In Depth

What happened to Martine Vik Magnussen?

Norwegian student was found dead after night out with ‘billionaire playboy’ in 2008

A woman in her 60s has been arrested over the suspected murder of a Norwegian student found dead in London more than a decade ago. 

Martine Vik Magnussen disappeared after a night out at Maddox nightclub in Mayfair in March 2008. The 23-year-old had been celebrating exam results with fellow students from the city’s Regent’s Business School including Farouk Abdulhak, the son of a Yemeni billionaire.

CCTV footage showed her leaving the club at around 2am with Abdulhak, “who she had previously dated”, said the Daily Mail. Two days later, her semi-naked body was found “among rubble” in the basement of the building where Abdulhak lived in Great Portland Street in Westminster. She had been raped and strangled.

The BBC reported that “within hours of her death”, Abdulhak had travelled to Egypt and then on to Yemen, allegedly on his father’s private jet. 

A post-mortem examination gave Magnussen’s cause of death as compression to the neck, and an inquest in 2010 recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

The victim

Magnussen was born in Oslo on 6 February 1985 and grew up on Nesøya, a small island east of the Norwegian capital.

After graduating from a private school, she enrolled to study medicine at the Warsaw Medical University in Poland. But she later switched to study international business at London’s Regent’s Business School.

Magnussen’s friends described her as “gentle, inclusive and generous”, while her father said she was a “light, jolly, enjoyable person” who was “pure sunshine”.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph in 2009 to mark the first anniversary of his daughter’s death, Odd Petter Magnussen said that by “socialising with her international classmates in London, Martine came close to the textbook definition of tolerance so much appreciated in today’s secular world”.

Wanted by police

Abdulhak, described by the BBC as a “billionaire playboy”, has been a wanted man in the UK for more than a decade and is the subject of an international arrest warrant. 

According to the Martine Foundation For Justice, an initiative created by Magnussen’s friends, Abdulhak is now on the list of Scotland Yard’s 12 most wanted criminals, “based on his movements in the hours after the murder, as well as physical evidence found at the crime scene”.

He is the son of the late Shaher Abdulhak, who had a net worth of around £6.8bn and was nicknamed “King of Sugar” after investing in Coca-Cola bottling plants. The billionaire tycoon died of cancer in 2020.

His son – who was allegedly known as “DP” by his friends because of his love of Dom Perignon champagne – studied international business relations alongside Magnussen at Regent’s Business School. At the time of her death, he held Syrian, Egyptian and US passports.

Reports suggest he did not have a Yemen passport when he left the UK but was later been given one by Yemeni authorities. 

In 2008, Abdulhak issued a statement through his lawyer saying that he was “not happy about being described as a criminal, as a murderer, when there is no such accusation against him”. 

In February 2014, the London Evening Standard reported that Abdulhak had married “at a secret location” in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. 

Responding to the news of Abdulhak’s marriage, Magnussen’s father said he was “deeply disappointed”.

“I can only regret that the father and son now felt the situation comfortable enough to arrange this wedding,” he said. “My sympathy goes with the bride.”

The paper added that Abdulhak was leading “a normal life” and spending most of his time at his suite at the Taj Sheba, a five-star hotel in Sana’a, owned by his father.

No extradition treaty 

Despite extensive international efforts, the Met Police have not been able to question Abdulhak, because there is no extradition treaty between Britain and Yemen.

An ongoing campaign by the Martine Foundation For Justice has been supported by high-profile figures including former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, but all diplomatic channels to force Abdulhak to return to the UK for questioning have failed.

The London Evening Standard reported in 2014 that “high-level” talks had taken place between then-foreign secretary William Hague and his Yemeni counterpart, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, and between Scotland Yard and Abdulhak’s lawyers. But until now, there have been relatively few developments in the case.

‘Significant breakthrough’

In what Met Police described as a “significant breakthrough”, a woman was arrested yesterday morning at an address in Westminster on suspicion of assisting an offender.

The unnamed woman was taken to a central London police station and later released on bail today.

“Farouk Abdulhak should be aware that this matter has not, and will not, go away,” said Detective Chief Inspector Jim Eastwood. “My team and I will continue to seek justice and use all opportunities available to pursue him and bring him back to the UK.

“I’m appealing to Farouk Abdulhak directly – come back to the UK. Come back to face justice.”

Magnussen’s father said he was “extremely grateful” to the UK police for “keeping up the pressure” and making the arrest, The Times reported. 

He added: “I’ve also been working behind the scenes, talking to the regime in Yemen for the past six months, and am really optimistic that one day we’ll be in a position to extradite Farouk Abdulhak. We have never been closer.”

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