[What follows is the text of a press release and note to editors from Christine Grahame MSP.]
Scottish police investigators did not make the key piece of evidential material used to convict Abdelbaset al Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, secure an SNP MSP has claimed. Christine Grahame MSP has said the Crown Office has now confirmed to her that the fragment was taken to Germany and then to the US by Scottish investigating officers without the knowledge of the Defence team and more crucially the then Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of [Carmyllie], the senior prosecutor at the time of the investigation.
In an interview for Dutch TV yet to be shown on UK television Lord Fraser was asked if the fragment, known as PT-35 (alleged to be part of the bomb’s timer) had always remained in the UK. Lord Fraser responded:
“As far as I’m aware it’s always been in the UK.”
Asked if it had ever been to the United States, Lord Fraser responds:
“Not that I’m aware of,” adding that he would have known if it had left the UK, telling Dutch reporters: “What would have gone through my mind is, I’m not accusing the FBI or anything… [but] 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 [the fragment] has been fiddled with.”
Now SNP MSP Christine Grahame has confirmed that the same fragment also went to Germany two months before being sent across the Atlantic to Washington without, it seems, the knowledge of the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office. Ms Grahame herself a former lawyer, also claims Scottish police investigators did not record the fragment’s transportation across the world and in doing so broke the vital chain of evidence undermining the integrity of the fragment. She said:
“The Crown Office have confirmed to me that the fragment, PT-35, the piece of evidence that it was claimed by prosecutors linked Libya to the attack was also sent to Germany in April 1990 as well as the US.
“On the 22nd of June 1990 it was then taken to the FBI lab in Washington for examination by FBI officials there. Lord Fraser makes it clear he did not know and would not have allowed this evidence to be taken out of Scottish jurisdiction and control, but that is precisely what did happen. That leaves a very serious question mark over the central piece of evidence used to convict Mr Megrahi."
The senior Scottish police investigator involved in the case, retired Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Henderson told Dutch journalists last December,
“We couldn’t afford to let something like that go. It has never been in their [US] control at all. It couldn’t be, because it was such an important point of evidence it wasn’t possible to release it. It had to be contained to be produced at the court therefore you couldn’t afford to have it waved around for everyone to see it because it could have got interfered with.”
“But that is precisely what appears to have happened,” Ms Grahame said and separately confirmed she has seen additional documents yet to be made public that showed DCS Henderson had told Crown prosecution officials in a formal legal statement that the fragment had indeed been to the US. Ms Grahame added:
“I am not sure why DCS Henderson’s statements made separately to Dutch TV and to the Crown Office contradict each other so starkly. That is a matter for Mr Henderson to explain. Either this fragment was in the US or it was not.
“I am deeply concerned that during the investigation and indeed leading all the way up to the Trial that neither the Crown nor Megrahi’s Defence were ever made aware that this crucial piece of evidence was being ‘waved around for everyone to see’ as DCS Henderson put it.
“Questions also need to be answered about the associated evidence log that was meant to accompany PT-35. It mysteriously does not record that the fragment went to the US or Germany, even though the Crown Office has confirmed in writing that it definitely went to Germany."
Note to editors:
The Crown Office responding to a Freedom of Information request from Ms Grahame stated:
“PT 35 was taken to the Siemens company in Munich, Germany in April 1990 by Scottish police officers.”
Now retired FBI Senior Investigating Officer Richard Marquise confirmed to Ms Grahame’s office last week that, “PT-35, the actual fragment, came to the US one time, in June 1990 in the possession of a Scottish police officer and Feraday (Alan Feraday of the UK forensic explosives laboratory, RARDE).”
DCS Henderson, the Senior Scottish Police Investigator in an interview with Dutch documentary makers VPRO stated: “[the fragment] was in his (Alan Feraday, RARDE) possession and my possession but it was never released for anybody to hold it… they (the FBI) came to where we had it to see it because it wasn’t possible to remove any evidence out of the jurisdiction of the Scottish control.”
In his precognition statement given to Scottish Crown prosecutors DCS Henderson confirms that on the 22nd of June 1990 Henderson, accompanied by Chief Inspector McLean, DI Williamson and Alan Feraday from RARDE took the fragment to the US and “Met in Washington with metropolitan field officers of the FBI and Thomas Thurman.” The FBI’s Thomas Thurman was the officer who later claimed to have identified the fragment and the link to Libya, but later retired from the FBI following accusations by colleagues that he had [altered] forensic reports related to other criminal murder investigations.
[A report on the issue on the BBC News website can be read here. A radio interview with Christine Grahame can be heard here.
What follows is the text of a Crown Office press release:
"There is absolutely nothing new in this misleading story. Contrary to what is being claimed by Ms Grahame, the fact that the fragment of MST-13 timer known as PT 35 was taken to West Germany in 1990 by Scottish police officers was known to Mr Megrahi's defence team prior to his trial and indeed was presented to the Court by the Crown as evidence in the trial. During the trial Hans Brosamle of Siemens was called as a Crown witness and described examining PT 35 in Munich to the Court. Mr Megrahi's defence team did not dispute during the trial, after analysis by their own experts, that the fragment was part of an MST-13 timer.
"At no time during the investigation was the timer fragment ever outside the custody and control of the Scottish police officers, or forensic scientists at the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE)."
It will be noticed that this response does not address (a) the issue of the transfer of the fragment to the United States; (b) the issue of the then Lord Advocate's ignorance of the movement of the fragment out of the UK; and (c) his reasons for stating that no such movements should have occurred. Nor does it explain why the "chain of custody" label attached to the fragment appears not to record these movements.]