Inquest rules student was unlawfully killed
A Norwegian student whose semi-naked body was found buried under a pile of rubble was unlawfully killed, an inquest ruled today.
Martine Vik Magnussen, 23, was murdered after a night out at a trendy nightclub in Mayfair, central London, on March 14, 2008.
Westminster Coroner's Court heard she was last seen leaving the club with prime suspect Farouk Abdulhak.
The 23-year-old billionaire playboy remains in hiding in his native Yemen which refuses to extradite its citizens.
Forensic pathologist Dr Nathaniel Carey said the victim, who had been drinking and had taken cocaine, suffered multiple injuries.
He said abrasions found across her head, neck and face, as well as her body, were inflicted as she fought off an attacker.
In an emotional statement during the inquest, Miss Magnussen's father, Odd Petter, appealed to Mr Abdulhak to give himself up to end his family's misery.
Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, Coroner Dr Paul Knapman said Miss Magnussen died from "compression to the neck", which could mean she was strangled or smothered.
He said: "I fully understand the feelings of Mr Magnussen. This court has every sympathy in his frustration and grief."
The inquest heard Miss Magnussen was last seen leaving the Maddox nightclub with Abdulhak, where she had been celebrating end of term exams, on Friday March 14 2008, at 3.20am.
Friends at her shared home in Gatcliffe Close became concerned when she had not returned the following morning and alerted police who launched a missing person inquiry.
Her body was found at about 10.20am on Sunday morning when officers smashed down a padlocked door in the Great Portland Street block of flats where Abdulhak lived.
The inquest heard their suspicions were aroused when officers found an item of clothing she had been wearing in his flat.
Pc James Tauber, who knocked the basement door down, said he found her body after spotting an arm sticking out of a pile of building rubble.
Dr Carey, who conducted the post-mortem examination, said there were at least 43 cuts and grazes to several areas of the victim's body, including 10 to her face and neck.
He said Miss Magnussen died from compression to the neck and this could mean she was strangled, held down with a foot or other object or smothered with an object.
Dr Carey said the victim had between 130mg and 140mg of alcohol in her blood at the time of her death, meaning she was probably mildly drunk. The legal driving limit is 80mg.
He added that there was evidence of recent "light usage" of cocaine and semen was found.
Speaking about the injuries, Dr Carey said: "Many of them were typical of assault type injuries or those received in a struggle."
The inquest heard that Miss Magnussen's body was heavily contaminated with sand and her skin had been affected by building cement.
Detective Inspector Richard Ambrose told the inquest Miss Magnussen and Abdulhak had been friends for up to eight months and she sometimes stayed at his flat.
He said her body was found when police officers returned to Abdulhak's building a second time as suspicion that she had come to harm grew.
Mr Ambrose said: "It would appear that Mr Abdulhak had fled the country within 14 hours of Martine going missing. We traced that he had been to Egypt and subsequently Yemen.
"I believe him to still be in Yemen. The investigation was obviously a thorough investigation.
"Papers went to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and it was their opinion that there is sufficient evidence to charge this man with murder and rape."
Mr Ambrose said a European arrest warrant for Abdulhak's arrest remained outstanding and officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had spoken to colleagues in Yemen.
He added: "But the upshot is, whether Abdulhak returns or not is purely his choice at the moment and he chooses not to."
Earlier, the inquest heard Miss Magnussen was from a "close and loving family" and had an older brother and younger sister.
Coroner's officer Lynda Morris said: "Martine was the more extrovert of the three. She was described by friends and family as a very capable and kind girl who would light up a room when she went into it.
"She had a great sense of humour and would always make people laugh. When meeting people she had the ability to put them at ease and make them feel special."
Mrs Morris added: "In her spare time her hobbies were horse riding, ballet and playing handball.
"She studied medicine in Warsaw but found it difficult to settle in and after six months returned home to Norway.
"She felt she needed a change of direction and as many friends had moved to London, she decided to do the same.
"In 2007, she enrolled in the Regent's Business School to study international business relations.
"She settled in well and made many friends. She found a part-time job and was described by flatmates as responsible and streetwise."
Speaking outside the inquest, Mr Magnussen labelled the hearing "a room filled with brutality".
He said: "This really shows the absurd situation that surrounds this case. We have a suspect that has fled to a country where he is untouchable.
"There is no way, unless he puts himself forward for the British legal authorities, that he will have to take some responsibility for these actions.
"The principle aspect of this is one that is very important to a mobile international community that we see today.
"We all think that this sort of cross border crime has to be resolved politically in the long term. I sincerely hope it will.
"But I appeal to the suspect here to put himself before the British authorities, to have his case tried, so my family and I can get on with our lives as best we can."
Mr Magnussen added that he is "very satisfied" with the way his daughter's murder has been handled by police and the "continued energy" they have to solve it.
Detective Chief Inspector Lee Presland, who is responsible for the murder inquiry, said Abdulhak remains the prime and only suspect.
In a statement, he said: "The murder of Martine Vik Magnussen, a young woman in the prime of her life, was a horrific act that has affected me deeply both as a police officer and a father.
"I would like to reassure the family that the Metropolitan Police is committed to bringing justice for Martine.
"We have publicly named Farouk Abdulhak as the suspect in this case and once again I would like to use this opportunity to urge him to return to the UK so that we can speak to him regarding this murder.
"I still believe that Farouk Abdulhak is in Yemen and we continue to work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in order to try and secure his return to the UK."
Abdulhak, whose father is billionaire businessman Shaher Abdulhak, founder of Shaher Trading, is believed to be in the remote village of Thaba Abous in southern Yemen.
The suspect is living in a large family holiday home and monitored around the clock by armed guards.
Miss Magnussen's family are considering whether to bring a civil compensation case against the Abdulhak family for damages.
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