Suspect in death of student Martine Vik Magnussen in London speaks out

Martine Vik Magnussen  (PA)
Martine Vik Magnussen (PA)

The son of a Yemeni billionaire who fled the UK hours after the alleged murder of university student Martine Vik Magnussen in London has spoken for the first time.

Ms Magnussen, 23, was found dead in March 2008 after a night out with friends celebrating end-of-term exams. Her body was found buried under rubble in the basement of a block of flats in which Farouk Abdulhak lived.

Police believed she had been raped and strangled.

Mr Abdulhak, who has never spoken to a journalist about the case, has now revealed to BBC News Arabic and BBC Current Affairs in a joint investigation that the death was a “sex accident gone wrong”.

He and Ms Magnussen were students at Regent’s Business School in central London.

He fled England for Yemen hours after her death, and has never returned for police questioning.

But now, in a series of text messages to BBC News Arabic Special Correspondent Nawal Al-Maghafi, Mr Abdulhak writes: “I deeply regret the unfortunate accident that happened.

“I regret coming here [Yemen]. Should have stayed and paid the piper.

“It was just an accident. Nothing nefarious…Like I told you just a sex accident gone wrong.”

Mr Abdulhak is the only suspect in the case.

Farouk Abdulhak (PA)
Farouk Abdulhak (PA)

On the night she died Ms Magnussen left Maddox nightclub in Mayfair with Mr Abdulhak at around 3am. A post mortem showed Ms Magnussen had been drinking and had taken small amounts of cocaine.

She died from “compression to the neck” and her body showed 43 cuts and grazes, typical of those sustained in an assault or struggle.

Mr Abdulhak suggested to the BBC he was unable to recollect exact details of the night because of his cocaine use: “No-one knows because I could barely piece together what happened.”

In a phone call with special correspondent Ms Al-Maghafi, he said he was not ready to return to the UK.

“It’s too cold there. I don’t like the weather...I don’t think justice will be served.

“I find that the criminal justice system there is heavily biased. I find that they will want to make an example of me being a son of an Arab, being…a son of someone rich.”

The UK does not have an extradition treaty with Yemen.

On hearing Mr Abdulhak’s comments, Ms Magnussen’s father Odd Petter Magnussen, told the Standard: “It is in many ways a breakthrough moment because for the very first time the ‘suspected killer’ is admitting being Martine’s killer.

“We can now argue with the Yemeni authorities who have been sympathetic to my case in recent weeks and want to see a solution in 2023.

“Previously, there have been legal problems and they won’t go and arrest him. But now we have his confession, it’s a game changer. It’s more problematic for them to deny a solution to this case. It’s fantastic news.”

Mr Magnussen said losing a child is “one of the biggest challenges you can face as a human being”, adding: “When I saw my own government wasn’t doing very much, I had to seek justice for Martine all these years, increasing the pressure on this man.

“This was no accident, as he now says. I have seen the police post-mortem report. This is a brutal murder and rape – the worst crime a man can commit on a woman. It’s fills me with anger.

“Getting Abdulhak back to London is extremely important for the legal rights of everybody.”

Odd Petter Magnussen (PA Wire)
Odd Petter Magnussen (PA Wire)

Mr Abdulhak is the son of Shaher Abdulhak, who ran a business empire that spanned the Middle East.

At the time of Ms Magnussen’s death, he was the richest man in Yemen and close friends of the then President Abdullah Saleh. Shaher Abdulhak died in 2020.

For the first time, a close friend of Shaher Abdulhak, Mustafa Norman, revealed that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh met with Mr Abdulhak when he came to Yemen after leaving the UK.

Mr Noman, a former Yemeni diplomat, told the BBC: “Ali Abdullah Saleh was sympathetic to Shaher, because they’d had a relationship for so long. He made sure he didn’t have to hand the boy over. He also saw Farouk after the incident.

“Ali Abdullah Saleh wanted to reassure him that nothing would happen to him.”

Mr Magnussen, who has campaigned for fifteen years for justice for his daughter, said Mr Abdulhak’s disclosures make him hopeful about his daughter’s case.

He told the BBC: “I’m optimistic that we might have a solution in the longer term more so than before because we can talk to him.

“I’m more than ever convinced that there will be a solution to this case. I just hope it will be on my terms, my ethical terms, rather than anything else.”

This World: Murder in Mayfair airs on Tuesday at 9pm on BBC Two.