British police on Thursday announced “the first significant arrest” in the 1984 killing of London policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, shot dead from inside the Libyan embassy in an incident that solidified Libya’s reputation as a rogue state.
Commander Richard Walton, head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism unit, said a Libyan man in his 50s was arrested Thursday morning on suspicion of conspiracy to murder. A man and a woman, also Libyans, were arrested on the lesser charge of money-laundering in relation to the Fletcher case.
“Over the past 31 years we have never lost our resolve to solve this case, to bring to justice those who conspired to commit this act of murder,” Walton said.
Fletcher was killed and 10 others injured on April 17, 1984, when someone opened fire with a submachine gun from inside the Libyan People’s Bureau on St. James’ Square in central London. Fletcher was policing a demonstration outside the embassy when she was killed.
A large group of demonstrators opposed to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi were protesting outside the embassy while Gadhafi supporters held a rally nearby.
Fletcher was shot in the back when shots rang out from inside the embassy. A 10-day siege followed the shooting before 30 people holed up inside the embassy were deported to Libya. The shooting led to a prolonged rupture in relations between Britain and Libya.
Police said in a statement that the incident was orchestrated from Libya as part of a campaign to attack dissidents overseas. The statement said the fall of Gadhafi’s regime and his death in 2011 “provided access to new lines of inquiry” that aided the 31-year-old investigation.
Scotland Yard said “new information” came to light that helped investigators better understand the conspiracy.
Police are offering a reward of up to 50,000 pounds ($76,000) for information leading to those responsible for the killing and are releasing footage from the demonstration moments before the shooting started.
Walton said police particularly want to talk to people who were part of the pro-Gadhafi demonstration, including those who may be living in Libya or in other parts of the world.
“Allegiances change and we hope with the passage of time, witnesses who have not spoken to us will examine their consciences and come forward,” he said.
Fletcher’s family also released a statement asking anyone with information to contact police.