Police 'know who murdered WPC Fletcher'

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The Independent Online

Britain's most senior policeman has revealed that the police know the identity of the Libyan who shot dead WPC Yvonne Fletcher, and are close to solving the murder case.

Britain's most senior policeman has revealed that the police know the identity of the Libyan who shot dead WPC Yvonne Fletcher, and are close to solving the murder case.

WPC Fletcher was 25 when she was fatally wounded in 1984 as she helped to police a student demonstration outside the Libyan embassy in St James's Square, London. Her death led to sanctions against the North African regime that lasted for two decades.

Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said yesterday that his detectives, who are investigating WPC Fletcher's death with the authorities in Libya, were "pretty optimistic" about their inquiries. He said: "We have good reason for believing we know who pulled the trigger, as perhaps the Libyan authorities do."

Sir John's remarks came after he attended a 20th anniversary memorial service at the place where WPC Fletcher was shot. The service was attended by her parents, her three surviving sisters, and Baroness Thatcher, the then Prime Minister. His comments will heighten speculation that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is prepared to hand over the Libyan diplomat allegedly responsible for shooting WPC Fletcher and wounding 11 anti-Gaddafi demonstrators.

The killing led to an 11-day siege of the embassy by armed police. But, to the consternation of the Tory government and police, all the embassy's staff, including the alleged killer, were allowed to leave the UK under diplomatic immunity.

Last month the Libyan leader agreed to a joint investigation with Scotland Yard into the murder. The agreement formed part of the historic deal struck with Tony Blair in late March to end Libya's diplomatic and commercial isolation, which followed allegations that it played a role in the Lockerbie bombing.

Col Gaddafi has already said Libya accepted "general responsibility" for WPC Fletcher's death and has agreed to give her family compensation and pay £250,000 into the Police Dependents' Benevolent Fund.

The new inquiry is being led by Libyan investigating magistrates, and Sir John indicated that, if identified, her alleged killer could be prosecuted and tried in Libya, rather than the UK.

However, a dispute remains over the official view that the killer was on the first floor of the Libyan embassy. Ballistics experts have claimed WPC Fletcher's wounds prove the fatal shot was fired from another building, suggesting the Libyans were not to blame.