The British woman and Gaddafi's doomed getaway

Security expert casts light on how a mercenary escort may have been recruited for the tyrant's final flight

South African mercenaries said to have been involved in an operation to save Muammar Gaddafi and his family from revolutionary forces at the end of the civil war in Libya may have been sent by a multinational oil company.

A woman of British and Kenyan extraction involved in the security field has disclosed that she was asked to recruit a private force for work in Libya by an oil company as the conflict reached its violent climax, The Independent has learnt.

Some South African "soldiers of fortune" were said to have been with Colonel Gaddafi when he was captured, tortured and killed by rebel forces as he tried to flee the besieged city of Sirte. Others from the contingent are believed to be guarding the dictator's son, Saif al-Islam, currently on the run in the border region of Chad, Niger and Algeria.

The name of Sarah Penfold, who is based in Nairobi, and describes herself as an "executive protection and security specialist", has repeatedly come up in accounts of the private forces working in Libya. She has denied that she had any part in dealing with the Gaddafi family.

She told an acquaintance in South Africa: "I was asked by a friend to get some guys together to do PSD [private security detail] and training in Libya for a well known oil company to protect their assets and personnel. I sent an email round asking guys to go for an interview and forward it to others. That's all."

However, according to sources, a group of these security contractors had, unknown to Ms Penfold, taken part in the Gaddafi mission. Some are reported to have been injured and at least two killed when the dictator's convoy was ambushed by Nato air strikes and rebel attacks on the ground.

Ms Penfold suggested that another security group, running a parallel operation in Libya, may have been the ones who suffered the casualties. She continued: "Then I find out from some intel friends that your lovely head of police with his ANC links got a load of police guys together... These, I presume, were the guys who got hit."

There is no evidence to suggest that the current head of the police force in South Africa is linked in any way to private security operations in Libya. However, the name of a former senior police officer has surfaced in connection with the mission. He has denied any involvement.

Although Ms Penfold is insistent that she has done nothing wrong over recruitment for Libya, her entry in a social networking site has now been removed. Her profile read: "Trained in advanced and tactical high-speed driving. Medically trained to first aid level 2 and 3, with a focus on trauma injuries."

Some of the South Africans involved in Libya are believed to be veterans of a failed attempt to overthrow the dictator of Equatorial Guinea in the "Wonga Coup", led by former SAS officer Simon Mann 11 years ago.

Cruise Steyl, a former business partner of Sir Mark Thatcher and, with him, involved in the coup plot, was contacted two days after Gaddafi's death and asked whether he would be prepared to help evacuate a group of stranded South African mercenaries from Libya.

Mr Steyl, an experienced pilot, said: "The call came on Saturday evening and I was told just how urgent the whole situation was and a fair amount of money was on offer. But what happened in Equatorial Guinea was a while ago, I have my own business now and I don't want that to get involved in that kind of activity."

Suggested Topics
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Engineer

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy En...

Sales Representative, Leicester

£25-£30k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major well established nationwide market...

Sales Representative, Birmingham

£25-£30k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major well established nationwide market...

HR Administration Manager - Hounslow, West London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Administration Manager...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment