UK & World News
Libya Warned UK Ahead Of WPC Fletcher Murder
Warnings the Libyan People's Bureau in London had a stockpile of weapons and "assassins" were downplayed ahead of the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, it has emerged.
Even on the eve of the policewoman's murder in April 1984, Libya warned twice that there would be repercussions if Britain allowed an anti-Gaddafi protest to go ahead outside the St James's Square bureau.
The warnings were disregarded - with the British ambassador in Tripoli so convinced nothing would happen he even put a bet on it.
The threats from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime and the intelligence reports on the threat from the People's Bureau are disclosed in 1984 documents released by the National Archives, in Kew, southwest London.
WPC Fletcher was shot on April 17, 1984, when a gunman inside the bureau opened fire with a submachine gun on the protesters and police. She died shortly afterwards in hospital.
Although there had already been a number of blasts in London and Manchester aimed at opponents of the Libyan regime, nothing in the documents suggests the warnings were passed to the officers outside the bureau.
The murder led the UK to sever diplomatic relations with Libya.
No one has ever been convicted of her killing, although Col Gaddafi did admit responsibility for her death in 1999 and agreed to pay her family compensation.
According to the newly released documents, Oliver Miles, the British ambassador in Tripoli, was summoned to the Libyan foreign ministry the night before WPC Fletcher was shot.
According to Mr Miles' telegram to the Foreign Office (FCO), he was told: "The Libyan government would not be responsible for the consequences if the demonstration took place and they might include violence."
However, he said he responded by saying that "threats of violence did not impress the British Government".
Mr Miles reported how the Libyan desk officer who showed him out "seemed as little impressed by this performance as I was".
He signed off nonchalantly, writing: "I made a bet with him that no such demonstration will take place. Grateful to know the outcome."
According to a briefing note prepared for Home Secretary Leon Brittan, Libyan officials turned up outside the Foreign Office itself with a message for the duty officer similar to that given to Mr Miles in Tripoli.
The note said: "They said that if the demonstration went ahead they would not be answerable for the consequences."
It was dismissed by the duty officer according to the note, which said: "This last is a standard Libyan line: we did not regard it as particularly significant at the time, though the act of calling at the FCO in the middle of the night was unusual."
The duty officer did contact Scotland Yard and the Home Office to let them know what had happened.
The records also showed that Mr Brittan was angry with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's quick acceptance nothing could be done to arrest those inside the People's Bureau because of diplomatic rules.
He told Mrs Thatcher that she had "already accepted that we would allow a murderer to go free".
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