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Appeal following the murder of cartoonist in 1987

News   •   Aug 29, 2017 00:01 BST

[Image: Naji Al-Ali, who was murdered in Knightsbridge 30 years ago]

Detectives launching a reinvestigation of the murder of a Palestinian cartoonist in London are appealing for the public's help to identify and find those responsible on the 30th anniversary of his death.

At approximately 17.10hrs on Wednesday, 22 July 1987 Mr 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.

Mr 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.

Mr 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.

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 Mr Al-Ali's murder, he parked his car on Ixworth Place, walked down into 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 Mr Al-Ali, holding a black automatic handgun. After the attack, the suspect was seen to run out of Ives Street back across Draycott Avenue and into Ixworth Place.

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.

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 but with heavy shoulders. He was said to have dark bushy hair with a lot of grey in it, a fattish face and a bigger than average nose. He was clean-shaven and of smart appearance, wearing a grey suit.

The Mercedes was seen driving off along Lucan Place and left into Ixworth Place, towards the junction with Sloane Avenue. It is believed that the registration number of the car contained the letters P and H in the first part and may have ended 11L.

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.

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."

Mr 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.”

“If anybody has any information they should come forth and reach out through the correct channels. Don’t make an assumption as to whether or not you think information is important. Let the professionals be the best judge of how important that information is.

"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.”

Anyone with information is urged to call the investigation team on 020 3276 9014, or 0044 203 276 9014 if calling from outside the UK.

Alternatively, to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

In each case please quote "Operation Amazon". Alternatively, email