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A retired officer's fight for justice pledge to his dying colleague

The retired officer campaigning to get justice for PC Yvonne Fletcher is preparing for “one last push” to close her case.

Two vital court dates now stand between the former colleague of PC Yvonne Fletcher and a promise to get her justice.

John Murray, who last autumn secured a historic verdict at the High Court, is preparing to challenge an appeal next month by the man named by a judge as jointly liable for her shooting outside the Libyan Embassy in 1984.

At the same time, he and his legal team are also getting ready to mount a private prosecution shortly after that he hopes will finally bring closure on one of the most infamous murders in policing.

And he has also revealed to Police Oracle plans for a black tie gala ball for 400 people at London’s prestigious Connaught Rooms on 17 June 2023 which he believes will be a celebration – and the point where he can hopefully walk away having fulfilled a promise to the dying officer.

Sir John Grieve will be one of the lead speakers, with other surprise guests to be announced at a later date.

He wants the event to help raise his former colleague’s memory above the case that posthumously made her a household name – and for the truth to finally be told.

“It’s a dirty, murky, awful business, this whole affair,” he tells Police Oracle. “The story deserves to be heard.”

And that takes us back to St James’s Square, London, 17 April 1984.

A routine task was for officers to control a demonstration by students and a rival protest by loyalists over the regime of Col Gaddafi.

Shortly after 10am, shots were fired from the embassy and the officer was hit by one of the bullets. Ten other protesters were injured.

Colleagues surrounded her, including John Murray, to give first aid. PC Fletcher was then rushed to nearby Westminster Hospital. Her father was driven from Dorset to be at her side but she died from massive internal bleeding.

The image of officers trying to save her in the square quickly made national news.

One of the last things she heard was a pledge from Mr Murray that he would find those responsible and bring them to justice.

The pair had worked together and had become friends partly because they were both non-London officers in the Met.

Up to that day, PC Fletcher’s biggest claim to fame was that at 5ft 2in, she was the shortest officer in the country.

PC Yvonne Fletcher 

Then came a televised siege of the embassy, with PC Fletcher’s police hat still laying in the road.

In the Libyan capital of Tripoli, the British embassy was under siege as a tense stand-off ensued between the two governments.

After 11 days, the people inside the London embassy filed out and were driven by bus to Heathrow after their diplomatic bags were loaded into a van.

A forensic search concluded a pistol and Sterling machine gun fired shots from separate upper windows. But little else was confirmed.

And so began Mr Murray’s quest to find who was responsible, a task that would involve successive governments and the courts.

“What people don’t know is what went on before the shooting and after,” says Mr Murray.

The month before, four people had been arrested after bombs exploded in Manchester, then a hub for anti Gaddaffi Libyans, and Heathrow.

This had increased tensions and created a national security incident. Libyans living in the UK were already under watch.

But little public evidence emerged. Scotland Yard detectives visited Tripoli several times until the Libyan dictator was overthrown in 2011. The force ran campaigns on Facebook and even made a documentary to raise awareness.

Mr Murray and the Yard established that three suspects were involved – and left by the back door immediately after the incident.

“We believe two have gone to another place – that they’re dead,” he tells Police Oracle.

That left the third man.

After a trial in absence last year, the High Court named Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk as having joint responsibility. Mabrouk is appealing the verdict.

Mr Murrary says simply: “It’s a delaying tactic but we’ve got to engage because we’ve got to defend the verdict.”

After more than three decades, he is well used to the twists and turns.

But there is a silent witness - the UK government.

He says: “After the verdict, there was nothing from the government. We were amazed at that, especially the Crown Prosecution Service. That was absolutely disgraceful.”

He says questions remain over the contacts the British government had with people inside the embassy that day during the years that followed.

He tells Police Oracle: “That’s the part people want to know about, big time. It has become more of an issue over the years – starting with the decision back then not to storm the building and arrest anybody.

“We were told they had diplomatic immunity. As it happens, none of them were entitled to diplomatic immunity.”

Questions have been raised over the decision to allow Mabrouk back into the UK in 2008 to study about the oil industry at Reading University.

Mr Murray asks: “How was it that someone who was deported and linked to a terrorist incident be allowed back into the country?”

Further questions were raise after Mabrouk was arrested in 2015 over the death but the CPS rule a prosecution wasn’t possible on grounds of national security.

In 2017, Maborouk was advised by the Home Office to leave and rejected his right to remain.

Mr Murray also reveals senior officials had urged him to stop his campaign – which had the opposite effect.

“It spurred me on and made me more determined,” he says. “I’ve spent more time on this than I did in service.”

He explains: “I just want the truth to be told. Has the government had contact with him in the past? If the government made mistakes, then say so. I’d accept that.”

He has one final objective with the case: “My aim is a private criminal prosecution.”

His work on the case has continued after he left the force having been run over on duty in 1994.

What is also not widely known is that Mr Murray has funded the fight with his own money. He is working today in airport security to pay the legal bills he incurred.

The High Court prosecution cost £380,000, for which supporters crowd funded £40,000 and the Police Federation backed with £175,000.

He shrugs it off: “When you know you’re right, you never give up. When people shout at you, you know you’ve done nothing wrong.”

Her legacy also includes the police memorials to officers killed on duty.

Film director Michael Winner was so outraged by the incident he funded her memorial in St James's Square and founded the organisation that ensures other officers are not forgotten. 

All these years on, would he do it again?

“Definitely. Definitely. I have no regrets. I made a promise,” he says.

He wants the gala event next year to be a closing chapter.

“It would have been Yvonne’s 63rd birthday,” he says. “It would be nice for everyone to get together, make new friends and share new memories. It’s also a way of saying thank you to everyone for their support for so long.”

To find out more about the event, you can email John at wpc341c-65years@outlook.com

And what would he tell his former colleague today if he was able to?

He brightens up: “I would say to her we’re almost there. We’ve done the difficult part; now comes the second part – and I’m sure we’ll win. You soon will be able to rest in peace.”

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