Laughing and smiling: the Gaddafi aide days after hearing he won't face charges for 1984 killing of WPc Yvonne Fletcher

Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk
Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk outside his home in Reading Credit: Geoff Pugh

The prime suspect in the murder of Yvonne Fletcher is living comfortably in a five-bedroom house in Berkshire, paid for in cash, it can be disclosed, amid a growing clamour to explain why the case against him was suddenly dropped.

Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk, a close aide to Libya's former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was also arrested on suspicion of money laundering after fleeing Libya in 2011 – but that case has also been closed.

He was given asylum despite being the subject of a murder investigation regarding the shooting of WPc Fletcher in 1984 during a protest outside the Libyan embassy in London.

In a further twist, senior policing sources have told The Telegraph that the case against him was dropped after approval from Downing Street.

A separate Whitehall source accepted the proposition that Prime Minister Theresa May knew in advance about the decision to halt the investigation.

The source said that although senior ministers did nothing to stop it, they were not involved in closing the case down.

Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk outside his home in Reading. Credit: Geoff Pugh

Mr Mabrouk bought the house in Reading for £385,000 in cash in 2009 – despite being under police investigation. The house is now worth in the region of £600,000.

Land Registry documents show it was bought without a mortgage on July 7 2009.

Such a transaction by a Libyan national should have generated a “suspicious activity report” for the National Crime Agency. The agency said it could not comment on individual cases.

Mr Mabrouk was arrested in November 2015 on suspicion of conspiracy to murder but the case was dropped on Tuesday.

WPc Fletcher was shot outside the Libyan embassy while trying to do her job.

It was claimed it would “not be appropriate” to put some of the evidence before a court for national security reasons.

A prosecution report written in 2007 identified Mr Mabrouk as a prime suspect in the “pre-arranged” shootingof WPc Fletcher, 25. Mabrouk was arrested before the 1984 demonstration, amid claims he had warned a police member of staff erecting crowd safety barriers: “We have guns here today … We aren’t going to have responsibility for you or the barriers.”

Mr Mabrouk was expelled a week after the murder but he was allowed to return in 2000 after Britain resumed diplomatic relations with Libya. He made Berkshire his permanent base after fleeing Tripoli when Gaddafi fell.

Grabs taken from footage of the shooting of Yvonne Fletcher.

John Murray, a former police officer who cradled WPc Fletcher as she lay dying, said the sight of Mabrouk “swanning around free” was deeply upsetting and “a slap in the face for Yvonne”.

Sir Paul Stephenson, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said: “We really need a full explanation of how this was allowed to happen.”

Senior policing sources have briefed that the case against Mr Mabrouk was dropped after a decision taken at the “highest level”. The source added: “Number 10 was involved.”

One Whitehall source said “half of government” knew about the decision but stressed that the final decision was made by the prosecutors.

Queenie Fletcher mother Yvonne Fletcher policewoman shot outside Lybian Peoples Bureau embassy. 

The decision not to allow evidence to be made public was made by “the people who own the information and they are not the Government’s ministers,” said the source. Another insisted it was “100 per cent untrue” that Mrs May had “signed off” on dropping the case.

The Home Office said it could not comment on a “national security issue”.

A lawyer for Mr Mabrouk said police had failed to offer a “shred of evidence. His son Osama Saleh Ibrahim said at the time of his father’s arrest: “He’s OK. You know when you didn’t do anything. But we trust the law here in England.”

On Friday, Yvette Cooper, a former Labour Cabinet minister who chaired the Commons’ home affairs select committee, said: “It is completely unacceptable for the Home Office to provide so little information.”     

Laughing and smiling: What happened to Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk?

Laughing and joking, the prime suspect in the murder of WPc Yvonne Fletcher looks as if he doesn’t have a care in the world. And well he might. Just days earlier Scotland Yard announced it was dropping the case against him.

He had been arrested in November 2015 on suspicion of conspiracy to murder WPc Fletcher.

Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk outside his home in Reading. Credit: Geoff Pugh

Mr Mabrouk, who denied any involvement, had spent the past 18 months on police bail.

The threat of prosecution had now been lifted and as this photograph of Mr Mabrouk shows, he was in high spirits as he returned to his home in Reading, Berkshire, about an hour’s drive from the scene of WPc’s Fletcher’s murder.

In a mundane suburban scene a million miles from the reality of Gaddafi’s Libya, he was then seen tinkering with a hatchback car parked outside, telling a neighbour he was having “engine trouble”.

His amiable disposition turned to anger when The Telegraph approached him at his home. Mr Mabrouk declined to answer any questions about the case, including why it might have been dropped.

The UK authorities refuse to explain what are the “national security” grounds that meant evidence could not be presented in court.

The home of Saleh Ibrahim Mabrouk in Reading. Credit: Geoff Pugh

Mr Mabrouk, his wife Kamila Otman, 48, and their children live in a modern mock-Tudor home in a cul-de-sac a short drive from Reading town centre.

Until his arrest, Mr Mabrouk had lived in relative obscurity in the Berkshire town where, in the years that followed the shooting, he had gone to study for a PhD in the oil industry at Reading University alongside his wife, who was also doing a doctoral thesis there.

“We didn’t know anything about him or his past until the police turned up just over a year ago,” said a woman who lives close to his home.

“Naturally when we heard why he’d been arrested we were pretty shocked. What happened to that poor policewoman was terrible and the thought of one of our neighbours possibly having something to do with it was awful.”

WPc Fletcher was shot outside the Libyan embassy while trying to do her job. Credit: Rex Features

Another neighbour said: “I hate to use the expression, but he really does keep himself to himself. At most he’ll say hello when he passes me. He appears pleasant enough and nothing has been proven against him.”

Now that the case against him has been dropped Mr Mabrouk undoubtedly hopes to be able to resume his previous life.

In 1984, he was a member of Gaddafi’s “revolutionary committee” that had taken charge of the Libyan embassy, self-styled as "the people’s bureau".

Following WPc Fletcher’s murder, Mabrouk was among a number of Libyans expelled from the UK; his presence deemed “not conducive to the public good”.

Back in Tripoli, he was seen as a close aide to Gaddafi and eventually given the plum role of head of the Higher Studies and Academic Research Academy.

One former British diplomat said: “Mabrouk ran the academy as a rival to the Ministry of Education. It was used to groom Gaddafi protégés and it was always rumoured that if the academy needed money then Mabrouk would simply call up Gaddafi and go to lunch with him. He would then come back with a cheque. Mabrouk was occupying the space that was meant to bring on the new Libyan elite. It was a powerful position.”

Former prime minister Tony Blair (L) and Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi during talks. Credit: PA

By 1999, Libya, then a pariah terrorist state, was being brought back in from the cold and diplomatic relations restored. Within a year, Mr Mabrouk was able to come and go at will between Libya and the UK.

Despite his previous expulsion, nobody seemed to bat an eyelid.

In July 2009, he felt so secure in the UK he even bought a house without any mortgage for £385,000. It is now worth almost double that.

He presumably did not know that a prosecution case review written in 2007 had identified him as a prime suspect in the conspiracy to murder WPc Fletcher.

His lawyer has suggested he had received a letter from the Foreign Office in 2002, reassuring him he was not a suspect.

Following the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011, Mabrouk fled to his bolt-hole in Berkshire, claiming asylum in the UK.

His lawyers have insisted there is “not a shred” of evidence against Mr Mabrouk. On Thursday, one of his sons emerged to explain to The Telegraph that his father was too tired to talk.

“He’s been in legal meetings and he’s very tired. He can’t talk now. I’m sorry,” he said. “I know you want to ask him about what’s been happening, but not now.”