Martine Vik Magnussen was last seen alive leaving a nightclub in London’s West End with the son of one of the wealthiest businessmen in Yemen.
It was around 2am on 14 March 2008. Martine, a 23-year-old student from Oslo, Norway, had been celebrating with friends after finishing her exams at Regent’s Business School, a private university within a royal park in northwest London. And there was good reason to do so – Martine had come top of her class.
The man she left with was no stranger. Farouk Abdulhak, whose father Shaher Abdulhak is said to be a billionaire with political connections to a former president in Yemen, was studying the same course as her – international business – at the same university.
However, when they were unable to reach her the next day, her friends reported her missing to the police.
On the morning of 16 March officers began searching a property that Abdulhak rented at 222 Great Portland Street.
At 10.30am they found Martines body partially buried under rubble in the basement. She had been beaten and strangled. Her jeans, her watch, her handbang, snakeskin shoes and Christian Dior earrings were all missing. A postmortem gave the cause of death as compression of the neck.
Abdulhak was an obvious person of interest to detectives investigating the murder. However Abdulhak had left the UK within hours of the killing on a plane to Cairo in Egypt. From there, he travelled to Yemen. He has remained there ever since.
Why? Mainly because the UK does not have an extradition treaty with Yemen, which might have allowed him to be sent here for trial for murder. And, since 2011 at least, because of the fragile state of the country. The president at the time of the murder, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was said to be a close friend of Shaher Abdulhak. But in 2012 Shaker Abdulhak was removed from office and succeeded by his vice-president. Three years later the Yemeni civil war began between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government. Saleh was apparently killed after switching sides in 2017. The war continues to this day.
Farouk Abdulhak, who also uses his mother’s surname Besher, was first publicly named as a suspect in June 2008, three months after the murder. It has been reported he lived in the capital Sana’a, married a Yemeni woman in 2014 and had at least two children.
The legal proceedings in the UK got no further than the inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court on 24 November 2010, when the coroner recorded a verdict of accidental killing.
Farouk Abdulhak is denying our family any closure by not taking his responsibility seriously, choosing not to return to the UK where the crime took place. He seems to be untouched by the simple values of respect, dignity and tolerance that are expected in any civilised society. These past six years he has continued to build his life in the Yemen showing no remorse or common decency.Petter Magnussen, Martine’s father
Every year since, detectives have repeated appeals for Farouk Abdulhak to return to the UK to face justice. And while there were reports in 2018 that he had attempted to make contact with lawyers through the Houthi leaders, nothing appears to have come of it.
On the twelfth anniversary in 2020, police again called on him to return.
Over the past 12 years, Martine’s family and my investigation team have kept this case in the public’s thoughts, raising it again and again with each passing anniversary. It must be clear to Farouk Abdulhak, the person sought in connection with Martine’s murder, that this matter is not going to go away and that his status as a wanted man will remain. He has chosen to flee, chosen to hide, hoping this matter would all go away – the actions of a coward I would appeal for him to return to the UK to assist this investigation. It must be clear to him now, 12 years later, that the studies he embarked upon in the UK, the plans he was making for his future, can never be realised whilst this matter is unresolved. I appeal for anyone who has contact with Abdulhak to make him see sense and to advise him to return to the UK. He can never have a normal life whilst remaining wanted and in hiding.Detective Chief Inspector Andy Partridge
Martine would have been 33 in February 2020. Her father has described her in a statement as “trustworthy, warm and considerate”. He added: “Not a day goes by where she isn’t foremost in our thoughts. We miss her every hour of every day.”
In March 2022 a woman in her 60s was arrested of suspicion of assisting an offender. DCI Jim Eastwood described the arrest as a “positive step” and added: “Farouk Abdulhak should be aware that this matter has not, and will not, go away. My team and I will continue to seek justice and use all opportunities available to pursue him and bring him back to the UK. His status as a wanted man will remain and we will not cease in our efforts to get justice for Martine’s family. I’m appealing to Farouk Abdulhak directly. Come back to the UK. Come back to face justice.”
Call police on 020 8358 0300 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.