The speech made by Allan Dorans, the SNP MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, in the House of Commons on 22 February 2022.
May I begin by paying tribute to and thanking all the police officers who at this very moment are policing our streets and putting themselves at risk and in danger to protect others and to keep us all safe?
I declare an interest in this matter: in January 1972, I joined the Metropolitan police as a police cadet, on the same day as John Murray, who features prominently in this speech. We trained together for over a year and became friends. Mr Murray is present this evening in the Under Gallery. In addition, I was a serving detective sergeant in the Metropolitan police on duty and nearby on the day Yvonne was murdered.
In 1984 Yvonne Fletcher was a 25-year-old police officer who had served in the Metropolitan police for seven years and had recently become engaged to be married. In the words of her late mother, Queenie,
“Yvonne loved being a policewoman. It was her life.”
On 17 April 1984, Yvonne and her policing partner and friend PC John Murray had paraded for duty at Bow Street police station expecting to undertake their normal duties as community police officers in the Covent Garden area. However, instead, they were requested by the duty inspector to assist in the policing of a political demonstration which was expected to take place outside the Libyan People’s Bureau in St James Square. The bureau, formerly known as the Libyan embassy, had been taken over and was under the control of a new revolutionary committee consisting of four individuals, including a senior official known as Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk.
Just after 10 am, about 70 anti-Gaddafi demonstrators congregated behind barriers on the pavement directly opposite the bureau. WPC Fletcher and PC Murray were positioned on the road in St James Square with their backs to the bureau and facing the demonstrators. At about 10.20 am, two windows on the first floor of the bureau opened, and Sterling sub-machine-guns were pointed out of those windows and opened fire towards the crowd of demonstrators and the police officers standing between the bureau and the demonstrators. Yvonne, who had her back to the bureau, was struck in the back by a bullet and fell to the ground. PC Murray, who was standing next to her, immediately went to her assistance and with colleagues moved her to the safety of a nearby street. An ambulance attended and PC Murray accompanied Yvonne in the ambulance, where it was clear that she had sustained injuries that were likely to prove fatal. At that time, PC Murray promised Yvonne that he would find whoever was responsible. That promise became the basis for the campaign for justice for Yvonne that Mr Murray has continued tirelessly and relentlessly for 37 years.
Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Ind)
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate, which I know carries great personal meaning for him as a former officer with the Met. PC Fletcher unfortunately paid the ultimate price in the name of public service, and it is shameful that even now, more than three decades on, the onus remains on her former colleagues and not on the Government to continue to fight to hold those responsible to account. I am keen to know whether the Government intend to open an inquiry into the matter, which I am sure my hon. Friend will push for tonight.
I totally agree with my hon. Friend.
Yvonne was conveyed to Westminster Hospital, but sadly she succumbed to her injuries on the operating table about an hour after arriving at the hospital.
Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con)
I have studied the matter at length and must say that the bravery of that lady after she was wounded was astonishing. I understand that all she was concerned about was the safety of other people. What service. How wonderful for the Metropolitan police.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention and for holding a previous Adjournment debate on this matter.
The fact that the shots that murdered WPC Fletcher and injured others were fired from the Libyan People’s Bureau is not disputed and is supported by overwhelming eyewitness accounts, videos and forensic evidence. Immediately following the events of 17 April, Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk, along with other members of the bureau, was deported to Libya. Mr Mabrouk was subsequently allowed to return to this country by the British Government and in 2011 he settled permanently in Reading. As there was evidence that he was involved in a conspiracy, we must ask why he was ever allowed to return.
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
In Northern Ireland, we have had more than our full share of murder and heartache. It must be remembered that our officers, past and present, offer to pay the ultimate sacrifice in their service. The fact that WPC Fletcher was willing to sacrifice her life will never make that sacrifice acceptable and negate the need for justice for her family. When the hon. Gentleman asks for a public inquiry, I want him to know that I fully support him.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I will address that matter later in my speech.
Sir Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con)
As the hon. Member—my friend—knows, I have been involved in this issue for many years; before that, Sir Teddy Taylor was trying to get justice for the murder of Yvonne Fletcher. The question I have to ask—I asked it when I was the police Minister and I have asked it in parliamentary questions—is: why was that man allowed to come in and out of the country? He was not just a suspect in the Yvonne Fletcher murder but accused of other criminal activities, and yet he walked in and out of this country. That is why an inquiry is vital.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I agree. Hopefully we will get answers to those questions.
In 2015, Mr Mabrouk was arrested by the Metropolitan police following an investigation of money laundering and in connection with the murder of Yvonne. Following a two-year investigation, it was announced by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2017 that no prosecution was possible due to evidence withheld by the Government on the grounds of national security not being available to it. Mr Mabrouk was therefore released without charge.
There is no suggestion that Saleh Mabrouk fired the weapons that killed Yvonne. He was in police custody—perhaps intentionally and conveniently—when the shots were fired. However, there is significant evidence that he, as a senior member of the revolutionary committee responsible for the control of the people’s bureau, was involved in the events that led to the shootings taking place. He is a clearly a major suspect in a criminal conspiracy that led to the death of Yvonne.
Following the failure of the Government to support a criminal prosecution, the only avenue available to bring Mr Mabrouk to justice of any kind was for John Murray to initiate a civil court action against him. Accordingly, in November 2018, while Mabrouk was still resident in this country, John Murray lodged a civil court action against him in the High Court for the nominal sum of £1. The civil court action was brought primarily to bring the evidence of Mabrouk’s involvement in the death of Yvonne into the public domain and to prove that he was involved in, and liable for, Yvonne’s death. Very shortly after the case was filed on 9 January 2019, the Home Secretary wrote to Mr Mabrouk at his address in Libya informing him that he was excluded from the UK on the grounds that his presence here would not be conducive to good public order due to his suspected involvement in war crimes against humanity in Libya.
On 1 July 2020, I asked a question at Prime Minister’s questions in relation to reopening the criminal investigation into the murder of Yvonne. The Prime Minister, in response, said:
“The murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher was sickening and cowardly.”
He agreed to meet me to
“see what we can do to take the matter forward.”—[Official Report, 1 July 2020; Vol. 678, c. 327.]
We met in the Prime Minister’s office on 29 September 2020. My memory of that meeting is very clear. I asked the Prime Minister a series of questions, the most significant of which was: would he carry out a review of whether evidence, which had been withheld by the Government from the Crown Prosecution Service during the criminal investigation into Saleh Mabrouk on the grounds of national security in 2017, could now be released as Saleh Mabrouk had now left the country and had been excluded from returning by the Home Office. He replied that yes, he would do that and would reply to me.
On 10 November 2021, the civil court case brought by Mr Murray against Saleh Mabrouk took place at the Royal Courts of Justice and was presided over by an experienced senior judge, the honourable Justice Martin Spencer. Despite being properly served with notice of the court proceedings, Saleh Mabrouk failed to respond. He was also given the opportunity to appear by video link, but again no response was received. The trial judge’s conclusion was that Mr Mabrouk had chosen to play no part in the trial, and that the trial could fairly proceed in his absence. Mr Justice Spencer delivered his judgment on 16 November 2021, which runs to 25 printed pages.
These are just a few of the highlights from that judgment. Mr Justice Spencer said:
“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, and specifically by firing shots at or in the direction of the protestors. Witness statements and statements made by Mr Mabrouk demonstrate not only his knowledge of the common design, but also his views of the inevitability of that response.”
He quoted Mr Mabrouk as saying: “We have guns here and there’s going to be fighting,” and said that:
“This is a statement confirming a plan to shoot protestors.”
The judge went on to say:
“Coupled with his position as one of the few leaders of the Revolutionary Committee controlling the People’s Bureau, it amounts to confirmation of the common design to fire upon the demonstrators, in which he was an active participant. On that basis, I am satisfied that on the balance of probabilities the defendant”—
“is jointly liable for the shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher on the doctrine of common design.”
That was a hugely significant judgment delivered by a senior High Court judge, having heard evidence from witnesses over three days. It was clear that Saleh Mabrouk was involved in, and jointly responsible, for the death of WPC Yvonne Fletcher. It is without doubt a landmark victory secured as a direct result of John Murray’s determination, courage and commitment to seek justice for his murdered friend and colleague.
I ask the Minister to address the following questions. Given that the evidence presented and accepted at the High Court has been available for over 37 years, how can the Government justify that it was left to John Murray, himself a victim in this case, to bring Saleh Mabrouk to justice in a civil court, rather than see him prosecuted in a criminal court? Will the Government undertake to review whether the evidence withheld from the Crown Prosecution Service in 2017 can now be safely released, as requested by me and agreed by the Prime Minister at our meeting on 29 September 2020? Has Saleh Mabrouk ever been provided with a letter of comfort or letter of assurance by the British Government, which guarantees that he will never be prosecuted in a British criminal court?
Will the Government acknowledge that the judgment delivered by Mr Justice Spencer confirms Mr Mabrouk’s culpability in the murder of Yvonne Fletcher, and in the light of that, what action are the Government and the Metropolitan police now taking to bring Saleh Mabrouk to justice by requesting his extradition from Libya to face a criminal prosecution for the murder of WPC Fletcher? Will the Government now reconsider the need for a public inquiry into the events surrounding the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher and subsequently?
Before the Minister responds, I pay tribute to John Murray, who, for the past 37 years, has worked tirelessly and relentlessly to achieve justice for Yvonne and without whose efforts the callous murder of a young policewoman, for which no one has ever been charged, may have faded in people’s memories. I also thank the police officers who have served for their service—some of whom are present in the Public Gallery this evening—and those who have helped and supported John through these incredibly difficult years to keep the memory of Yvonne and the campaign for justice for Yvonne alive.
Finally, in addition to seeking answers to those questions, my hope, in bringing this debate to the Chamber this evening, is that it will send a powerful message to the Government and to Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk that the murder of Yvonne has not been, and will never be, forgotten. The campaign for justice for Yvonne continues. It will never give up; it is not going away; and it will continue the fight, by any legal means possible, to finally achieve justice for Yvonne.