Sunday, 30 August 2015

Megrahi to Senussi "I am an innocent man"

[What follows is excerpted from an article published in The Wall Street Journal on this date in 2011:]

Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi maintained his innocence in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 throughout his trial and appeals—and did so in a private letter to Libya's intelligence chief, discovered on Monday in intelligence headquarters in Tripoli.

"I am an innocent man," Mr Megrahi wrote to Abdullah al-Senussi, a powerful official who was regarded as one of Col Moammar Gadhafi's closest aides, in a letter found by The Wall Street Journal. The letter, in blue ink on a piece of ordinary binder paper, was apparently written while Mr Megrahi was serving a life sentence in the UK.
In August 2009, after serving 8½ years, Mr Megrahi was released to Libya on compassionate grounds on the basis that he had terminal prostate cancer and only a few months to live. (...)
The letter to Mr Senussi was found in a steel, four-drawer filing cabinet in the intelligence chief's office in Tripoli. The cabinet had been forced open, apparently by rebels who shot holes in the lock. The office lay in shambles, but many of Mr Senussi's personal papers appeared untouched. There was no way to immediately confirm the authenticity of the letter. (...)
Mr Megrahi was sentenced by a Scottish court to life imprisonment in 2001. In the letter to Mr Senussi, Mr Megrahi mentions that he had been jailed for seven years, suggesting it was written sometime in early 2008 or late 2007, in the run up to the second appeal of his conviction.
It is unclear why he would have had reason to profess his innocence to Mr Senussi, who was in a position to already know details about the bombing. (...)
Mr Megrahi insisted he was innocent throughout his original trial and subsequent appeals. Even after his conviction, mystery and unanswered questions about who else may have been involved have surrounded the case.
In the letter, addressed to "My dear brother Abdullah," Mr Megrahi blamed his conviction on "fraudulent information that was relayed to investigators by Libyan collaborators."
He blamed "the immoral British and American investigators" who he writes "knew there was foul play and irregularities in the investigation of the 1980s."
He described in detail his latest legal maneuvering, focusing on the testimony by a Maltese clothes merchant that was critical to his conviction. The Maltese clothes merchant in question testified that Mr Megrahi had purchased clothes from him that were later found in the suitcase that contained the bomb that brought down Flight 103.
"You my brother know very well that they were making false claims against me and that I didn't buy any clothes at all from any store owner in Malta," Mr Megrahi wrote to Mr Senussi.
Mr Megrahi also had a message for "our big brother," a likely reference to Col Gadhafi, "that our legal affairs are excellent and we now stand on very solid ground."
"Send my regards to our big brother and his family and by the will of God we will meet soon and we will be victorious," he wrote. "I only hope that the financial support will continue in the coming period," he added.
Mr Megrahi eventually dropped his appeal as a condition of his application for extradition to Libya.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Reconsidering the “Lockerbie Bomber”

[The American WhoWhatWhy website has just republished a long article by Russ Baker headlined Reconsidering the “Lockerbie Bomber”  that originally appeared in 2012. It reads as follows:]

I first learned about the death of the “Libyan bomber” Ali Megrahi from a television screen. The sound was off, but I could see the closed captioning on CNN. Newspeople and guests were talking about the terrible thing Megrahi had done, and the closure or lack thereof from his passing. One man was noting that the perpetrator was a high official of Libyan intelligence, and that the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 had been ordered at the very top—by Muammar Qaddafi. The deaths of 270 people, 189 of them Americans, it was implied, justified last year’s removal of Qaddafi, and the dictator’s own abrupt and horrible death.
But there’s something wrong with that scenario.
How do I know? I read the New York Times. Especially the best part…..the fine print.
The Times Opens A Door…and Shuts It
Check out this article, from Robert McFadden, the Times’ septuagenarian obit writer and rewrite man extraordinaire. Under the appropriately neutral headline, “Megrahi, Convicted in 1988 Lockerbie Bombing, Dies at 60,” McFadden nailed the true import of Megrahi’s death in the second paragraph:
The death of Mr. Megrahi, who insisted that he was not guilty, foreclosed a fuller accounting of his role, and perhaps that of the Libyan government under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, in the midair explosion of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.
Most of the front half of the article lays out the conventional line on the plane that blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. But anyone getting to the latter part will notice that it is dominated by evidence casting doubt on the official story.
Thus, if you read those second-half paragraphs carefully, you see what the reporter (and perhaps his bosses) may actually wonder: whether Libya was framed by some enemy, with hints on who that might be.
The trial lasted 85 days. None of the witnesses connected the suspects directly to the bomb….The court called the case circumstantial, the evidence incomplete and some witnesses unreliable…Much of the evidence was later challenged….The court’s inference that the bomb had been transferred from the Frankfurt feeder flight was also cast into doubt when a Heathrow security guard revealed that Pan Am’s baggage area had been broken into 17 hours before the bombing, a circumstance never explored….Hans Köchler, a United Nations observer, called the trial “a spectacular miscarriage of justice”…. Many legal experts and investigative journalists challenged the evidence, calling Mr. Megrahi a scapegoat for a Libyan government long identified with terrorism. While denying involvement, Libya paid $2.7 billion to the victims’ families in 2003 in a bid to end years of diplomatic isolation.
But the Times was not finished with the story. It would have more to say, though not pursuing the line developed by the desk-bound McFadden, a 1996 Pulitzer Prize winner. Someone apparently decided that “more reporting” was needed, this time from another Pulitzer Prize winner, the longtime war correspondent John Burns.
His article, headlined “Libyan’s Death Brings Up Debate Over His Release,” focuses in part on the fact that Megrahi was given early release from prison because he suffered from cancer. But it also expanded on McFadden’s theme of doubts about Libya’s involvement. It actually goes a bit further in that direction, raising the theory that Libya was not involved.
Then it suggests that the true sponsor is…Iran.
The Times’s John Burns focuses on one relative and his theory.
In the aftermath of Mr. Megrahi’s death, his defense was taken up anew by the most persistent — and most controversial — of Mr. Megrahi’s defenders in Britain, Dr. Jim Swire, a 75-year-old retired family doctor whose 23-year-old daughter, Flora, died in the bombing. Years before Libya handed Mr. Megrahi and another man, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, over for trial, Dr. Swire voiced strong doubts about the Scottish case, and he fainted in court when Mr. Megrahi was convicted and Mr. Fhimah acquitted.
In the years since, he has been a vociferous advocate of a new independent inquiry into the bombing, saying that there was no reliable evidence that Mr. Megrahi was involved, and much that pointed to Iran, not Libya, as the culprit.
If Swire is so “controversial,” why give his claims such attention?
By citing Swire, Burns, wittingly or not, pulls out one of the oldest tricks in the book. He seems to be himself advancing legitimate inquiry by proposing an alternative theory that is not alternative at all. Indeed, what he does is redirect criticism from a former enemy of the United States establishment to a current one. The “controversial” disclaimer is also an old trick. It insulates the Times from any accusations that it has fallen into its predictable role of advancing the agenda of the American establishment. (Remember The Times’ former star reporter Judith Miller and all those Weapons of Mass Destruction that served as the Bush administration’s justification for the Iraq invasion?)
Even better, Burns cites “broadcast interviews” in which Swire had just repeated his assertions. Thus, it’s not The Times that is responsible for this. It is just “reporting on reporting.” Of course, those who trust the Times for their understanding of the world will not likely focus on any of these implied disclaimers at all. What they will remember is this: it was either Libya….or it was Iran.
Been Here Before, Ladies and Gents
Anyone really interested in figuring out who bombed that plane, and why, cannot ignore history. It is a history of our own government’s playing hardball, sometimes even doing (or at least contemplating) crazy and evil-seeming things in the service of a perceived greater cause. One example of this, and not the only one, is Operation Northwoods, a proposal from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rejected by an incredulous John F Kennedy, which would have involved committing acts of terrorism on US soil that could be blamed on Fidel Castro’s government. It was seen as regrettably leading to the loss of innocent life. But the proponents argued that the ends—setting the stage for an American invasion and the removal of Castro—justified the means.
This kind of thing is unpleasant, to put it mildly—almost too awful to contemplate. And discussing it is to invite tremendous hostility from those who don’t know better (and from those who do as well). But raising these uncomfortable truths is called….journalism. History shows us that US and allied intelligence operations will go to almost any lengths to gain the upper hand psychologically, to defame enemies of the state in order to persuade the public to go along with more overt moves, ideally by surrogates. (See Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Congo and Dominican Republic 1961, Vietnam 1963, Indonesia and Congo 1965, Cambodia 1970, Chile 1973…may we stop here?).
Meanwhile, governments like Libya under Qaddafi, or Iran under the mullahs, despicable though they are in many respects, have little real incentive to commit such acts against much more powerful countries. They gain nothing and stand to lose everything. Indeed, we can see strong indications that Qaddafi was railroaded over many years (but the effort was put on a bullet train last year) using Lockerbie as well as allegations of mass rape and mass murder, among other issues, as laid out here.  If getting rid of the irksome and fiercely independent Qaddafi was a priority, Iran is much, much more important. The effort to remove the current leadership of Iran and bring it back into the Western political, military and corporate fold is one of the highest priorities of the US, its allies, and their spinmasters. (Read this and this to learn more)
Burns’s Times piece is yet another in a long string of unsupported claims of Iranian nefariousness, which are practically a staple of the Western news diet. But reporters needn’t be complicit. One can accept that the Iranian mullahs and their cohorts are brutal and contemptible without being willing to traffic in falsehoods about them.
Beyond Burns
If the repositioning from McFadden’s good work that Burns’ piece represented wasn’t enough, we get this, from the Times-owned International Herald Tribune and republished by The Times, headlined “Lockerbie Bomber Dead, Conspiracy Theories Survive.”  The message is, “If you don’t have time to read this, and you probably don’t, just remember: when anyone tries to tell you there’s more to this story, just dismiss them and their notions with the back of your hand.”
Every time we see a journalist use the term “conspiracy theory,” let’s add one of two thought bubbles: Either “I’m lazy” or “I’m worse.” It usually means the reporter is not actually looking into any of the assertions, just taking five minutes to type out references to them, and then subtly undermine the whole train of thought. Because the term “conspiracy theory” immediately telegraphs to readers that they can safely ignore the claims contained therein.
A proper headline, based on the cumulative facts, would be, “Lockerbie Bomber Dead, Big Questions on Bombing Sponsors Unresolved.” (Message to Times and IHT: Happy to help you with headline accuracy—and even headline buzz!)
The Plot Thickens—and Another Person Dies
If you’re still not convinced that dark forces of a particular sort have a deep interest in how this all plays out, consider this development: the mysterious death Sunday of Sukri Ghanem, Libya’s former Oil Minister. Ghanem’s early defection turbocharged the effort to unseat Qaddafi. What’s so interesting, besides his ending up floating in the Danube, is that he had long insisted that Libya had no connection to Lockerbie, nor to the 1984 shooting of a British policeman outside the Libyan embassy in London, four years before Pan Am 103, that was cited as the basis for severing UK-Libyan ties.
Call Ghanem the man who knew too much. And please compare to a fellow defector, the Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil, who, unlike Ghanem, was perfectly happy to stoke the fires against Qaddafi—by announcing, after he had switched sides, that Qaddafi personally ordered the bombing, and promising to produce evidence.
He…..never has. It is now more than a year since the media ran its Jeleil headlines that were so damaging to Qaddafi, and no one, including the Times , has bothered to go back and see if he kept his word. (Background on that can be found here.)
The Pan Am 103 story could provide crucial linkage to the invasion of Libya and removal of Qaddafi—and lead to a real understanding of why some “accidents” happen, of why some “unavoidable interventions” happen. And no, it’s not always, or even usually, for the stated reasons. Just as the isolation of Libya over Lockerbie was, it seems, not really motivated by justice, the Western support of an externally-planned and -stimulated “indigenous” uprising was not really motivated by a concern for the human rights or the lives of the Libyan people.
This is not to pick on any particular reporter. On some level, all but the very stupidest journalists know how things really work. But they aren’t permitted to tell the rest of us. Thinking of digging deeper when that’s strongly (albeit implicitly) discouraged? There’s a simple choice: your conscience or your job.
To read Megrahi’s claims of innocence, go here.  (If you are in the UK or just want to read the more extensive British reader comments, go here.)

Neutral venue Lockerbie trial draws closer

[What follows is excerpted from an article by Kim Sengupta published in The Independent on this date in 1998:]

The Prime Minister yesterday called on Libya to hand over the two suspects involved in the Lockerbie bombing. "The United Nations has made it quite clear now that it supports this way forward," Tony Blair said. It is obviously important that Libya complies.

The noises appear to be welcoming, but they have to be followed by the action of actually delivering up the suspects.

Mr Blair said Britain took the decision to go for the third country option after a lot of debate and hesitation because it was believed it was the "only way" of securing a chance of bringing these people to justice.

The resolution by the Security Council backing the American and British proposal to hold the trial in The Netherlands under Scottish law was backed unanimously.

Mr Blair said he felt particularly felt for the relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, adding that, "it was important for them to have the possibility, the opportunity, of having those people brought to justice because that is a big part of their continuing anguish."

The United Nations voted yesterday to lift sanctions against Libya once it hands over two of its intelligence agents accused of the Lockerbie bombing.

The response from the Libyan government, however, appeared to be confusing and contradictory. Its UN ambassador, Abuzed Omar Dorda, stated in New York that his country accepted the plan, adding: "We reaffirm this position today, this is a serious position, an irreversible position."

However, later in the day the Tripoli regime criticised the Security Council resolution, stressing it was not committed by an agreement reached between Britain, the United States and The Netherlands and asked instead for direct negotiations with Libya.

The Libyan foreign ministry maintained that crucial talks needed to be held over the guarantee of safety of the two suspects, as well as aspects of the legal procedure, before any progress could be made.

The hard line from Tripoli echoed some of the reservations expressed by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in an interview with the television network CNN in which he claimed that Britain and the US would find ways to make the holding of the trial impossible.

He said: "I think Libya has no objections. But I am not sure America and Britain have the good intention to solve this problem. I am not assured they are serious.

"More details have to be clear. You cannot say give us these two people quickly; they are not tins of fruit. They are human beings.

"Their destiny must be assured. What is the destiny of the suspects if they are convicted or acquitted, and if they take any appeal action."

The Libyan leader went on to " warn" London and Washington not to engage in any "tricks" to sabotage the prospect of a hearing.

The Foreign Office in London stated that overall the prospects of an agreement still looked positive, and said it welcomed the Libyan decision to hand over the two intelligence officers to the judicial process.

Friday, 28 August 2015

We all want to know the truth

[What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2009:]

The truth never dies: Megrahi demands Lockerbie inquiry
[This is the headline over the report on The Herald's website by Ian Ferguson and Lucy Adams on their interview in Tripoli with Abdelbaset Megrahi. The following are excerpts. The full story can be read only in The Herald's print edition.]

The man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has backed demands for a far-reaching public inquiry into the atrocity, saying the international community owes that to the families of the 270 victims.

In his first full-length interview since being released last week, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi told The Herald: "We all want to know the truth. The truth never dies."

Speaking from a hospital bed at his home in Tripoli, Megrahi talked extensively about his 10-year battle with the Scottish legal system and insisted he did not commit the worst terrorist act on mainland Britain. (...)

Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, revealed he dropped his appeal against the conviction because he would not live to see its outcome and was desperate to return to his family. "It is all about my family," he said. "People have said there was pressure from the Libyan authorities or Scottish authorities, but it wasn't anything like this."

Instead, he put his faith in an appeal for compassion and said he was impressed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill during their meeting at Greenock Prison. "I thought he was a very decent man and he gave me a chance to say what I wanted and to express myself. He gave me the chance to make a presentation to him and he was very polite."

Megrahi is still determined to clear his name, partly through an autobiography, and also backs a public inquiry. Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the tragedy, has already called for such an investigation, but the UK Government seems firmly opposed.

"I support the issue of a public inquiry if it can be agreed. In my view, it is unfair to the victim's families that this has not been heard. It would help them to know the truth. As I said, the truth never dies.

"If the UK guaranteed it, I would be very supportive. I would want to help Dr Swire and the others with the documents I hold."

However, he added during an hour-long interview: "My feeling is that the UK Government will avoid a public inquiry because it would be a headache for them and the Americans and it would show how much the Americans have been involved and it would also cost them a lot of money which they may not want to spend because of the recession."

Megrahi was vitriolic about the Scottish police and legal system. "I was supposed to receive a fair trial and I was supposed to be subject to fair procedure. From day one of the trial there were delays and delays from the Crown Office. "The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission found at least six grounds of appeal and said there were six grounds on which it may have been a miscarriage of justice.

"From that point we asked the Crown for more documents and more papers. We received only some of them and they were still redacted. Most of the pages were black and I think this is shameful. They were supposed to give us everything."

Referring to the revelation seven years ago that some of the police notebooks recording the aftermath of the tragedy had been destroyed, Megrahi said: "It is very strange that the police forces that dealt with the case - and there were more than 400 officers - it is very strange that many of their notebooks went missing.

When one officer was asked about a notebook, he said it was destroyed. I find this very strange. Surely to destroy the notebooks of so many people is a decision that someone must have been made? This is not fair and is a big question mark about the case."

He said his priority now is to spend time with his five children, the youngest of whom is still of primary school age. "It was always my dream to come back to my family. It was in my prayers every day and when I received the diagnosis, even more so."

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Lockerbie investigators "abused our friendship and infringed Maltese law"

[What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2009:]

Pan Am 103: The unanswered questions
[This is the headline over a long interview with Joe Mifsud published in the midweek edition of maltatoday. Mr Mifsud has followed, and written about, the Lockerbie case for many years. The following are excerpts from the interview.]

“Malta is still portrayed as the place where the terrorists met and executed their plan to kill 270 innocent people. Our national airline Air Malta was unjustly implicated. I have suffered silently as a Maltese citizen, listened patiently to the allegations but fought with pride to clear Malta’s name.”

So saying, Joe Mifsud reiterates a point he has been making for almost 20 years. But with Megrahi now released on compassionate grounds, and a growing chorus of voices demanding an independent inquiry into the 1988 disaster, Mifsud still has mixed feelings about the entire affair.

“Vindicated? No,” he says when asked for his reaction to the release. “I thought about the relatives and friends of the victims who perished in the Pan Am tragedy. I thought about the time that was wasted and the truth that has not emerged. There are some who might be happy with financial compensation or a guilty verdict. The latter will not take away the pain and anguish caused by the fact that they still do not know the cruel hand behind the planning and the execution of their dear ones...”

Mifsud argues that foreign investigators had abused our friendship and infringed Maltese law. They illegally tapped telephones and even offered money for evidence to strengthen their case.

“I still remember two particular occasions. During proceedings the court was told that the whereabouts of a husband and wife, mentioned as members of a Palestinian terror team responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, were unknown, when I knew that there were living openly with their three young children in Gaza. Everyone was surprised when I interviewed the couple and the story was published on the front page of Scotland on Sunday. When Scottish police first came to Malta in 1989, it was to investigate a Lockerbie connection because clothes originating on the island had been in the bomb suitcase. On their second visit, Palestinian terrorists were suspected. At that time the Palestinian man was living in Malta with his family. His phone was illegally tapped by Scottish police operating in partnership with the American and German investigators. The Maltese authorities protested when the clandestine operation was discovered and the whole investigation was immediately suspended. The investigators were asked to leave Malta and were only allowed to return several weeks later when the Maltese government had been guaranteed that there would be no repeat of illegal investigations.”

The second occasion was when Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, the second suspect, was acquitted on 31 January, 2002.

“I visited Fhimah one week after the end of the trial when festivities to celebrate his acquittal were still in full swing in his home area Suq il-Gimgha. I still remember Fhimah’s words: ‘I had tears in my eyes when I bid him farewell, I was very sad and left with a broken heart knowing that my friend Basset was still there. I kept contact with him. As you believed that I was innocent, believe that Basset is innocent too.’”

But what, apart from instinct, originally led Mifsud to doubt the prosecution’s version of events?

“I personally knew Fhimah as he used to live in Mosta, my home town. When his name was mentioned in the investigations I was surprised, and my initial reaction was that I was witnessing a frame up in the making. I was very suspicious regarding Abdul Majid Jiacha, a Libyan defector married to a Maltese. At that time he was being considered as the star witness. I investigated further and obtained classified documents from the USA, claiming that he was in the Witness Protection Programme and he had met US agents more than 10 times before the Lockerbie bombing! So if he knew what was happening he should have supplied all necessary warnings so that the terror act would have been prevented.” (...)

But if the Libya connection is in doubt, what other explanation could there be for a terrorist act claiming 270 lives?

“Secret service sources suggest that the Pan Am disaster was an act of revenge for another air disaster. On 3 July 1988 a United States warship, the USS Vincennes, shot down an Iran Air civilian airliner killing 290 people. As a result of this action and of increased tension in the Middle East it was generally expected that the United States would be the subject of reprisals. There was widespread concern about the threat to United States civilian aircraft at the time.”

As for the insistence on prosecuting Libyan suspects, Mifsud suspects a case of “blame shifting”:

“Pointing fingers to the bad guys of the moment – Libya was known for their support to movements linked to terror, including the IRA, Abu Nidal and others.”

In view of the doubts now cast on the trial proceedings, Mifsud believes the time has come for an independent enquiry.

“During the past years I have spoken to Jim Swire who lost his daughter in this tragedy. He always urged the British government to appoint an inquiry to investigate the case. This should have been done immediately after the tragedy. I agree with his suggestion; better late than never. I still remember the representatives of British victims telling me that questions about the tragedy went unanswered in the trial. They said the trial had not answered the huge number of questions asked over the last years. In my opinion the trial only served to add to this list of questions. A United Nations initiative in the form of a tribunal can act as an independent inquiry...”

What further details could such an inquiry reveal that have so far not come to light?

“The bomb which caused the Pan Am 103 tragedy on Lockerbie did not start its journey from Malta, as the Crown suggested during the trial and during the early stages of the investigations, but from another destination. Where? This is the first question that needs to be answered.

“The bomb device could have been introduced into the working area of Frankfurt by being flown on board any airline, interline tagged or on-line tagged for PA 103. The luggage could have been sent from the Damascus airport in Syria.

“Regarding Heathrow airport, where it is certain that the bomb was loaded onto the Pan Am flight, the three-judge panel itself said that there was also a possibility that an extraneous suitcase could have been introduced by being put onto the conveyor belt outside the interline shed, or introduced into the shed itself or into the container when it was at the built-up area...”

The second unanswered question concerns who mandated the act of terror and who executed the plan. To answer this, Mifsud argues we have to go back to the shortcomings of the initial investigations – among them, the process that led Tony Gauci to identify Megrahi as the person who bought the incriminating clothes from his shop.

“Two points that should have been noted in Tony Gauci’s testimony are: If the person who bought the items from his shop was living at the Holiday Inn Hotel as the prosecution claimed, and this is less than five minutes away from the shop, was it wise for the person who bought the items to walk to the taxi stand which is the same distance from the hotel and in the opposite direction? If Megrahi was the head of the security service and planning a terrorist attack, would it be wise for him to go and buy the clothes himself? This point is very puzzling and confusing. Scottish judges came to a conclusion even without coming to Malta and conducting an on-site inquiry in order to become acquainted with places mentioned in the trial.”

In the final analysis, Mifsud suggests it may have been in the interest of other countries to implicate Malta, albeit indirectly.

“At that time the German authorities were highly criticised for the fact that just some time before the tragedy they had in custody a number of persons involved in terrorist acts, who were very close to the Palestinian faction of Ahmed Jibril, the PFLP-GC, whose base is in Syria. (...)

“Germany was also criticised by security services as how a person suspected of involvement in the Lockerbie case, Hafez Kasem Dalkamoni, was allowed to depart from Germany to Syria without being interrogated about the Lockerbie case.”

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Donald Goddard and Lester Coleman

[What follows is excerpted from an obituary written by Tam Dalyell that was published in The Independent on this date in 2003:]

Donald Goddard, writer and antiques dealer: born London 7 February 1928; married 1953 Pamela Goss (three sons, marriage dissolved), 1970 Natalie Donay (died 1991), 1996 Carol Dulling; died Wivelsfield, East Sussex 3 August 2003.

A Londoner by birth and a New Yorker by adoption, who spent the second part of his life in rural Sussex, Donald Goddard's formative experience was as an editor at The New York Times between 1962 and 1970, when he developed an intense interest in the then unfashionable subject of the New York underworld. (...)

Goddard's last book, which brought me into close contact with him over the last 10 years of his life, was Trail of the Octopus: from Beirut to Lockerbie - Inside the Defence Intelligence Agency (1993). This was the story of Lester Knox Coleman, the first American citizen since the Vietnam war to seek political asylum in another country. Hounded by the FBI, the drug enforcement administration and Middle East heroin traffickers, Coleman seemed to Goddard to be a victim of one of the biggest international cover-ups in modern times.

In the spring of 1988, Coleman was on a mission for the world's most secretive and well-funded espionage organisations - the Defence Intelligence Agency. Coleman had been ordered to spy on the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration) in Cyprus which, along with the CIA, was running a series of "controlled deliveries" of Lebanese heroin through the airports of Frankfurt and London en route to America. Coleman discovered that the security of this "sting" operation had been breached and warned the American Embassy that a disaster was waiting to happen. He was ignored. Seven months later, Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie. Among the dead was a DEA courier.

Since then, Washington has claimed that the blame for the bombing rests with Libyan terrorists and negligent Pan Am officials. With Pan Am and their insurers fighting this version all the way, it was never likely that Coleman's experience in Cyprus would go unnoticed. In 1991, American state security apparatus - what Goddard called the "Octopus" - made its move. His book is a gripping investigation into the causes of the Lockerbie disaster and the subsequent manipulation of the evidence.

Although Trail of the Octopus was not considered relevant in the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, where Abdel-Basset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2001, despite the many unanswered questions surrounding the bombing, it would be highly relevant to the public inquiry on Lockerbie that the relatives of those killed want, and that the British and American governments don't want. Goddard was a supreme seeker after truth. If history ever reveals the truth about Lockerbie, I'll wager that Goddard will be one of the unsung heroes in reaching it.