The High Court judge said that if the suspect appeared in front of him in a criminal court he felt he would be found guilty.”

Among those at the service will be some of the Libyan demonstrators outside the embassy on the day and others from around the world.

There will be a police guard of honour and doves will be released.

Wreaths will be laid beside the memorial stone and prayers will be said for PC Fletcher and all officers who have died on duty.

Former Metropolitan Police officer John Murray lays a wreath at a memorial service for WPC Yvonne Fletcher, at St James's Square in London. Picture date: Monday April 17, 2023.
Former Metropolitan Police officer John Murray lays a wreath at a memorial service in 2023. Pic: PA

Mr Murray will tell the crowds: “Today is a day not of sadness but a day to celebrate the life of Yvonne. Forty years ago, on this date, Yvonne was shot and murdered at this very place.

“I promised her justice and with your continued help that promise will be fulfilled.”

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Commissioner Rowley said his thoughts were with the family of the victim.

“WPC Yvonne Fletcher was just 25 when she was callously murdered. She was simply doing her job, policing protest, not unlike what many officers do so often today.

“She had her whole career and her whole life ahead of her.

“Today, 40 years on from that terrible day, I join with all in the Met and across policing in paying tribute to her, in recognising her sacrifice and in keeping her family, friends and colleagues in our thoughts.”


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