Dubai hit man - Oct 10, 2010
The suspected assassin of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, left, who used the name of Yehuda Lustig, and Lustig, right, as he appears on the Defense Ministry’s memorial website.
Text size

One of the key suspects in the killing of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, Briton Christopher Lockwood, formerly carried the name of Yehuda Lustig - an IDF soldier reported as killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. The American daily noted that eight months after the killing, the investigation appears to be at a dead end, as Lockwood and all other suspects' trails appear to have been lost.

In September, Dubai police chief Dhahi Khalfan Tamim announced his men had arrested one suspect, but did not give any further details.

The beginning of the investigation appeared promising. After poring over some 10,000 hours of footage taken from 1,500 surveillance cameras, the authorities released clips showing suspects in an assassination feigned to look a natural death changing clothes, donning wigs and and entering an elevator with Mabhouh.

But then the plot began to unravel. Two suspects believed to have used false passports escaped to the United States, but the U.S. denied any knowledge of them. The suspect arrested in Germany was released for lack of evidence, and returned to Israel.

The Dubai police have argued that the 33 suspects used 45 passports, 19 of which were British. British authorities were furious over the alleged forgery, but it became apparent that one of the men the Dubai police accused of aiding the assailants, Christopher Lockwood, used an authentic British passport.

The investigation ascribes a significant role in the case to the 62-year-old Lockwood, who was filmed by a security camera in Dubai. The Dubai police said he is suspected of assisting Mabhouh's assailants as well as buying ferry tickets for two of them when they arrived in Dubai in August 2009 to prepare Mabhouh's assassination. Investigators suspect Lockwood was active for years in the Middle East and perhaps specifically in Dubai.

A record was found of the dispatch of a blue Mercedes minibus from Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates to Iran, and from there to Britain. At that point its license expired and its whereabouts became unknown.

In 1994, according to the investigation, someone named Lockwood had been known as Yehuda Lustig, born in Glasgow, Scotland to a Jewish family that had lived in British Mandatory Palestine and was killed in Sinai during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The question of who the real Christopher Lockwood was remained open. On the Internet, conjecture even surfaced that Yehuda Lustig, whose name was inscribed on a memorial, had not been killed and that 40 years later, Lockwood is the same person.

A glance at the side-by-side photographs of Lustig, the young soldier, and Lockwood provided by Interpol reveals an uncanny resemblance, particularly in their eyes, noses, mouths and the outlines of the chins.

An examination of Interior Ministry registration documents pointed to even more mystery regarding the true identity of Lustig-Lockwood.

An Israeli citizen by the name of Yehuda Lustig is registered within the state's information archives. The details of this Lustig's life are suspiciously similar to that of the fallen IDF soldier: He was born in 1948 in Britain, and his father was also named Martin.

The living Lustig is listed by the Interior Ministry as a bachelor, with an address at Allenby 10 in Tel Aviv. That address, however, proved to be false: there is no residential building at Allenby 10, only a convenience store.

Lockwood maintained mystery in his British life as well. He left no tax records or clinic registration, never paid a television license fee and, naturally enough, did not bother to wait in his London flat to answer investigators' question. A cellphone registered in his name was switched on in France, but the investigation there quickly hit a dead end - as with all the other 30 suspects whose pictures were prominently displayed on newspaper pages but did little to help investigators out of a labyrinth of stolen or borrowed identities.

Despite the diplomatic row over the killing because of the use of foreign passports, Western governments showed little eagerness to search for the suspects, and Dubai fears that the more time passes, the less chance to locate the "Mossad agents" the city-state believes to be behind the act. The passage of time allows commanders to cover tracks, while the actual operators, Dubai authorities believe, are already safely in Israel.

Israel, which did not cooperate with the official investigation, also declined to cooperate with the inquiries of the Wall Street Journal. Sources familiar with the investigation told the Journal reporters that they are aware that the investigation could take years. But in February, just weeks after the assassination, Dubai police chief Tamim vowed to pursue the suspects "until the end of time."