The night of her murder began with a celebration.
On an early spring evening in 2008, Martine Vik Magnussen, a 23-year-old Norwegian beauty, curled her long, blond hair and accented her blue-green eyes with eye shadow, before heading to the smart London club Maddox with friends to celebrate upcoming holidays and high scores on her latest Regents College exams.
At the club in London’s Mayfair district was her friend Farouk Abdulhaq, the jet-setting son of a Yemeni billionaire, who, friends recalled later, had been feeling pressure from his father to clean up his party-boy image and, on this night, didn’t appear his usual lighthearted self.
Despite Abdulhaq’s peculiar mood, Magnussen left with him when the club closed, police believe. When she didn’t return to her apartment the next day, her friends became concerned. In a Norwegian documentary, they recounted how, reaching out to Abdulhaq over Facebook to see if he knew of her whereabouts, they noticed that he had changed his status around 4 that morning. “Farouk,” it said, “is home alone.” Soon after, Abdulhaq’s profile disappeared, they told the TV crew.
Police say they found Magnussen’s body in the basement of Abdulhaq’s apartment building two days later, partly covered with garbage. One of her earrings had been ripped from her ear, and her face was badly bruised. There was a blood trail from her body up the stairwell to Abdulhaq’s second-floor apartment, which showed signs of a struggle. A neighbor reported hearing strange noises in the middle of the night, and, by 2009, British authorities placed Abdulhaq on Scotland Yard’s Most Wanted list in connection with the rape and murder of Magnussen. They also issued an international warrant for his arrest. But, by then, Abdulhaq had left the country. Investigators found that he had left for Cairo just hours after the murder, flying onward from Egypt to Yemen on his father’s private jet.
Farouk’s father, Shaher Abdulhaq, is one of Yemen’s most powerful businessmen. At the time of the murder, his business empire included a range of luxury hotels and ownership of Yemen’s primary cellular network. He was also the main Mercedes importer and counted a large ownership stake in Coca-Cola bottling and distribution in the Middle East.
Since Yemen holds no extradition agreement with Great Britain, Magnussen’s father, Odd Petter Magnussen, tried diplomatic channels but with little luck. Meetings with the Norwegian foreign ministry and high-level British politicians brought promises but no results. Meanwhile, the Yemeni government offered to try Abdulhaq in country. The nation’s brutal and corrupt legal system, based on Sharia, punishes rape and murder with death; the convict is usually shot in the back of the head while laying face down on the ground, and Magnussen’s father felt that neither that nor the unsolicited offer he got from strangers who suggested they’d fly to Yemen and kill Abdulhaq themselves would offer real justice for his daughter. What he wanted was for Abdulhaq to stand trial in Britain. “It is the only way to honor my daughter’s memory,” he told NEWSWEEK. “It can’t be possible to take a life in one place, get on a bus, and not have to suffer the consequences.”