The trial, which would bring the accused terrorist face to face in London’s Old Bailey criminal court with the woman he had so cruelly duped, could not help but be a sensation. Prosecutor Roy Amlot, in traditional wig and white collar, rose, faced the jury and began to render the awful details of what he called “one of the most callous acts of all time”: how defendant Nezar Hindawi, a 32-year-old Jordanian, had conspired with the Syrian government to turn his innocent girlfriend, Ann Marie Murphy, into a human bomb. She was six months pregnant with Hindawi’s child and about to fly to Israel believing they were to be married, said the prosecutor, when a bomb made of plastic explosives, with the equivalent force of 30 hand grenades, was found in her baggage. The bomb had allegedly been planted by Hindawi, who has pleaded not guilty.
When Amlot had finished, Murphy was led into the courtroom. You could see she was a pretty woman, her features fine, her lipstick applied neatly—the legacy, perhaps, of some long-ago nun’s insistence on tidy penmanship. But you could not think of her in terms of beauty now. Her face, haggard and gaunt, was as pale as a death mask. Any moment, it seemed, she would fly apart.
Nezar Hindawi, seeing her, broke into a silent, nervous laugh, then returned to an impassive stare.
“Did you love him?” asked the prosecutor.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Did you believe he loved you?”
Another whispered, “Yes.”
She was, by all accounts, the perfect victim: the “simple, single, Irish girl,” as the prosecution described her, who was born in a small town seven miles from Dublin and had never been to London until a friend found her work as a chambermaid two years ago.
She was a sexual innocent, still a virgin when, at the age of 30, she met Hindawi, a dark and charismatic man of shadowy background and mysterious means.
Facing a prison sentence of 35 years if convicted of attempting to destroy an aircraft and its 375 passengers, Hindawi was expressionless in court. In Brixton prison, however, there were indications of other feelings, including a moment of anguish quite surprising under the circumstances: “They’re going to think I’m worse than Hitler,” he said. He also showed a flash of grisly humor, reportedly telling one female visitor: “I like you. Want to come to Israel and get married?”
His story, as it unraveled, revealed Hindawi not so much revolutionary as a confused dilettante: a man who at one moment told a moving parable of poverty in the Middle East and the next of evenings at London discos and casinos. His background muddied, his stories to police contradictory, his very name suspect, he would remain, in part, an enigma to his own attorneys.
Ann Marie Murphy would offer fewer surprises.
“When the word came over the television, I thought, ‘Yes, that would be our Ann Murphy,’ ” said a former employer back in Ireland. “Even when she was here 10 years ago, she was the kind of girl who always seemed young for her age, who was very vulnerable, who could be led.”
Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, Ann Murphy’s hometown—you have to know it to know Ann Murphy. A deeply Catholic town in a deeply Catholic country where abortion is illegal and the sale of birth-control devices until recently was also forbidden by law. Ann’s father drove a sanitation truck. Her mother bore 10 children in 13 years.
The fifth child, shy and pretty, was Ann Marie.
She lived in government housing, called “council housing,” a small, pebble-grained low-rent structure on a road called Sallynoggin Park. The family does not have a phone. Ann Marie went to Catholic school and at age 14 went directly to work at the Glen Abbey hosiery factory.
It was a grim way to spend your girlhood: gloomy when you arrived at work at 8 in the morning, gray when you left at 5, no window in the room where the girls sat at machines, stitching up 1,500 pairs of panty hose a day. Ann Murphy’s salary, when she worked there from 1968 to 1979, was $60 a week. Women worked at the factory only until they married and got pregnant. In a way, the Glen Abbey hosiery factory was a single girl’s prison; marriage offered the way out.
But here Ann Murphy was a mystery, because while she was attractive and sweet, she never married, never even, to anyone’s recollection, had a serious beau. We know only that in 1979, when the factory was offering workers buyouts, Ann Murphy took hers and quit. Perhaps at 25, when so many Dublin girls are married, she was feeling the cold touch of spinsterhood.
If so, quitting offered no reprieve. After five years without regular employment, 30 years old and still single, Ann went off to London to the Park Lane Hilton, where her friend Theresa Leonard had found them work.
She must have felt she was entering a different world. Maids wore pale-rose uniforms with ruffled white aprons and left scented lotions for the guests in the bathrooms and chocolates on their pillows at night. Within a month of their arrival Theresa had a friend—a Jordanian man named Khalid Hassi (whom she later married). Theresa’s boyfriend shared an apartment with Nezar Hindawi, a handsome pipe-smoking man with curly black hair.
Murphy first met Hindawi in late October 1984, and they began dating a week later. Though he spoke broken English, Ann had no problem understanding Hindawi, and he had a charming ability to listen attentively. Soon he was calling on her at the Hilton staff house. Before the year was over, they had begun an affair.
She insisted she did not enter into it lightly. “He asked me to sleep with him,” Ann told police much later. “And after much thought, I agreed.”
Within a short time after their affair started she became pregnant. Perhaps she was unschooled in sexual matters; perhaps as a Catholic she did not believe in birth control, or perhaps she simply wanted a child. Finally the matter became moot: Ann miscarried.
The relationship was never easy. In the first year they were lovers, Hindawi was out of town six months. Ann thought he was a Jordanian journalist, but “he didn’t tell me very much about himself.” In truth, she rarely asked. In any case, Hindawi was apparently not a very honest young man. On arriving in England about seven years ago, he told friends he was from a prominent Jordanian family (a curious deceit for a self-styled man of the people), but according to a friend of the family Hindawi’s people were farmers from an obscure village near Jordan’s border with Syria. When Hindawi’s father went to London in the ’60s, it was as a low-level employee at the Jordanian embassy. (Hindawi’s elder brother, Mahmoud, moved to London two years later and now works there in the medical section of the Qatar embassy.)
No, Ann Murphy had not chosen well. Among other liabilities, Hindawi was reportedly already married to a Polish girl he had met in London and married after she became pregnant. At the time Hindawi met Murphy, his wife was said to be living with their 5-year-old daughter in Poland.
Was Murphy aware she had given herself to a married man?
“Well, he said that he had been married, separated and divorced,” she testified in court. A common enough story, the two-timing married man. Common enough, too, the way the Hindawi-Murphy affair seemed to be running its course.
In the beginning, even with the trips out of town, they saw each other often. As time passed, however, Hindawi’s unexplained absences became longer and more frequent. He never phoned; he sent a postcard only once. And by January 1986 Murphy had discovered that she was once again pregnant. Not knowing where or how to find Hindawi, she left a message with his brother. Towards the end of January Hindawi called her. “I told him I was pregnant,” she said from the witness box. “He didn’t want to know about it. He wanted me to get rid of the baby.”
She may have been a mouse with him before, but now Ann took a stand. “I told him I wanted to keep the baby. Without him. By myself.”
Hindawi, according to Murphy’s testimony, did not give up. He called again that evening with a sort of bribe. “He wanted me to make arrangements [for an abortion],” she said. “If I did, he said he’d take me on holiday.”
She refused and heard from him perhaps one more time. She was crushed as the days went by with no word from him. “I kept hoping in my heart,” she sadly told police.
At Easter, “despairing,” according to the prosecutor, she went home to visit her family in Ireland, but knowing that her pregnancy would mean instant disgrace, she told no one.
Meanwhile, Hindawi was becoming, declared the prosecutor, a “much-traveled” young man. On his Jordanian passport were documented trips to Jordan, Italy, Poland, East Germany and Bulgaria—considerable traveling for a sporadically employed journalist. But Hindawi also had a Syrian service passport of the sort usually issued to government officials and diplomats, which bore the name Issam Share.
Police claim he told them that in December 1985 he formed his own group, the Jordanian Revolutionary Movement for National Salvation. A listing of the group’s goals—though not admitted in evidence—is instructive: “The shedding of Jewish blood is legitimate until the end of the world,” it said. According to one of Hindawi’s statements to the police, when he traveled to Damascus last January to recruit for this new group he was introduced to Brigadier General Muhammad Al-Kholi and Lieutenant Colonel Haitham Said, who he claimed agreed to work with him against their “common enemy,” Israel.
Later, Hindawi is said to have told police, the Syrians gave him a pistol, instruction on how to activate a time-bomb detonator disguised as an ordinary calculator, $12,000 in cash and three key bits of advice: He should select a girl to carry the bomb because it was “more secure that way;” the bomb should be activated at least one to two hours before a flight; and if he were apprehended, Hindawi should say he had thought he was smuggling drugs. Syrian President Hafez Assad has denied any involvement of his government in the bombing attempt.
On April 5, according to the prosecutor, Hindawi flew to England with his Syrian passport using a false name. In London, police say Hindawi told them, a man passed him the bag that would be used in the bombing attempt. Two days later Hindawi turned up at Ann Murphy’s flat.
Murphy was astonished. “He looked very strange to me,” she said. “He said he wanted to marry me and take me away for a holiday. I was surprised. I thought it was a good thing to do. He said he wanted to get married in Israel, the Holy Land.”
There were many things to do. Hindawi wanted Murphy to book an El Al flight, and he gave her money for the ticket. He also gave her $150, which she used to buy two dresses and get her passport. She also testified that he instructed her not to tell anyone they were going on the trip; they could surprise them later on. And he said that because his job had provided him with a ticket on another airline, they would be taking separate flights. They had a terrible row over that, but Hindawi was adamant, pulling out his most terrible threat. “He said I had to make up my mind about what I wanted,” Murphy told investigators. “To be with him or not.”
Trusting? Desperate? Naive? She did not think it strange that a man who, she claims, had earlier told her to get an abortion would suddenly express a yearning for family life; she did not think it strange that, though they were to be married, he did not spend the nights at her flat; she did not think it strange that an Arab would choose to marry in Israel.
Instead, as usual, she did what her lover desired.
The evening before the flight, she testified, he arrives late at her flat, nervously smoking his pipe and wondering if any of Ann’s friends are in.
Ann Marie, frightened of him, lies.
One minute later her sister Heidi sticks her head in the room to say, “Have a nice time.”
“Guess what? I told Heidi,” says Ann Marie, putting on a brave front.
“I thought I told you not to tell anyone,” Hindawi scolds.
“I told my sister Mary, too,” says Ann, burdened with an unfortunate characteristic for the paramour of an alleged terrorist—a need to confess.
She has, on her own, bought a present for his mother, who he says lives in Israel. She is a thoughtful girl, Ann Murphy, and now Hindawi seems to her to have been thoughtful too. He tells her he has bought her a new valise, a lightweight nylon, on wheels: He did not want her to have to lift anything in her condition. He asks Ann where her clothes are and says he’ll pack for her. She sees him put in something of his own, what appears to be a Commodore calculator, which he says he is sending to Israel for a friend. He tells her she isn’t to go near the bag. Jumpy, he asks her if she’s planning on putting the bag near the fire. The fire isn’t even lit, she points out.
On April 17, a Thursday, he arrives bright and early at 7:30 to take her to Heathrow for El Al Flight 16. He in his trench coat and suit, she in a blue dress and black leather jacket, they’re off.
He reminds her that he will be rejoining her in Tel Aviv but that she should not mention his name: He’s a Jordanian journalist, it could be trouble. As they’re riding to the airport in a taxi, she testified, Hindawi fits a battery into the calculator and shoves it deep into her valise. He is very nervous with the bag in the taxi, Ann Murphy remembers later, but at the time she takes little notice of it because she’s really looking forward to her holiday and her wedding.
She has to go to the bathroom when they get to the airport and he’s grumpy about having to wait with the bag while she does; and then, when she comes out, he’s walking very fast. He seems in a hurry, he kisses her on both cheeks, says goodbye and leaves.
She gets through the terminal’s electronic checks with no problem, but at El Al, where it’s busy because of the Passover holiday, they still take time to check her.
She tells them first she’s going on holiday alone, lying because that’s what Hindawi instructed. Then she tells them about her wedding plans and they take the bag, empty it and give it a good look. An El Al security man puts her unpacked bag through the X ray machines. Nothing suspicious is revealed, yet for an unpacked bag it is strangely heavy. He pokes about the zippered bottom and pulls out a package of yellowish white “sticky stuff.” It is a three-pound slab of plastic explosive manufactured in Czechoslovakia, called Semtex.
And then there’s a constable coming for Murphy saying, “We have found a package at the bottom of your baggage and I want you to come with me and identify it.”
“I don’t know anything about it. It can’t be my bag,” Ann Marie says, but it is.
They find out that the calculator Hindawi allegedly pushed into the bag was really a detonator set to explode five hours into the flight. The reality—the hideous, unbelievable, enormous reality—suddenly hits her, and in the little room, with her six-month baby inside her, she panics and begins to weep.
“It’s terrible, it’s terrible. He wanted to kill me,” she says,
They search Ann Murphy in a way too embarrassing for her to mention. They take her to Paddington Police Station in handcuffs like a common thief.
She gives them descriptions, she answers questions. By next morning Hindawi’s picture is on the front page of every paper in Britain and Ann Marie is feeling the bitterness of the betrayed.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” the police ask her.
“Not at the moment,” she says.
“But Nezar was your boyfriend. When did you stop seeing him?”
“That would be yesterday,” says Ann Marie.
“Why is that?” they ask her.
“Because of what he has done to me. He tried to kill me, I think.”
But you lied, Ann Murphy, they tell her; you lied when they asked you if you were traveling alone. Why did you tell an untruth?
Poor, shamed Ann Murphy, lapsed from the path of righteousness.
“I don’t know why; I loved him,” she says. “All I wanted was for him to be with me and the baby.”
Hindawi is about to make his getaway on an Air Syria flight, it is alleged, when someone tells him the girl and her package have been stopped. Hindawi is sent to the Syrian embassy where, he reportedly tells police, he is warmly greeted by the ambassador, Dr. Loutof Allah Haydar, who embraces him and tells him he has “done good things.” The next morning Hindawi panics, flees to a hotel where he knows the owner. He is so scared he is sweating, cannot eat and smokes two packs of cigarettes in three hours. The hotel owner and Hindawi’s brother call the police.
When he is first arrested, he says he thought he was smuggling drugs. Less than 48 hours later police have broken him, and he is drawing pictures of safe houses and naming names.
If the prosecutor’s contention is true, within the space of three days Nezar Hindawi has betrayed both the woman who loved him and his comrades. In his attempt to annihilate 375 people, he has destroyed himself.
Ann went into hiding and by the time of the trial had had her baby. According to sources in Dublin, her decision to keep the child had not been easy, some of her family urging adoption.
During her first day on the stand Ann emerged as an unassertive girl who had been tragically used by a man whose evil intent was simply beyond her comprehension. The second day, as she faced cross-examination, she seemed stronger.
The defense was going nowhere. And so, in order to establish a motive for her to lie about Hindawi, they pushed the button they knew would bring her pain. Murphy flushed red. She started to shake. A hand suddenly bent like a claw scraped at the air and she turned to look full at Hindawi and shouted her rage.
“You bastard, you bastard,” she said.
Hindawi, in the box, started, but his face quickly went back to a mask. Murphy regained her composure.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said, turning to the red-robed judge, and the next moment she lost control again. “God forgive me, I’ll go crazy…”
And then, to Hindawi, another shout. “I hate you! I hate you!”
The trial might continue one week or two, no matter. She had had her day in court. Soon after her testimony was finished, Ann Marie Murphy returned to Ireland to begin life again, with their daughter.