Farouk Abdulhak, son of a Yemeni billionaire, fled England in 2008, hours after he left the abused body of 23-year-old Martine Vik Magnussen in the basement of the building where he lived. He took refuge in his home country to escape British justice and until now had never spoken about the case. 15 years after the fateful night, he confessed his involvement in the case, admitting that it was “a sexual accident gone wrong”.
“I did something when I was younger, it was a mistake…” revealed Farouk Abdulhak. “I can’t go to the UK because of something that happened there.” These sentences were sent by the main suspect in the death of Martine Vik Magnussen to BBC journalist Nawal Al-Maghafi during five months of negotiations for a formal interview.
Farouk is on the London Police’s most wanted list and is the subject of an international arrest warrant, but remains a free man in Yemen. He never explained what happened on the fateful night of March 14 and it is only now, 15 years later, that he confessed his participation in the death of the 23-year-old Norwegian student over the phone. He also revealed that he has no intention of returning to the UK because he doesn’t want to be judged by a “biased court system”. About the crime? “It was just an accident. Nothing nefarious. Just a sexual accident gone wrong.” Martine was raped and then strangled.
The crime and the flight to Yemen
Farouk and Martine studied at the Regent’s Business School in London, and that’s where they met. On the 14th of March they went to celebrate the end of exams at the Maddox disco in Mayfair, in the center of the city.
At the time, the Norwegian student’s friends told the authorities that Farouk invited them to his apartment after the party, on Great Portland Street. But as they were very tired, they declined the invitation, with the exception of Martine. The establishment’s security cameras showed the young woman leaving arm in arm with Farouk at 2:59 pm. A friend of the victim also revealed that she used to stay at Farouk’s apartment due to its central location.
When the sun rose, Martine was already dead and her body would only be discovered 48 hours later. By then, Farouk had already left the UK for Cairo, Egypt. There, he took his father’s private jet and flew to Yemen – a place where he had never lived before, but from which it would be impossible to extradite him. In 2008, Farouk’s lawyer said he was innocent and had not killed Martine.
Since then, the young woman’s family has been trying to take the main suspect in the murder to the dock, but so far without success, largely due to the protective curtain surrounding Farouk. Raised in the United States and Egypt, he is the son of Shaher Abdulhak, one of the richest and most powerful men in Yemen. Shaher died in 2020 and owned an empire of sugar, soft drinks, oil and weapons. He is a close friend of Ali Abdullah Saleh, then President of Yemen.
It was “just a sexual accident gone wrong”
Since 2011, BBC journalist Nawal Al-Maghafi has sought to understand what happened to Martine. After a hiatus without any advances, in 2022 she got the number of Farouk Abdulhak, with whom she shares her hometown, and contacted him.
After long months of exchanging messages and experiences, the man, now 35, confessed that he had made a mistake when he was younger. The journalist tells in the BBC documentary “Murder in Mayfair” that the suspect is isolated in Yemen and that this may justify the decision to speak and “open up” for the first time with a journalist. The whole family lives outside Yemen – including his ex-wife and daughter, because of the country’s civil war. And he doesn’t visit them for fear of being arrested. “None of Farouk’s friends I spoke to during my investigation had heard from him since he fled – although they all said they were shocked when they read about Martine’s death at the time.”
Farouk admitted not remembering that night well, “it’s all very confusing”. “I have flashbacks every now and then and if I smell a certain feminine perfume, I feel uncomfortable,” he confessed. That night, Farouk had consumed cocaine and blames the substance for the lack of memory. In one of the many messages and calls exchanged with the journalist, he assured that it was “just an accident, nothing harmful. Just a sexual accident that went wrong.”
When asked if he would return to the UK to face justice, he was unwilling to return. “I don’t think justice will be done (…) I think the justice system there [no Reino Unido] is heavily biased. They’ll want to make an example of me, being the son of an Arab… of someone rich… it’s too late,” she reinforced.
The young Norwegian’s family also participated in the documentary and asked the suspect to return. “Go back to the UK. Tell them what happened to Martine. Not only does Martine deserve this, but so do we,” Odd Petter told the BBC.
“I’m optimistic that we can have a long-term solution … 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’s up to our ethical standards.”
The main suspect in the crime has been identified for more than 15 years, but the police are prevented from enforcing justice because there is no extradition agreement between the United Kingdom and Yemen.