I was in St James’s Square in London looking for a television location (the building used as a hotel in the “Hotel Babylon” television series) when I came across this plaque dedicated to the police officer Yvonne Fletcher. She was shot by a machine gun outside the Libyan embassy.
I can remember being about 17 when this was on the news (police officers getting killed on duty was very rare in the 1980s.)
Yvonne was among about thirty offices keeping an eye on a protest outside the Libyan embassy (her fiancé was among them.) The Libyan dissidents were protesting against the rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi loyalists were also there mounting a counter-demonstration.
On the day the police were keeping the two sides apart with crowd control barriers. Both groups shouted at each other and waved placards. For some reason music was played loudly from the People's Bureau to drown out the noise of the protesters.
At about 10:18 am a Sterling machine gun was fired from the first floor. In total eleven people were hit including the Yvonne Fletcher who was unarmed. She was hit in the stomach. Her fiancé was among the officer who surrounded her. She was rushed to Westminster Hospital but died about an hour later aged 25.
Her death propelled the police laying siege to the embassy for the next eleven days, and the UK government cut all diplomatic relations with Libya. Two years the murder helped Margaret Thatcher's decision to allow US President Ronald Reagan to launch US bomings of Libya (from American bases in the UK.)
No one has ever been convicted of the murder but the government of Muammar Gaddafi accepted responsibility for her death and paid compensation to her family.
She was only a few years older than me, poor girl. At the time of writing (Christmas 2013) she’d have been 55 years old and probably finishing a sterling police career on a handsome pension.