He WAS an unashamed eccentric, who saw himself as a visionary revolutionary with the ultimate goal of uniting disparate elements of the Arab world and leading Libya to glory.
But Colonel Muammar Gaddafi brutally crushed his own people during his 42-year rule, and his death leaves many unanswered questions about his role in state-sponsored terrorism abroad.
His regime was directly responsible for attacks including the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and an explosion at a Berlin nightclub frequented by US soldiers two years previously.
Libya also had involvement in other atrocities under his rule as its arms and explosives were used by the IRA to bring terror to the UK’s streets.
Last night Northern Irish MP Jeffrey Donaldson said Gaddafi’s death paved the way for the settlement of legal claims by IRA victims.
The DUP MP for Lagan Valley said shipments sent by the dictator to Ireland in the 1980s contained Semtex which was later used in attacks such as the 1993 IRA bombing at Warrington.
Speaking after Gaddafi’s death was confirmed by the Prime Minister of Libya’s National Transitional Council, Mr Donaldson said: “I don’t think anybody will be comforted but there will be widespread relief that this has happened and that we finally see an end to his evil regime.
“This now clears the way for what we hope will be the conclusion of our negotiations with the new government to settle the legal claims which have been made by a small number of IRA victims.
“We will be pressing for the establishment of a fund to assist the wider group of victims who suffered as a result of Gaddafi’s sponsorship of the IRA and his arming of the IRA during the earliest years of the Troubles.”
Two boys, Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball, died in the IRA blast in Warrington. Several other mass killings across the UK were blamed on Libyan arms.
Northern Ireland politicians began talks with Tripoli in 2009 to secure compensation for 160 victims of the Provisional IRA.
The group – which acted after Libyan authorities paid $1.5bn (£918.7m) to a US compensation fund for Lockerbie victims – has not put a figure on the amount of compensation it is seeking.
The UN Security Council voted to completely lift sanctions against Libya in 2003, but at the time the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jr argued against this because of the lack of compensation for IRA victims.
As part of the negotiations to lift sanctions, Libyan officials provided information about millions of pounds and 120 tonnes of weaponry which they had given the IRA. However, the Government has never secured a compensation deal from Libya for victims of IRA attacks.
Gaddafi was a 27-year-old army captain when he seized power of Libya in a peaceful coup to overcome the monarchy in 1969.
He tried to merge the country with Syria, Egypt and Tunisia without success before sending Libyan forces into Chad to occupy the disputed Aouzou Strip, an invasion which led to war. His regime was also reportedly a supporter of the “Black September” Palestinian group that was involved in the kidnap and killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Gaddafi was also accused of a range of human rights abuses at home and he sent hit squads to assassinate dissidents living abroad.
Yesterday, as reports the man who ruled Libya with an iron fist had been killed after being found cowering in a concrete drain pipe, Libyans who gathered outside their country’s embassy in London said it was a day of celebration and hope for a brighter future.
Amani Deghayes, 37, whose father Amer is believed to have been killed by the Gaddafi regime in 1980, was there with her husband and children.
“I’m really happy,” she said. “I never thought this day would happen in my lifetime.
“I have some fears for what happens next, because of Iraq, we were happy when Saddam was killed. I hope there will be real democracy, not another crazy regime, and that everybody is represented.”
Her husband Nouman Ageli, 38, said of Mr Deghayes: “He was the head of the labour union. He was taken away and killed. They said it was suicide, but that wasn’t true.”
He added: “Today’s news is amazing, unbelievable. I hope people can live as freely in Libya as in Britain and the US.
“The news is that he is dead, and that is a fairness from God. He got what he deserved.”