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Police reopen investigation into 'brutal' 1987 murder of Palestinian cartoonist

Naji Salim Hussain Al-Ali’s cartoons were sometimes perceived as critical of the regime in Palestine.

met Naji Salim Hussain al-Ali Source: Metropolitan Police

DETECTIVES IN LONDON HAVE launched a reinvestigation into the murder of a Palestinian cartoonist in London in 1987.

The Metropolitan Police appealed for the public’s help to identify and find those responsible on the 30th anniversary of his death.

At about 5.10pm on Wednesday 22 July 1987, Naji Salim Hussain Al-Ali – a political cartoonist for Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas – was shot in the back of his neck as he walked to his office in Ives Street, Knightsbridge.

Al-Ali, 51, was taken to hospital where he remained in a coma until he died more than a month later, on 29 August 1987.

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command are launching a reinvestigation of the case which was initially led by Met Police Special Branch detectives as they were considered the most appropriate team to investigate at the time.

Al-Ali’s cartoons were sometimes perceived as critical of the regime in Palestine and he had received a number of death threats in the years leading up to his murder.

Two men 

Investigators are appealing for information about the gunman and a second man later seen driving away from the scene.

In the moments leading up to Al-Ali’s murder, he parked his car on Ixworth Place, walked down Draycott Avenue and onto Ives Street.

Witnesses reported seeing him being followed by the suspected gunman, who they described as being of Middle Eastern appearance and aged about 25, with collar-length thick black hair that was wavy at the back. He was wearing a stonewashed denim jacket and dark trousers.

Witnesses describe seeing the suspect close to Al-Ali, holding a black automatic handgun.

An artist’s impression of the gunman drawn shortly after the incident has been updated as part of the murder review, to show what the suspect may look like today.

Murder28-08Artist'sImpression An artist's impression of what the man who shot Al-Ali might look like today Source: Metropolitan Police

A witness reported seeing another man crossing Fulham Road into Lucan Place and getting into the driver’s seat of a silver-grey left-hand drive Mercedes shortly after the incident.

He was seen running with his left hand inside the right side of his jacket as if he was concealing something.

This man was described as being of Middle Eastern appearance, aged in his 50s, about 5ft 9ins and of medium build with broad shoulders.

Gun

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “The gunman was seen following Mr Al-Ali for about 40 seconds before he shot him. Despite the briefness of the attack, witnesses were able to give investigators a good description of the suspect.

We believe that he may have arranged to meet the man seen driving the silver-grey Mercedes straight after the murder. We believe that this driver was seen hiding the weapon in his coat, intending to dispose of it.

The gun – a 7.62 Tokarev pistol – was found in open space on the Hallfield Estate in Paddington almost two years after the murder, on 22 April 1989.

Specialists carried out forensic analysis of the gun, including test firing the pistol, and identified that the marks from the firing pin left on the ejected cartridge case recovered from the scene matched those left on bullets during test firing.

An image of the pistol has also been released by police today.

Murder28-08Pistol The pistol that investigators believe was used to murder Al-Ali Source: Metropolitan Police

Commander Haydon said: “The brutal murder of Mr Al-Ali devastated his family and 30 years on they continue to feel the loss.

“We have previously reviewed this case and followed a number of lines of enquiry which have not resulted in us identifying these two men.

However, a lot can change in 30 years – allegiances shift and people who were not willing to speak at the time of the murder may now be prepared to come forward with crucial information.

“We remain open-minded about the motive for Mr Al-Ali’s murder and we believe there are people somewhere who have information that could help us bring those responsible for his murder to justice.”

Al-Ali’s son, Osama Al-Ali, said: “My father was a very dedicated family man who wanted to spend as much time with his kids as possible. On top of that he was also very dedicated to his passion of his artwork and the political implications of that, and his people.

“Lots of questions are unanswered and we would like to have that closure, so we are encouraged by the fact that the investigation is being reopened and we have some path towards resolution, so we know what happened…

“It is 30 years ago, it is a long time ago, memories may be cloudy. That said, anything you have may be that missing piece that’s required to get to the next step and for that, if you can come forward, we are grateful.”

More information can be read here.

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Órla Ryan

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