The unsolved murder of a Palestinian political cartoonist on the streets of South Kensington 30 years ago is to be reinvestigated, the Metropolitan Police has said.
Naji Salim Hussain Al-Ali, a famous satirist popular throughout the Arab world, was shot in the neck as he walked to his office in west London on 22 July 1987. The gunman and his accomplice were never caught.
Al-Ali was as critical of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as he was of the Israeli and American governments, and while the list of suspects included Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad, most commentators assumed he had been killed by the PLO, in an effort to silence its critics.
A Palestinian student living in Hull, who said he was working for both the Mossad and the PLO, was arrested and later convicted for possessing weapons and explosives, but the killers have never been brought to justice.
This week, the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command released new details of the case, officers appealing for information about the gunman and a man seen driving from the scene – both described in detail by witnesses at the time.
Al-Ali had parked his car on Ixworth Place, before walking down Draycott Avenue and into Ives Street. Witnesses saw him being followed by the gunman, who shot him in the neck from behind. Al-Ali died five weeks later in hospital.
The gunman, wearing a denim jacket and dark trousers, was described as being of Middle-Eastern appearance, aged about 25, with collar-length thick black hair, wavy at the back.
Another witness saw a second man crossing Fulham Road into Lucan Place and getting into the driver’s seat of a silver-grey, left-hand drive Mercedes shortly after, with his left hand inside the right-side of his jacket, as if hiding something.
This man was also said to be of Middle-Eastern appearance, in his 50s, about 5ft 9in and of medium build but with heavy shoulders, a “fattish” face and “bigger than average” nose.
Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “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.”
Al-Ali’s son Khalid said: “Obviously many people were unhappy with his cartoons throughout his career. That could range from, obviously Israel as the enemy, and Arab leaders and Arab governments, including Palestinian leadership… There were always threats, there were always problems with his cartoons but this did not stop him from actually drawing.”