[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Times. It reads in part:]
A senior FBI investigator involved in the Lockerbie inquiry has entered the controversy over a vital piece of scientific evidence which secured the conviction of the Libyan bomber.
Richard Marquise, now retired, told The Times that a tiny bomb fragment at the heart of the prosecution case had been taken out of Scotland in the course of the investigation, and brought to Washington, where it was examined in the bureau’s laboratory. He said he believed it had also been taken to Germany His view appears to contradict a claim by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, then Lord Advocate, who told a television documentary that to his knowledge, the fragment had never been outside Scotland. Lord Fraser, who led the prosecution, told a Dutch television crew that had evidence been sent abroad, the case against Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi would have been vulnerable.
Yesterday, however, Mr Marquise said no one denied that the fragment, part of the bomb’s timing device, had been examined by Scottish officials in the FBI laboratory in Washington, or that it had been scrutinised by experts in Germany. He added that these facts had been known by the defence team at the trial of al-Megrahi, who was convicted of planting the bomb aboard Pan Am flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988, killing 270 people, and dismissed the controversy as a “non-issue”.
“I do know it was never in the possession of the FBI but these Scottish/British officials examined PT-35 [the fragment] in the FBI lab in Washington,” he told The Times. “No one has ever tried to hide that fact.”
That information was not, apparently, known to Lord Fraser. Asked by the television team whether the fragment had been taken to the US, Lord Fraser responded: “Not that I am aware of.” He added: “What would have gone through my mind is ... could this evidence get lost, or damaged or tampered with? No, no; I would want to keep everything so that there can be no accusations at a trial that in some way [it] has been fiddled with.”
The controversy erupted after the Crown Office responded to a freedom of information request from Christine Grahame, the SNP MSP for South of Scotland, confirming that the fragment had been sent for analysis to the Siemens company in April 1990.
Ms Grahame said Lord Fraser “did not know and would not have allowed this evidence to be taken out of Scottish jurisdiction and control”.
[I have now lost count of the number of different accounts of the movements of this item of evidence that have been given by Richard Marquise and Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Henderson. Tracing and itemising them might be a nice research project for an enterprising law or journalism student.
Mr Marquise has e-mailed me the following response:
'I will try and make it simple for you---
'Marquise: told Levy in 2008 that the fragment came to US in custody and control of Scottish police/British forensic officials. Never out of their custody or control.
When he “cornered” me at Arlington, he said the Lord Advocate told him it never came to US. I told him there what I told him earlier in 2008 was what I thought the truth to be but perhaps I was mistaken (I did not see the fragment when it came to US in June 1990) I later clarified in an email that my first statement was correct.
'Henderson: as far as I know, the microphone in his face at Arlington in December 2008 was the first time Mr. Henderson ever said anything in public about Lockerbie. What he said was it was never in “US control.”
'In his official statement to prosecutors before trial, he acknowledged that it had traveled to the US for examination.
'Unfortunately, some things which happened over 20 years ago needed to be reflected upon. We are all aging and our recollections may not be perfect. However, I know one thing—none of us ever “fiddled with,” “tampered,” “changed,” “altered” or “manufactured” any evidence in this case to include PT-35.
'My brother once owned a football. He was so afraid it would get ruined, he kept it in the closet and never used it. It suffered “dry rot” and was eventually never useable. The same could be said about PT-35. Should police officials never shared its existence with anyone else, it might never have been identified. Try as they might, 6 months, 17 countries and 55 separate company visits failed to determine what it was. It was the sharing of the photograph and eventually the lab comparison which identified it.
'To listen to some in Scotland, this case should have been conducted ONLY by Scots without outside interference. It was only through the sharing of information that strides were able to be made to identify who was responsible for Lockerbie—despite what so many people do not want to believe. The sharing of information was vital to the Lockerbie case and is vital today as we try and prevent horrible acts of terrorism and other crimes.
'Those of us who have never taken money from anyone doing business in Libya are comfortable with that we did. Can you say the same? In the book, “The Price of Terror,” you are quoted as saying that you tried to resolve the (Lockerbie) deadlock at the behest of “a group of British businessmen whose desire to participate in major engineering works in Libya were being impeded by the UN sanctions.” Perhaps YOU were misquoted. Would you also like to get some law students on that as well?'
I am, of course, used to snide remarks to the effect that my stance on Lockerbie is due to my having been paid (which I have always thought a somewhat odd criticism to make of a lawyer). Here, from a forthcoming book, is the true account of how I came to become involved in the Lockerbie issue:
'I first became involved in the Lockerbie affair in January 1993. I was approached by representatives of a group of British businessmen whose desire to participate in major engineering works in Libya was being impeded by the UN sanctions. They had approached the then Dean of the Faculty of Advocates (the head of the Scottish Bar) and asked him if any of its members might be willing to provide advice to them -- on an unpaid basis! -- on Scottish criminal law and procedure in their attempts to unblock the logjam. The Dean of Faculty, Alan Johnston QC (later Court of Session judge Lord Johnston), recommended me. The businessmen asked if I would be prepared to provide independent advice to the government of Libya -- again on an unpaid basis -- on matters of Scottish criminal law, procedure and evidence with a view (it was hoped) to persuading them that their two citizens would obtain a fair trial if they were to surrender themselves to the Scottish authorities. There was, of course, never the slightest chance that surrender for trial in the United States could be contemplated by the Libyans, amongst other reasons because of the existence there of the death penalty for murder.']