Remembering Gérard Hoarau

A Seychellois assassinated in London

Gerard HoarauIt was on this day a Friday 29 November, 1985 a bright and sunny autumn morning in the United Kingdom that a young Seychellois exile was gunned down in a hail of bullets on the front porch of his house.

Gerard Hoareau was born on Praslin, on 7 December 1950, the fourth of seven children of health inspector Chanel Hoarau, and Gabrielle (Gabute) Hoarau, a teacher. He was educated at Seychelles College Grammar School where he finished his ‘O’ Levels with the highest marks at the age of 16. After finishing secondary school, he spent time as the Roman Catholic Church’s seminary at Mont Fleuri before leaving for Rome to study for the priesthood.

In Rome he enrolled at the Roman Catholic Church’s PontificiaUniversitas Urbaniana University to study Philosophy where he graduated with summa cum laude and remained for another year to study theology as a postgraduate. He returned to Seychelles in 1972 after deciding that priesthood was not his true vocation.

Hoarau by then fluent in Italian was recruited into the Seychelles Civil Service as an Executive Officer in the Department of Tourism and Information, and in 1973 was promoted to Assistant Secretary in the Department of Planning, a key department at the time that Seychelles was experiencing a development boom following the opening of the international airport.

In 1975 he was specially chosen to administer the office of Independence Celebrations to prepare for the event which was scheduled for 29 June, 1976. Announcing his appointment the then Prime Minister James Mancham attributed this appointment to Hoarau’s organisational abilities.

Soon after independence, at the age of 25, he was appointed the nation’s first Chief Protocol Officer. He did not, however, stay very long in this post for shortly afterwards he was appointed to the number two administrative position in the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the newly-ndependent

Seychelles headed by President James R. Mancham. It was in that capacity that Hoarau accompanied President Mancham to London in June 1977 to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, where Seychelles was to be initiated as the newest member of the Commonwealth and where the former president was to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee celebrations after receiving a Knighthood of the British Empire earlier.

The coup d’état of 5 June 1977 would change the course of Seychelles’ history and the life of Gérard Hoarau forever.

Hoarau returned to Seychelles following the coup d’état and was appointed Chief Immigration Officer. On 15 November 1979 he was arrested, and detained at the Union Vale Prison without charge or trial along with over 100 other detainees, guarded by soldiers of the newly-formed Seychelles People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). In all Hoarau and twelve other detainees would spend 9 months in detention before being released on 29 July, 1980. He was kept under house arrest until he left Seychelles for South Africa three days later where he joined his parents.

Hoarau was also keen footballer. In the early seventies, soon after he returned from Italy he joined the Rovers Football team, then struggling in the first division, and soon became its player- coach as well as a regular of the newly created Seychelles national Team. He became famous after scoring a goal with a curved ball from a corner kick against the East African champion – the Tanzanian side Young Africans.

He was known as an outspoken opponent of the zoning policy which outlawed all sports teams in Seychelles unless organised or approved by the SPPF party.

In exile Hoarau headed the Mouvement Pour La Resistance (MPR) which claimed responsibility for the organising the mercenary invasion of 25 November1981. He moved to London in 1982 after the South African regime cancelled his resident permit.

It was whilst he was living in London that Hoarau became even more vocal against the regime of former President Albert René. And London is where he met his death. He was only 35 years old.

Hoarau’s assassin, it was established was a professional. He fired a total of 11 bullets from among the flower garden of the opposite house, in the quiet North West London suburb of Edgware.

Three of the bullets hit the victim who died almost instantly, according to the Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorist Squad who took charge of the investigation shortly afterwards.

Gérard Hoarau’s grave on the day of his burial
Gérard Hoarau’s grave on the day of his burial

Ballistics analysis later confirmed the bullets came from a British military submachine known as the Sterling sub-machine gun, a rapid-fire close combat weapon developed initially for Special Forces. It was also established that the weapon was a standard issue of the Seychelles Police Mobile Unit (PMU) – a paramilitary unit of the Seychelles Police Force, which at Independence was under the command of serving British police officers, who would all be deported on the afternoon of the coup. The PMU armoury at Mont Fleuri was the first target of the perpetrators of the coup in the early hours of Sunday 5 June 1977.

After its capture all the weapons and ammunition were taken away. Sterling machine guns were observed being used by the body guards of former President Albert René during the Independence Cup Final football match on 29 June 1978.

The assassination of Hoarau made news in all the UK newspapers and in the New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde, Le Figaro and in South Africa where his parents were still living. However, in Seychelles it did not make the pages of the state-controlled Seychelles Nation nor was it reported on the state-controlled radio station, although many tuned in to the BBC world service to learn about the assassination.

Following the investigation by Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad, three men, all British nationals, including an employee of British Telecom, were arrested. They were later convicted of obstruction of justice and corruption for their parts in bugging the house telephone where Hoarau was killed and in trying to remove the equipment after the murder.

On sentencing the British Telecom engineer, London’s Central Criminal Court judge Justice Potts said “until the killing occurred you had no knowledge that the operation you had arranged in Edgware would have that result. But by the evening of the day Mr. Hoarau was killed you knew, I have no doubt whatsoever, that the operation you had set up had played a part or was likely to have played a part in the death of the man.”


Gérard Hoarau speaking at one of many venues during his exile

At the beginning of the trial the prosecution underlined that the three were not connected with the shooting, according to the Times of London, but said the bugging was carried out on behalf of the Seychelles government. The Times also reported that Ian Withers, a former British policeman turned private detective, admitted working for the Seychelles government and for initiating the bugging.

In an interview with the Indian Ocean Newsletter, an international publication based in Paris, published on 6 September 1986 President René is reported as saying “I myself have listened to the last cassette, including the telephone call from the owner of Gerard Hoarau’s home, when he phoned the police to say that gunshots had just been fired”.

Gerard Hoarau is buried in the United Kingdom.

His murder remains an open case file according to the British police, but in Seychelles, his death is an open wound that can never heal until the truth is told, said one commentator.

Source: 11-29-12



Gerard's memorial service poster