Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Lockerbie: The 28 year lie.

[This is the headline over an item posted today on Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph’s Lockerbie Truth blog. It reads as follows:]

On this day in 1988, 21st of December, a terrorist bomb destroyed flight Pan Am 103 during its journey from Heathrow Airport in the UK to New York.

Sections of the dismembered plane and 259 passengers [and crew] fell across the Scottish town of Lockerbie and surrounding farms and fields.

In 1991 two Libyan security officers were indicted for the crime. Their trial began in May 2000.

The key prosecution claims were:

1.  Several weeks before the attack, one of the accused, Baset al-Megrahi, purchased a selection of clothes from a Maltese clothing shop.

2. Pieces of the clothing were found at the crash site.

3.  Embedded within one of the pieces was a 4mm square fragment - PT35(b) - of an electronic timer board.

4.  The FBI had proved that the fragment came from a batch of 20 such boards delivered in 1985 to Libya by Swiss electronics supplier MEBO.

5.  Two witnesses would identify the suspects and prove the case beyond doubt. The first, a CIA informant Majid Giaka; the second, a Maltese shopkeeper Toni Gauci.

The trial judges decided that Giaka  was untrustworthy, leaving Gauci as the sole identification witness.

On 31st January 2001 al-Megrahi was found guilty. The second accused, Khalifa Fhimah, was freed with "No case to answer". [RB: The court ruled that there was a case to answer, but at the end of the trial returned a verdict of Not Guilty.]

In the years since the verdict it has become clear that the world has been cynically misled by the FBI, the CIA, and British and Scottish governments.
1. In 1989 Britain's prime minister Margaret Thatcher was advised by the Americans not to enquire into the attack.

2.  Even though she and her entourage had walked across the devastated town one day after the attack, she could not - in her 1993 memoir "The Downing Street Years" - recall the existence of Lockerbie. When asked by Father of the House MP Tam Dalyell why, she said: "I know nothing of Lockerbie, and do not write about something I do not know about."

3.  Seven years after the verdict the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) discovered significant new evidence that had been concealed from the trial judges and defence team.

4.  The SCCRC discovered a secret letter written by the King of Jordan to British prime minister John Major indicating that the Libyans were innocent of the crime.

The King's letter claimed that the attack had been Iranian-funded in revenge for the 1988 destruction by the USS Vincennes of an Iranian Airbus carrying 290 pilgrims to Mecca.

5. Unknown to most journalists and public, the King had agreed to place in protective custody Marwan Khreesat, expert bomb-maker for a Palestinian group, the PFLP-GC. Khreesat had made bombs for the group in Germany, to be used to bring down American passenger planes heading for the US.

6.  US and German intelligence knew that Iran had funded the attack. They had assembled a full dossier of intelligence proving that Khreesat and the Palestinian group were guilty.

7.  On the sudden discovery of PT35(b), however, US intelligence reversed direction and accused Libya of the crime.

8. The British government tried on two occasions to prevent the king's letter becoming public. The first, a Public Interest Immunity Certificate signed by Foreign Secretary David Miliband; the second, an unsuccessful attempt by Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt to close down a Scottish newspaper to prevent publication of the story.

9.  The SCCRC re-examined evidence given in the trial and discovered that al-Megrahi was not on the island of Malta on the day that the clothing was purchased.

10.  The SCCRC also discovered that police diaries of chief police investigator Harry Bell contained a record of multi-million dollar offers of payment to the Maltese shopkeeper Gauci "provided" - in the words of a letter to Harry Bell from the US Department of Justice - "he gives evidence."

11.  The SCCRC also re-examined all the evidence given by Gauci. They concluded that his so-called "identification" was founded on numerous viewings of photographs of al-Megrahi in the media and magazines, all linking him to the bombing. Gauci's evidence was therefore not credible, and the trial judges had been mistaken.

Was the Lockerbie fragment PT35(b) a fake? During the trial in 2000 there were suspicions about how it had been discovered and reported on by government scientists. The trial judges had discounted these suspicions.

Then in 2009 the al-Megrahi defence team made a startling discovery. In the years since the trial and first appeal they had managed to obtain a huge set of documents from police and Scottish Crown archives. Among the documents was the forensic notebook of scientific witness Allen Feraday.

Feraday had compared PT35(b) with control samples from MST13 timer circuit boards similar to those supplied to Libya in 1985 by MEBO.

He told the trial judges: "the fragment materials and tracking pattern are similar in all respects" to that of the MST13 timer.

But nine years prior to the trial, on 1st August 1991, when examining both the fragment and a MEBO MST13 timer circuit board, he had made two hand-written entries in his notebook which contradicted this.

The first recorded that tracks on fragment PT35(b) were protected by a layer of "Pure tin". The second said that tracks on the circuit of a control sample MST13 board were covered by an alloy of "70% tin and 30% lead".

Feraday and the police were fully aware of the difference. Two police scientific advisers suggested that the heat of the explosion might have evaporated the lead content of the alloy, leaving pure tin.

Another police adviser working for Ferranti International noted that fragment PT35(b) had indications of being "home made".

Neither the scientist's reports nor the Ferranti letter were followed up. All remained hidden in police files. The judges and defence team were unaware of their contents.

In the light of this new information the defence team consulted two prominent independent experts in the field. The experts repeatedly heat tested the evaporation theory with temperatures exceeding that of the bomb explosion. But the alloy of 70/30 tin/lead remained just that.

Thuring, the company which manufactured the circuit boards used in MST13 timers , confirmed in an affidavit that they had always used a 70/30 tin/lead combination.  Fragment PT35(b) did not, therefore, come from one of their circuit boards. How it was made and by whom remains a mystery.

Feraday either perjured himself or was grossly negligent. It was upon his statement and the identification evidence by Gauci that the case against Baset al-Megrahi would turn.

All this information has been put repeatedly to the Scottish and British governments and police. They have totally ignored it. Instead, for almost two years they have claimed to be "pursuing other suspects" in the chaos that is today Libya.

The Lockerbie campaign will continue. We intend to ensure - with the help of prominent friends from around the world - that the Lockerbie verdict will prove to be a disastrous miscarriage of justice.


  1. Here we go again. The Heathrow evidence isn't even worth a mention, apparently.

  2. I am staggered that this article contains no mention of the analysis by Morag Kerr that the site of ingestion of the bomb was clearly Heathrow, so rendering Megrahi not guilty. Is there some contradictory evidence of which we are unaware? If so, we should hear it.

  3. Dear Rolfe and David,
    The purpose of our piece is to focus on certain key evidence produced in the trial that was challenged by the SCCRC and revealed in Feraday's notebook. There is just not enough space to cover all the complexity that is Lockerbie.

    You are fully correct about the ingestion of the bomb at Heathrow. That has been Jim's conviction all along. In 1989 he took a fake bomb through Heathrow to prove that security systems just did not work, and was carpeted by police and government for doing so.

    And during the trial he wrote a comment on a piece of A4 paper and displayed it for the court to see: "THE BOMB EXPLODED 38 MINUTES AFTER TAKEOFF!". In other words, it had been primed at Heathrow and contained an ice-cube timer with a detonation delay of between 35 and 40 minutes. The spectators and security guards were not amused.

    When our book is published, all this will become clear. Contributions from your good selves add huge momentum to the campaign, for which all are deeply grateful.

    1. Hmmm. I remember noting an invitation to pre-order your book when I first started investigating the Lockerbie evidence for myself, just over seven years ago. At that time I entertained some hope that it would be published in the near future and so illuminate the convolutions of the case.

      In that seven years I have moved from knowing essentially nothing about the evidence to developing a deep understanding of the case and what was and wasn't proved. I have analysed the primary evidence for myself and found the proof that what many people had suspected was true - the bomb was indeed in the suitcase that Bedford saw an hour before the flight from Frankfurt landed. This evidence has been available since 2000 for anyone with sufficient interest to analyse, but nobody did until I came along.

      I've pulled together all these strands and published my own book about the issues, which came out three years ago today, just over four years after I began my Lockerbie studies from a standing start. It really isn't hard to publish a book these days. Anyone with a few thousand pounds to spare can do it in a matter of six months or so.

      So forgive me if I stop holding my breath waiting for your book. I'm sure it will be very interesting when it comes, if I'm still alive that is.

    2. But really, the point I was making and the point David reiterated, is that the proof of the Heathrow ingestion is logically a game-changer. There are no ifs or buts about it, it's an inescapable inference from the physical evidence of the blast-damaged suitcase fragment. (Yes, it's something many people strongly suspected before, but there's a world of difference between strong suspicions and proof.)

      This therefore places the scene of the crime in London, in the late afternoon, not on Malta in the morning. In the late afternoon Megrahi was verifiably in Tripoli. He has a better alibi for this crime than I have (I was in Sussex at the time, only 45 miles from Heathrow).

      You can bang on ad nauseam about secret letters to the King of Jordan and the money Tony Gauci was undoubtedly promised and the anomalies surrounding the infamous PT/35b, and very interesting all these points are to be sure. But people have been banging on about exactly that for years and the press are tired of it all and have wandered away.

      When brand new evidence was published placing the bomb with certainty in the case Bedford saw at quarter to five, the people who have the ear of the press said nothing about it. Instead they continued to bang on about the same points they'd been banging on about for the previous 25 years and with about as much effect. And it's still happening.

      Complexities? What's complex about telling the press, clearly and concisely, that the bomb has now been proved to have been in the baggage container in Heathrow an hour before the flight from Frankfurt landed and therefore the entire Lockerbie investigation was up a gum tree from about day nine, when it was decided the bomb had flown in on the Frankfurt flight? That this gives Megrahi an unbreakable alibi for the crime? That the incompetence (or worse) of the original forensic investigation caused the police to focus on a location where the crime simply didn't happen, so that in the end they convicted an innocent man because he had been at that location at the time?

      It would at least give the press some new material to chew on. It might make a few people sit up and take notice. But no, the anniversary comes round again and all we get are the same tired old talking points reheated. Nobody is going to pay much attention to me, I'm just some dude who likes solving puzzles. And when the people the press might pay attention to don't acknowledge my findings at all, this damages whatever credibility I have.

      Forgive me if I think your priorities could do with a bit of rearranging.

    3. Dear Rolfe, We're deeply sorry that folks have had to wait for the book. It was our original intention to publish long ago, subject to finding a big publisher who would chance his arm with the issues we raise. We met many years ago with a London publisher known to have connections in government. He examined the manuscript, but - we suspect - when he go to our chapters on Margaret Thatcher and the CIA his blood ran cold and he said no.

      Then five years ago out of the blue came an approach by a potential film producer. He liked the manuscript. He and an award-winning writer were interested in the many files and records in various cabinets and boxes spread between Jim's house and mine. My three-year old grand-daughter helped with disorganising things, but they managed to overcome the problem.

      Then along came a six-time Oscar nominated director who liked the story and decided, at some time in the future, to make a feature film. Over the following five years the story has developed and will go even further with some surprises to come. The film is still at development stage, but is taking shape and will soon be at the pre-production phase. Our hope and intention is that the book will launch at the same time as the film. See IMDB Jean-Charles Levy, and IMDB Jim Sheridan.

      To reassure you about our approach to the trial: We look at all the key evidence. There isn't much of it, since most of the trial was taken up with misleading and irrelevant stuff. Out of some 350 pages, only 55 are taken up with the trial.

      The book is based on meticulous research spanning twenty years, interviews with Jim and Jane, expert lawyers, other bereaved relatives, politicians, journalists and family friends. We hope that we have brought to life a tragic phase of British legal history. The story is at times technically detailed, at others a revelation of sinister events in America, Libya, Britain and Europe. Throughout, it is a deeply human story of a bereaved country doctor and a falsely accused and innocent man.

      Best wishes for a happy Christmas and successful New Year.

    4. Well, no doubt it will be interesting when it all happens. Meanwhile, the rest of us will just have to keep trying to get the message out about the actual scene of the crime as best we can.

  4. The Identification parade should have been abandoned when Gauci appeared at the line-up with a photo of Megrahi in his pocket.
    The police took the photo from him but having viewed the parade he asked to see the photo again before identifying Megrahi.
    One must ask why his defence made no objection to this at the time.
    The prosecution knew he was a currant short of a fruit bun but portrayed him as a credible witness.
    They also knew Scottish Police had pushed America for a reward for Gauci.
    Justice in Scotland has now become the laughing stock of the world.
    If as the new Lord Advocate is serious about respecting victims of crime:

    "What we can do, as a prosecution service, is to be an agent of change – to work hard with our colleagues across the justice system and in the legal professions to change our criminal justice system for the better – in ways which will serve more effectively not only the victims of crime, but all those who come into contact with the criminal justice system, whether as victims, witnesses or accused persons. We should aspire to a system which routinely respects the “inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”, whilst being rigorous in our insistence on the obligation to secure a fair trial to every person who faces a criminal charge."

    Then he should hold a full inquiry into Lockerbie

    1. That's not true. The photo of Megrahi was taken from him by a Maltese policeman before he left Malta for Camp Zeist. Four days before the identification parade.

      The truth is bad enough without needing to embroider it.

  5. Thoughts and prayers for all the victims and family members on this awful day.