Wednesday, 6 January 2010

'Flaws' in key Lockerbie evidence

An investigation by BBC's Newsnight has cast doubts on the key piece of evidence which convicted the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

Tests aimed at reproducing the blast appear to undermine the case's central forensic link, based on a tiny fragment identified as part of a bomb timer.

The tests suggest the fragment, which linked the attack to Megrahi, would not have survived the mid-air explosion. (...)

Newsnight has been reviewing that evidence, and has exposed serious doubts about the forensics used to identify the fragment as being part of a trigger circuit board.

The fragment was found three weeks after the attack. For months it remained unnoticed and unremarked, but eventually it was to shape the entire investigation.

The fragment was embedded in a charred piece of clothing, which was marked with a label saying it was made in Malta. (...)

Newsnight has discovered that the fragment - crucial to the conviction - was never subjected to chemical analysis or swabbing to establish whether it had in fact been involved in any explosion.

And the UN's European consultant on explosives, John Wyatt, has told Newsnight that there are further doubts over the whether the fragment could have come from the trigger of the Lockerbie bomb.

He has recreated the suitcase bomb which it is said destroyed Pan Am 103, using the type of radio in which the explosive and the timer circuit board were supposedly placed, and the same kind of clothes on which the fragment was found.

In each test the timer and its circuit board were obliterated, prompting Mr Wyatt to question whether such a fragment could have survived the mid-air explosion.

He told Newsnight: "I do find it quite extraordinary and I think highly improbable and most unlikely that you would find a fragment like that - it is unbelievable.

"We carried out 20 tests, we didn't carry out 100 or 1,000, but in those 20 tests we found absolutely nothing at all - so I found it highly improbable that you would find anything like that, particularly at 10,000 feet when bits are dropping into long wet grass over hundreds of miles."

Watch Peter Marshall's full report on the Lockerbie bomb evidence on Newsnight at 2230 GMT on BBC Two, then afterwards on the Newsnight website.

[From a report on the BBC News website.

I am informed by a reader that it is likely that people not based in the UK will be unable to watch the video on the Newsnight website unless they are operating through a UK-based proxy server.]


  1. The most important statement is this half sentence: "He has recreated the suitcase bomb which it is said destroyed Pan Am 103".

    Is Peter Marshall going to tell us that one conclusion is that the bomb in the forehold was not in a suitcase?

    I have concluded that the bomb in AVE 4041 PA was stuck on by an Iranian in accordance with the Glion agreement, which accounts for the Heathrow break in. I can even hazard a guess at the name of the man who did it but putting together two stories that came out at the time of the trial.

    Peter has avoided phoning me though I think he must be aware that I have a well worked out theory that accounts for almost all of the facts of Lockerbie. He has not seen the latest version yet, and I am very cautious about revealing it fully as it will be able to place me with the worst of the conspracy theorists.

    By the way, there would be no need for conspiracy theorists if there were no conspiracies, and to blame the evils of the world on theorists is putting the boot before the foot or the cart before the horse or the vase before the flower or whatever lame synonym you care to come up with.

  2. Fascinating!

    27 months after publication, BBC 2's Newsnight is finally investigating Private Eye's article entitled "Fragment of the imagination?" (see ).

    Newsnight has apparently employed "the United Nations European consultant on explosives, John Wyatt", to confirm what we already knew: that the MST-13 timer circuit board fragment could not have survived the explosion on Pan Am Flight 103.

    Newsnight's Peter Marshall should now interview DC Gilchrist (who found the imaginary fragment), Dr Thomas Hayes and Alan Feraday of the Fort Halstead explosives laboratory (neither of whom had the imagination to test the fragment) and Tom Thurman the retired political scientist at the FBI laboratory (who identified it as an MST-13 timer fragment).

    It's not quite the immediate independent international investigation that UK Families Flight 103 called for following publication of the Private Eye article. But, in the absence of Abdelbaset Megrahi's second appeal, or any other re-examination of the evidence, Peter Marshall's sequel will just have to do!

  3. I appreciate that there still are some real living journalists around in the BBC and not only subserviant infomercialists grown up by the fast food chains.

  4. Whether tonight's Newsnight can now accommodate 'Flaws' in key Lockerbie evidence remains to be seen.

    The programme will undoubtedly discuss at length today's breaking news about replacing Gordon Brown as PM.

    Which will probably mean there is no time left to mention the inconvenient truth that a "Fragment of the imagination?" led to wrongfully convicting Abdelbaset Megrahi and blaming Libya for the Lockerbie bombing.

  5. Et voilĂ !

    The Lockerbie segment of tonight's Newsnight programme is postponed.

    Now let's see if it is broadcast on Thursday instead.

    Or, will a BBC bigwig decide that 'Flaws' in key Lockerbie evidence is too controversial ever to be shown?

  6. ABC in the US? I didn't think that sounded right. It's the Australian (.au not .com)

    My hat is off to Mr. Wyatt, and I'll even yank some hats off the people around me. To Newsnigt, well we'll see when they actually air it. This feels like a tipping point, but then again, other points have felt that way but didn't tip.

  7. [Sorry, heard this on the radio as I got up, but I've spent the entire day shovelling snow - I live in the Borders - and I'm whacked.]

    I've heard this theory before, and I'm uncertain whether survival of the fragment is truly "impossible" or just an improbable fluke. And then, to add to that, the improbable fluke that something that small fell from 30,000 feet on to Newcastleton Forest (at least the BBC report gives a plausible location, the usually quoted Kielder Forest seems improbable as the thing was signed off as being found by two Scottish policemen and the Kielder Forest is in England), and yet it was found. In January.

    Just to go with the amazing fluke that Bogomira Erac privately preserved just that one piece of baggage record which seemed to show an unaccompanied bag from Malta, when all the official records had been mysteriously and inexplicably destroyed (even though the potential Frankfurt routing/origin of the device was recognised from day one....).

    And the amazing fluke that the bomebers decided to make a special purchase of clothes to pack the bomb with, rather than using very old items way beyond realistic tracing, or buying from a second-hand shop, or even from a large anonymous department store. And that they chose a small owner-operated shop in a tourist resort out of season, at a quiet time, and the purchaser behaved strangely enough to be remembered in detail nine months later, and could even be picked out of an identity parade.

    Personally, I can't remember the faces of people I dealt with last week, and while I realise I'm unusually poor in that respect, Tony Gauci still seems to have been almost preternaturally good....

    What were the chances?

    I can't actually knock a hole in the provenance of any of these three pieces of evidence (renumbered pages and altered identity tag and all), and I'm normally quite relaxed about the "amazing" coincidences that happen in daily life, but this lot is boggling even my mind.

  8. So, the Newsnight programme was broadcast, including comments by Robert Black and Jim Swire. Excellent.

    Also, Peter Marshall did interview the FBI's political scientist, Tom Thurman. But not DC Gilchrist. Nor Dr Thomas Hayes or Alan Feraday.

    Is there going to be a part two of 'Flaws' in key Lockerbie evidence? I hope so!

  9. Can anyone transcribe, grab audio, any amazing screen captures of anything relevant? Those outside the UK are hungry for info!

    Primarily, we've got Mr. Wyyatt's findings - what was his methodology? What does it really say?

    This ties in quite well with my recent post on THE ONE. I'm curious what Ebol / Mr. Bollier thinks of the observations there.

  10. [mode=Zathras]
    Not the One.... not the One....not the One....