By James Kirkup
Files stored in a basement room in one of London’s most expensive districts could shed new light on one of the greatest mysteries of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya: the alleged death of his baby daughter.
The documents were found in the Libyan Embassy in Knightsbridge this week after rebels fighting to end Gaddafi’s reign formally took possession of the “People’s Bureau”. They disclose a London dentist’s work for the Gaddafi regime, reopening the mystery of the daughter the Libyan leader claims was killed in a US bombing raid.
The Daily Telegraph has seen the papers. They show that in 2008 Libyan officials in London arranged for the dentist, Stephen Hopson, to fly to Tripoli to treat a patient called “Hana Ghadafi”.
Hana was the name of the baby daughter that Gaddafi claimed was killed in the US air strike on Tripoli in 1986. The attack is said to have led the dictator to order terrorist reprisals, including the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
Hana Gaddafi’s death has never been verified, and many Libyans believe she actually survived the 1986 attack and still lives in Tripoli.
In 2008, the Libyan ambassador, Omar Jelban, personally arranged a business class flight to Tripoli for Mr Hopson.
The dentist declined yesterday to give details of his patient or discuss his professional dealings with the regime. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on his part, but the documents will revive speculation about the dictator’s daughter.
They show the Libyan embassy arranging for Mr Hopson to visit Tripoli in April 2008. In a fax to Mr Jelban, the dentist said he would be treating a patient he identified as “Miss Hana Ghadafi”.
It reads: “This is to confirm that I will be visiting Tripoli to treat Miss Hana Ghadafi this coming weekend. I will need a return plane ticket leaving the morning of Saturday 19th April and returning to London on the afternoon/evening of Sunday 20th April.”
There is no agreed way of rendering Arabic names into Roman script, meaning that Western spellings of Libyan names vary.
Also on April 14 2008, the Libyan ambassador instructed a London travel company to arrange flights for Mr Hopson, at the Libyan government’s expense.
Mr Jelban wrote a signed letter to Arab Tours asking them to issue the dentist with business-class British Airways tickets for the dates he requested. “Please send your invoice for settlement, with a copy of this letter, to the Libyan People’s Bureau in London,” he wrote.
Asked about Miss Gaddafi and the Libyan trip, Mr Hopson said he was “neither admitting or denying” anything. He said he could not give any details about his patient.
“There’s an element of patient confidentiality and if you were a patient, you wouldn’t want me revealing anything about any care that you had received and that’s why I can make no comment about any of this” he said.
Asked if his patient was Col Gaddafi’s daughter, Mr Hopson said: “It’s possible perhaps there could be a second Hana Gaddafi. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility.”
This week, Die Welt, a German newspaper, reported that Gaddafi’s daughter is alive and well and living in Tripoli.
Hana Gaddafi is thought to have been born in November 1985 and adopted by the Libyan leader shortly afterwards. Since her alleged death, a number of reports have suggested that she survived and remains close to Col Gaddafi.
In 1999, the official Chinese state news agency reported the presence of a Hana Gaddafi at a lunch her father held for Nelson Mandela.
This year, the Swiss froze assets linked to the Gaddafi family, including assets held under that name. Miss Gaddafi was reported to have lived in London as a teenager before studying medicine in Tripoli and working for the health ministry.
The embassy’s files contain numerous other documents relating to trips arranged to Libya by officials, but few involved Mr Jelban directly.
A Libyan government official on Friday night claimed that Hana is a second adopted daughter taken on by Col Gaddafi after the first one was killed in the 1986 bombing.
“This not an important issue when we have children dead and Nato bombing civilians in our country,” a Tripoli official said. “The Daily Telegraph should concentrate on these important issues.”