Sunday, 1 August 2010

Analysis of the evidence on which Megrahi was convicted

Rolfe, a regular commentator on this blog, has provided a masterly description and analysis of the evidence which led to Abdelbaset Megrahi's wrongful conviction in the Scottish Court at Zeist. It takes the form of a series of comments on the post BBC presenter 'speaking nonsense’ over Megrahi release. The comments can be read here.


  1. Rolfe........let's hear it for commitment. Well done you and thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts. Makes interesting reading.

  2. I'm enormously flattered by Prof. Black's singling out of these comments. There can be no higher praise than what comes from him.

    I was out on Saturday evening doing dinner and a movie in Glasgow, and when I got home the wrong side of midnight I was just going to bed, but I sat down to have a cup of tea first, saw Blogiston's comment, and I'm not quite sure what came over me. An odd side-effect of Toy Story 3 perhaps?

  3. Er, no. I was driving. I don't think a diet Coke can produce that sort of effect.

  4. Continuing on in the vein of last night's musings, I noticed a part of that Express article dealing with Jim Swire's theorising.

    Dr Swire’s book is said to contain “stunning” new evidence that would cast major doubts on Megrahi’s conviction and uncover a “breathtaking conspiracy”.

    This is sort of what I was talking about. You don't need any conspiracy theory to realise that Megrahi's conviction was the proverbial steaming pile of foetid dingoes' kidneys. Remarks like that only serve to reinforce the impression that the evidence as it stands is sufficent to support a conviction, and that some complex conspiracy has to be proved before it is regarded as unsound.

    Let's hear the conspiracy theory, certainly, I for one am all ears. But don't rely on it to demonstrate Megrahi's innocence. In that respect, conspiracy theories are entirely surplus to requirements.

  5. I have nothing but admiration for Jim Swire. I don't know how he has coped all these years with the uncertainty and then eventually the lies surrounding what happened to his daughter. I believe he has the ability to make ordinary people stop and listen and finally act. He has nothing to gain from continuing with his quest for the truth becaus all he has ever wanted was the truth. That right was denied him. His dignity throughout this whole sorry affair is a lesson to all of us. If one listens to a pile of dung coming from the mouth of the usual suspects re Lockerbie (politicians) and then listens to a single sentence from Jim Swire it is like day and night. He illustrates beautifully the difference between an honest man and a dishonest one.

  6. I don't disagree. I merely observe that this particular tactic may be counterproductive.

  7. Rolfe, I too was struck by the "stunning" sentence. I suspect that this flows from a misunderstanding on the part of the journalist (or his sub-editor). I think that what Dr Swire intended to convey is that the autobiography that Abdelbaset Megrahi is writing will contain "stunning" new evidence about how he came to be convicted, not Dr Swire and Peter Biddulph's book.

  8. I expected to sleep through Toy Story 3D (and my 10 yr old expected me to as well) - but I didn't. However, I did sneak a look at multimap on my mobile to see how far the Kielder Forest was from the crash site.....Oops!

  9. The Kielder forest is irrelevant if you're talking about the finding of the shirt collar with the timer fragment in it. This was found on 13th January 1989 by DC Gilchrist, with DC McColm as countersigning team leader, in the big field of rough grazing behind Blinkbonny Farm steading, near Newcastleton in Roxburghshire. OS grid references are your friend!

    This is just about the end of the "southern debris trail" as described by the AAIB report, which was just recording parts of the aircraft found. It's only yards from the start of the Newcastleton Forest, but it's actually out in the open.

    The Kielder Forest nonsense seems to have originated in The Maltese Double Cross. This was filmed long before the trial and Francovich may have been going from contradictory press reports. He also said the fragment lay out in the open through two Scottish winters, presumably mixing up the date if identification of the thing (June 1990) with the date it was picked up from the ground, which was only three weeks after the crash.

    And the Kielder Forest is in England. The collar was found by Scottish policemen in Scotland.

    Here endeth the infomercial.

  10. Time I was in bed again, but you've raised the question of fabricated evidence I think. This is quite fascinating.

    The posts I made earlier provide a perfectly viable narrative of how this mess happened, without any prior planning or fabrication of physical evidence. By the autumn of 1989 the investigators knew about the clothes from Mary's House and the apparent unaccompanied bag from Malta (tray B8849). They also knew all about the PFLP-GC, and strongly suspected that group carried out the bombing.

    The investigation from that point seems to have given up looking at Heathrow or Frankfurt as possible introduction points for the bomb, and was trying to find some way the PFLP-GC smuggled it on board at Luqa. That's about when they started chasing Abu Talb. I think they got nowhere because the bomb was never anywhere near Malta. However, they seem to have kept plugging at it.

    Then in June 1990 the timer fragment was identified, and over the next few weeks it was discovered to be something supplied to Libya. There were other pointers to Libya in the evidence, such as the model of the radio, but the timer seems to have been what turned the attention of the investigation to Libya seriously, by about September 1990 I think.

    Exactly when Megragi was identified as having been at Luqa airport that morning I don't know, but by February 1991 the cops were trying to persuade Tony that he bought the clothes.

    Whether the Gulf war had any real influence on this version of the narrative is debatable. The tipping point is supposed to have been the identification of the timer fragment.

    And that's how it works if none of the physical evidence was fabricated. It holds together reasonably well.

  11. However, the version with the big conspiracy alleges that the timer fragment was fabricated in order to point the investigation away from the PFLP-GC, who were using barometric timers, to Libya. There are a lot of points in support of this theory, but the Gulf war isn't one of them.

    The MST-13 fragment was definitely present in the chain of evidence by January 1990, and almost definitely by September 1989. This is way before the Gulf war could be exerting an effect, and if the time taken to lay the plan to plant this evidence, and then to produce the fabrication is taken into account, you're looking at the summer of 1989 at the latest.

    If there was a big conspiracy to frame Libya, or even just to plant evidence pointing away from the PFLP-GC, then it goes back possibly as early as May or even April 1989. It may in that case tie directly to the story of the Bush/Thatcher phone call in mid-March 1989 in which it is alleged an agreement was reached to back off on the PFLP-GC as the suggested culprits.

    Again, this suggests it had nothing to do with the Gulf war, and that any beneficial spin-offs from blaming Libya were just the icing on the cake.

    One difficulty with this version is, if the plan to blame Libya was hatched in the spring of 1989, how come it took until autumn 1990 before the policemen were sent on the Libya trail? Why waste months trying to get Tony Gauci to say the clothes purchaser was Abu Talb? Possibly because the Scottish police stubbornly failed to trace the origin of the timer fragment, and the impasse was only broken in June 1990 when Tom Thurman got his hands on it and recognised it almost immediately. However, it's difficult to see why it was necessary to wait for the identificaton of the timer when there were other aspects that might have allowed the police to be set on a Libya trail earlier. This is the bit I don't understand.

  12. Prof Black, I think that is possible too. It would not be the first time a journalist has misquoted someone. I don't think Dr Swire is the sort of man to make statements like this. It just isn't his style.

  13. That's very possible. However, there has been a lot of pre-publicity for Dr. Swire's book, coming directly from him, to the effect that it contains material which mainstream publishers won't touch. He says a publisher has pulled out from handling it.

    His own web site gives the impression of a book with significant secrets to reveal, more than just problems with Tony Gauci's evidence and so on. (This has ben altered a lot since I last looked at it.) So I feel he does have a significant comspiracy theory to reveal, or believes he has.

  14. Leaving aside the timing problem I described above, the provenance of that timer fragment is quite mindboggling.

    DC Gilchrist who allegedly found it doesn't seem to remember doing that. OK, he probably picked up a lot of stuff, but there's a suspicion that the evidence label on that bag was signed retrospectively. Other pieces recorded next to it are down as "finder unknown". The suspicion is that as this was so important, that wouldn't do, so a couple of cops just signed it.

    DC McColm is described as having a cushy desk job and seldom going out to litter-pick during the height of the search. He is also described as having a cavalier attitude to chain of custody. I can easily imagine he might sign a label, just to keep the whole thing right.

    The label seems to have originally read "cloth", but that was cleverly changed to "debris", and nobody knows when or why or who by. It's hard to know what this means, except that it suggests tampering.

    DC Gilchrist was apparently very worried about giving evidence at Zeist, and totally failed to cope with giving a clear account of how he found the piece of cloth. The judge described his evidence as "at best confusing, at worst evasive".

    The collar next surfaces, allegedly, at RARDE on 12th May 1989, when Hayes examined it. This is when he says he found the fragment of circuit board in it. However, the pagination of his notes for that day and the days after were altered, giving the impression that the page describing the shirt collar had been added retrospectively.

    There is a photograph taken during that examination, after the fragments were removed from the cloth but before the little wad of paper was teased out. If that picture could be dated to 12th May but provenance of its negative, it would confirm the official version. However, it seems likely that the photograph is a professional quality polaroid, which can't be dated, and all the copies of the photograph available have been taken from the same original print, which tends to support this suggestion.

    The weirdest part of this is that in May 1989 the RARDE team were going mad trying to find more parts of the radio's circuit boards, to get a definite ID on it. A smaller piece of circuit board found later than this practically has them in ecstasies. And yet Hayes merely noted this "piece of green circuit board" and forgot all about it.

  15. Wasn't specifically following the MST13 debris, I was doodling with my calculator to no consequence and reading from the Accident report page 16, "Further east, it extended across southern Scotland and northern England, essentially in a straight band as far as the North Sea. Most of the significant items of wreckage were found in this trail within a range of 30 km from the main impact crater."

  16. The fragment vanishes entirely until 15th September 1989, when Feraday sends one or more polaroid photos of it to DCI Williamson in Scotland, suggesting maybe the SCRB could identify it. He does this the day after returning from Scotland on a fruitless search for more bits of Toshiba.

    This is in marked contrast to his behaviour with regard to the earlier parts of the radio circuit boards which were found. With these, Feraday himself went to Toshiba plants in England and Germany, and even after he thought he had an ID, he jetted off to Japan to investigate it further.

    The D&G cops realised the fragment was significant, but couldn't nail its provenance. The Americans knew they had it, but they wouldn't show it to them. Marquise got pretty narked about this. Then in June 1990 Tom Thurman managed to muscle into the discussion and get his hands on a photo of this elusive piece of evidence. He identified it in about two days. You'd almost think he already knew what it was....

    And of course it was the perfect clue. The PFLP-GC were using barometric timers, which would explode about 40 minutes after takeoff. Maid of the Seas blew apart 38 minutes after lifting off from Heathrow. (So why were they looking at a Frankfurt or Malta introduction before this discovery, again? Beats me.)

    The MST-13 timer was a simple countdown timer, which could have been introduced anywhere and not exploded prematurely on an earlier leg as a barometric timer would have done. This validates the theory of a Malta introduction, not Heathrow. Also, it's one of a limited run of components which were specific to Libya. Just what we want - something to make the Malta introduction feasible, and to point to Libya.

    Except - if you're really using an MST-13 timer to do this job, you don't set it for 7pm, you set it about 5 hours later than that, to avoid getting caught short by delays at Heathrow, and be well out over the ocean when the plane goes down. (And well away from an emergency landing, if the destruction from the small device isn't total.)

    If that damn fragment is for real, exactly as we're supposed to accept, it has the fishiest provenance of anything in the annals of detection.

    And it's not the only one, but I'm really going to bed now.

  17. Wasn't specifically following the MST13 debris, I was doodling with my calculator to no consequence and reading from the Accident report page 16, "Further east, it extended across southern Scotland and northern England, essentially in a straight band as far as the North Sea. Most of the significant items of wreckage were found in this trail within a range of 30 km from the main impact crater."

    There was apparently a 90mph westerly gale blowing that night, and light stuff in particular was blown a very long way. They were finding paper debris on the Northumberland coast, and some stuff was undoubtedly lost in the North Sea.

    However, as you say, the significant wreckage as far as the AAIB report is concerned was found within about 20 miles of the crash site, and the "southern debris trail" in that respect (the heavy stuff that was important for the investigation of the aircraft) petered out just short of the English border.

  18. The other item of dodgy provenance I was going to mention was one of the paper items blown across into Northumberland. On the morning after the crash, Gwendolyn (Decky) and Geoffrey Horton noticed a lot of "litter" scattered around the fields and hedges beside their house in Morpeth. They discovered it was debris from the crashed airliner, and there was a police appeal for members of the public to gather in what they could find. They went out to do their own land, and ended up handing in two or three carrier bags full of random stuff.

    Among this stuff was the only piece of evidence which identified the exact model number of the Toshiba radio-cassette which contained the bomb. This was a piece of paper (actually two sheets stuck together) which turned out to be the front cover and second page of the radio's user manual. Just enough of the text on this was legible to allow the make and model to be read.

    The radio was originally identified from a tiny piece of circuit board found stuck under the data plate of the baggage container, by AAIB Inspector Claiden, very soon after the crash. This turned out to be of Toshiba manufacture, and narrowed the model involved down to about seven possibles.

    Alan Feraday chased most of this up personally (in marked contrast to his hands-off approach to the MST-13 fragment), and came to a definite conclusion by 3rd February 1989 that the radio model was an RT-8016 with a white plastic case. Everything seemed to fit, including the finding of white plastic fragments in the debris.

    However, in April he went to the USA to take part, with the FBI agents including Tom Thurman (with whom he'd also worked at Lockerbie in January), in the test explosions designed to assess the amount and positining of the bomb in the aircraft. Following this he decided to travel to Japan to the Toshiba headquarters, where he discovered that the RT-8016 had a twin brother, the RT-SF16, which was identical but had a black case. The thing about the latter model was that a large order for these (20,000 pieces) had been supplied to a Libyan electronics company in October 1988. And the chairman of that company was a senior JSO official.

    Feraday came home with a sample of that model, box and all, and began to pay particular attention to its manual, giving it a separate number. After all this happened, Decky Horton's find was received at RARDE (11th May) and reads clearly
    ...o cassette recorder RT SF16
    BomBeat SF16

    After that, starting the very next day with the shirt collar which contained the timer fragment, all the bits of radio case which are found are black.

  19. At Zeist, Decky Horton did not identify the court production as the item she'd found in her field. She appeared very confused, because the evidence presented to her was shredded and almost torn through in several places. She stated she remembered picking up something that was a complete page, just "a bit tatty round the edges". At Zeist she didn't say anything about the word "Toshiba", just that it was "something electrical". In contrast, the Northumbrian policeman to whom she'd handed in her bags of litter confidently identified it as the same thing, scorches and tears and all.

    The explanation in court was that the paper had been damaged during forensic testing for fingerprints. There are two things wrong with that. If the damage was caused by forensic testing, why did the policeman say it was handed in in that state? And the damage doesn't look at all deliberate, the thing looks shredded and blown up. The third problem is that the forensic records state that the item was photographed before it was sent for forensic testing. So why wasn't Decky Horton shown these photographs and asked if that was what she'd picked up?

    In my view the policeman didn't remember the item at all - why should he, it was only one scrap of paper amongst heaps of litter being handed in to him by local residents. He merely identified it as he was expected to identify it. Geoff Horton deosn't seem to have remembered it either - he wasn't called to give evidence and has never described the item.

    Decky, however, is confident she remembered it. She says she remarked to Geoff at the time, oh look that seems to be from a radio, or something like that. At Zeist she didn't say she remembered the word Toshiba, but in later interviews she does. It's difficult to know if this is a later interpolation in her memory, arising from seeing the fragment, and the incomplete word "IIBA" visible on it.

    However, she is extremely clear that the piece she picked up was essentially intact - she thought it was a whole page. There's no way the court exhibit could be described as a whole page, and it's so torn that it would have been extremely difficult to pick it up off wet grass without it tearing right through. It's very difficult to imagine how anyone picking up that scrap could possibly have "remembered" picking up an entire page.

    Caustic Logic has done an amazing job pulling together the evidence surrounding the Toshiba and its manual.

  20. Oddly enough, the Horton fragment is not mentioned in the final court judgement. However, it's the only piece of evidence that definitely identifies the model of the radio. The other fragments of manual are extremely small, and although they're said to be consistent with the SF16, they don't seem to prove a lot. Indeed, if the 8016 and the SF16 were really so similar, it's quite likely their instruction manuals were identical apart from the front cover.

    There has been considerable speculation about whether the MST-13 fragment, which was fibreglass, could possibly have survived the explosion as described. The tests carried out for Newsnight suggested the whole board would have been vapourised. Nevertheless, we are told that this piece of the timer circuit board, a few pieces of the radio circuit boards (complete with legible parts numbers), more small compacted fragments of the manual, a bit of speaker mesh, and bits of the black (and/or white!) plastic casing survived.

    I don't know who's right about this. If the explosives guys are right, the whole damn lot is fabricated. Personally, as a complete non-expert, I can cope with the idea that such small fragments might have surivived, blasted into scraps of the clothing, as described. What I find very hard to understand is how such a large portion of the front pages of the manual could have survived, blowing free in the wind, after having been in such close contact with the explosion. Bear in mind that other parts of the same pages were involved in the tiny compacted paper fragments found in the cloth.

    In my opinion, this evidence suggests that Decky Horton found something else, something not intimately connected with the explosion. Maybe something from a Toshiba (which is a very common brand), or just "something electrical". When there was a need to introduce an identifying page of the radio manual to the evidence, because there was nothing else distinctive enough to make that crucial connection to the model sold to Libya, the fabricated portion of manual cover (with just exactly the crucial text remaining legible to identify the model) was substitited for Decky's find, in the (probably reasonable) expectation she wouldn't have a clear memory of the bits of litter she picked up that morning. Although she expressed her doubts at Zeist, and did not in fact identify the item shown to her, this was just handwaved away.

  21. This could of course be completely misguided. The question marks over the provenance of these two pieces of evidence might be pure happenstance, and the MST-13 timer and the RT-SF16 radio be genuinely part of the device as described. Even if they are, that doesn't make Megrahi guilty. It only suggests that whoever made the device got their hands on a timing mechanism that had originally been supplied to Libya (there's clear evidence some of these devices were passed on out of Libyan hands), and used a radio model either originally bought in Libya, or one of the same model which weren't supplied to Libya, which was about 25% of the October production run (and 100% of previous and subsequent production runs I think).

    There are enough question marks, however, that the conspiracy theorists can't be easily debunked on the subject. It's possible these two items were fabricated, and it's the very people whose professional competence and honesty have been questioned (Hayes, Feraday and Thurman) who were handling them at the time.

    The timing of the appearance of the manual page (11th May 1989) puts an early marker date on the proposed conspiracy. It was sent to forensics for fingerprint testing almost immediately (after being photographed), so unlike the timer fragment, there's no suggestion that a later introduction was backdated in the records. Even then, this plan wouldn't have appeared fully-developed that day. In this speculative scenario, the meeting of Hayes/Feraday/Thurman in Maryland in April 1989 could have been the starting point for planning this exercise, with the manual page insertion accomplished soon afterwards, but the timer fragment and the rest of the stuff in the shirt collar taking longer to arrange, thus necessitating later insertion of notes making it appear to have been examined at the same time.

    This pushes the time back to mesh quite neatly with the alleged March 1989 Bush/Thatcher telephone call agreeing to back off on the PFLP-GC. What it doesn't mesh with is anything to do with the run-up to the Gulf war, which wasn't till the second half of 1990.

    This is the best I can do with the suggestions of fabricated evidence, which have dogged this case for many years. It's tempting to suggest the Maltese clothes are also suspect, but that really doesn't wash at all. If there's anything at all to these allegations, and any conspiracy surrounding the planting of evidence, I feel it has to be something along these lines.

  22. What I find difficult to follow about this is the timeline. In fact there are even earlier suggestions regarding a Libyan connection with Lockerbie. Only a week after the bombing, Ronald Reagan stepped up sanctions against Libya and threatened to bomb munitions factories there, just on the basic principle that they had it coming and terrorism had to be punished. Into January, and there is the bizarre story of Edwin Boller and the letter with the Spanish typrwriter, in which he blamed Libya for the incident. He said a mysterious stranger had told him to write the letter and deliver it to the US embassy. (Nobody knows what this is all about). However, Reagan became Bush in January, and the March telephone call could be him getting up to speed with the affair. And the CIA head of the Lockerbie investigation was Vincent Cannistraro, whose speciality was making up incriminating evidence to smear Gadaffi. Looked at this way, it all sort of fits.

    It fits right on until September, when the timer fragment seems to be genuinely present as it was passed on to the Scottish police then (and Hayes left RARDE that month, apparently under some sort of a cloud to do with taking a lot of flak in the Birmingham Six enquiry for fabricating and/or sexing up evidence, and although he did consultancy work for them for a while, he settled down to work as a chiropodist).

    The delay after that seems to have been caused by the Scottish police's inability to trace the timer's origin, and their refusal to let the Americans in on the act. If one is of a mind to credit this conspiracy theory, one might imagine the conspirators expected the timer to have been identified before the end of 1989, at which time the switch to Libya as the perpetrators could have gone ahead.

    I can't quite understand why any conspirators who were anxious to move the investigation in that direction would have waited for the timer to be identified if it was holding things up to that extent. They had the radio model with its Libyan provenance, and they had Tony Gauci's description of the clothes purchaser as Libyan (though examination of his evidence suggests this might mean no more than "Arab and not Tunisian"). However, the ordinary police weren't pointed to Libya but were allowed to go on investigating the PFLP-GC during that period. The switch to Libya didn't happen until the timer was finally identified and traced back to MEBO.

    Subsequent to that, Megrahi suddenly appears in the investigation, and by February 1991 the Scottish police are trying to persuade Tony that it was him who bought the clothes, not Abu Talb.

    There's quite a lot about this that puzzles me, but if there's any truth at all in the allegations of conspiracy to plant fabricated evidence, it's somewhere in that collage of events.

  23. The other dodgy area in this investigation is the Frankfurt part. Frankfurt police were half-expecting something like this. They had busted the PFLP-GC cell in Neuss only 2 months previously, and most of the gang and most of their devices were still at large. These devices were obviously intended to be smuggled on to aircraft. The baggage x-ray operatives had all been warned to look out for radio-cassette players with Semtex inside. Also, the Helsinki warning specifically referred to a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to New York, which category arguably included PA103.

    Contemporary press reports have the Frankfurt police starting investigations at the airport within a couple of days of the crash. And yet, somehow, all the baggage records for that day vanished. The computer records were held in the system for about a week before being over-written, and we're supposed to believe that nobody thought of backing them up in that time.

    Not only that, elsewhere on this blog the designer of that computer system states that routine (tape?) backups should have been kept in case of claims for lost luggage (and there were inevitably going to be claims for lost luggage after what happened at Lockerbie - there were a number of unaccompanied cases on that plane).

    In addition, Bogomira Erac, she of the souvenir printout, refers to both the facility to copy data to disc, and to routine printouts that came out of the teletype machines for every flight, and which were usually thrown away afterwards. But we're supposed to believe none of this was retained at all, nobody went through the waste-paper baskets, nothing.

    Other records were also missing - the loading plan for PA103A was missing, and there were no records of the unloading of KM180, how many bags came off and so on. All that seemed to have been preserved were the interline writers records and the worksheets of the coders entering the bags into the computer system, none of which were of the slightest use without the rest of the records (but without the latter, interpretation of Bogomira's printout, when it eventually surfaced, would have been impossible).

    And in spite of this monumental cock-up of the most vital information relating to the biggest terrorist ourtrage in Europe, we hear no explanations of how this happened, who was responsible, what steps were taken to try to recover anything that might still be salveagable - nothing.

    Mrs. Erac describes the immediate aftermath of the crash, in Frankfurt, during which she saved her souvenir printout of the baggage records for PA103A. She tells of everyone talking about it, and even an assumption it had been a direct Frankfurt-New York flight, but never mentions the presence of police or security investigators, or being interviewed about the baggage records, or being aware of anyone else being interviewed. She is aware the records seemed to have disappeared, but volunteers no opinion on how this happened, and nobody asks her.

    Relations between the Scottish and German police in the aftermath of the bombing were appalling. Contemporary press reports tell of bickering and blame-shifting, and repeated requests for the Frankfurt baggage records from the Scottish police being refused, saying they were unavailable, or had been destroyed.

    Suddenly, in mid-August, Bogomira's printout (which she says she handed over in late January) appears from all this mess of incompetence or worse, like the sword Excalibur, complete with the entry for tray B8849, the only piece of evidence in the entire investigation even to hint at a possible Malta introduction for the bomb.

  24. So what was that all about? It seems unlikely the bomb was introduced at Frankfurt - the Heathrow introduction is a lot more plausible. Did the German investigators fear it had been though, and were trying to cover this up? Or was there something else going on that they wanted to cover up? (There have been persistent tales of controlled drug-smuggling going on through that airport, possibly even involving PA103.) Or was it just monumental incompetence?

    I have absolutely no idea.

    I do note though, that initially anyway, the pressure seems more for the investigation not to get too close to the (Frankfurt-based) PFLP-GC than to go after Libya as such. Various people make allegations of being targeted by the US authorities with smearing, discrediting and punitive legal action in relation to their investigation of this case. These include Juval Aviv, Lester Coleman, Allan Francovich and James Shaughnessy. All of these individuals were alleging introduction of the bomb at Frankfurt, relating to the drug-smuggling allegations.

    The possibility (probability?) of a Frankfurt cover-up hasn't had much attention. How did it happen that the records vanished? Were the police complicit in this? Did they ever really vanish, or were they just taken out of the equation? Is Mrs. Erac's story completely on the level, and her fortuitous preservation of exactly that one piece of evidence that cracked the dastardly secret operation to get the bomb on KM180, sheer chance? Are we even certain that tray B8849 was part of the printout she preserved, assuming her story is true? Why did the German police sit on this for nearly seven months before suddenly giving it to the Scots, all the while denying they had such a thing? So that it appeared at just the same time as everything else interesting - the tracing of the clothes to Mary's House, and the MST-13 fragment finally entering the chain of evidence.

    As I said, I have no idea. However, it's this Frankfurt black hole, plus the very questionable provenance of both the timer fragment and the legible radio manual page, which leave me open to the possibility this wasn't just a simple pin-it-on-this-guy-because-he's-handy frame-up.

    We don't know what was in the PIIC document that would cause the State to implode if it ever entered the public domain. We don't know the nature of the other two grounds of appeal approved by the SCCRC, and there have been persistent rumours that these concerned things the State seriously didn't want to see the light of day - and that the machinations to induce Megrahi to drop his appeal might be connected to that. And we have Jim Swire, who must know this case better than almost anyone else, talking about a book he has which publishers won't touch because of the nature of the allegations in it.

    Maybe it's all just froth and speculation. But I totally couldn't rule out the possibility of this going a lot deeper than just framing Megrahi to get a conviction.

  25. Sorry about all that stream-of-consciousness speculation. If not interesting, please ignore. However, if anyone gets to the end and would like to comment, fire away!

  26. Oh well, no takers. Possibly it's all too speculative.

    However, I have had a thought about the timing, again assuming that the main purpose of any conspiracy that was going on in 1989-90 was to avoid scrutiny of the PFLP-GC role in the affair (and both Heathrow and Frankfurt airports).

    In September 1989 the timer fragment, which was to be the big clue that would identify this as a Libyan operation (and turn attention away from the PFLP-GC's barometric timers), was introduced into the investigation. It wasn't identified until June 1990, and in the intervening nine months no attempt seems to have been made to call the dogs off the PFLP-GC or to turn attention to Libya by any other means.

    However, what were the cops doing in that time? They were investigating a suspected Luqa introduction of the bomb by the PFLP-GC, and majoring on Abu Talb as the perpetrator. I've never been all that convinced that Abu Talb was involved in this, and I'm completely convinced the bomb was never anywhere near Luqa airport. So, if the cops were actually not at all "warm" as far as stumbling on whatever was being concealed was concerned, why not just let them get on with it and let the investigation proceed at its own pace.

    If it genuinely wasn't realised until later that there was a plausible Libyan suspect at Luqa who could be framed to carry the can, this might explain the timeline.

    I'm just thinking aloud here, and possibly way off base. But I think it's important to stick to what there is evidence for, and to fit this with a plausible narrative. The narrative that the switch to Libya was occassioned by the run-up to the Gulf War and was accomplished by planting the fabricated timer fragment in the evidence doesn't stand up to scrutiny. If there is no plausible narrative to support a conspiracy to frame Libya going back as far as early to mid 1989, then maybe there was no conspiracy.