[I am grateful to Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph for allowing me to reproduce the following extract from their unpublished book Lockerbie: Unfinished Business.]
Not contained in Harry Bell’s diaries, but held on police files, was information concerning a David Wright, a second identification witness to the purchase of clothes in Gauci’s shop.
On 6th November 1989 the BBC Six O’Clock News showed footage which mentioned for the first time that a suitcase containing the bomb was introduced in Malta. Images of Gauci’s shop Mary’s House were displayed. The commentary mentioned fragments of clothes found at the crash site, and that they had been purchased from Mary’s House by an Arab man. Watching the programme was a regular visitor to Malta, Mr David Wright.
A week later Wright contacted Dumfries and Galloway police. One month later, on 18th December 1989 he signed a statement. He claimed that he was a frequent visitor to Malta and a friend of Tony Gauci. He would spend time in Tony’s shop. During one of his visits made between 28th October and the 28th of November 1988 he was in the shop when two men entered saying they were interested in purchasing some clothes. With Gauci offering guidance they proceeded to buy various items of clothing. They were smartly dressed, one wore a dark suit and he had swarthy skin. Both were aged over forty-five years. They spoke English, said they were Libyan, and were staying at the Holiday Inn. During the purchase, Wright recalls Gauci boasting that he could tell the size of people just by looking at them.
Wright gave descriptions of the two men, neither of which matched the accused al-Megrahi. He said that he subsequently recognised the younger of the two men from a TV programme when the man appeared as a spokesman for the Libyan government. Wright claimed that Gauci later described the two as “Libyan Pigs”. Wright told the police that when he spoke to Gauci around the time of the BBC News broadcast, Gauci appeared not to remember the event.
The SCCRC traced the police records of Wright’s contacts and interviews. His statement was initially flagged by the police for action on 18th December 1989, but changed to “filed” on 13th February 1990. Seventeen years later, on 5th December 2007 Wright was interviewed by officers of the SCCRC and signed an affidavit restating all of his previous account.
The key feature of Wright’s statement is the date of the purchase. The Crown made much of al-Megrahi’s presence in Malta on 7th December 1988. And that day was chosen by the judges as the most likely, seemingly on the premise that unproved inferences elsewhere in the Crown case indicated that al-Megrahi was the culprit. Yet if Wright’s statement is correct, the purchase must have been on a different day, possibly but not necessarily the 23rd November. Whatever day it was, al-Megrahi could not have been one of the purchasers, since his passport records showed that he was not in Malta on any of the days when Wright was present.
Wright’s statement was given to the Dumfries and Galloway police at the height of their investigations led by Harry Bell and DCI Gilchrist. “The most intense police investigation in Scottish legal history” was daily news throughout the force. It seems to me inconceivable that the police officer or officers recording Wright’s statement were unaware that it was a critical link in the chain of evidence. I have no doubt that they sought advice from senior officers.
There are, therefore, serious questions that must be put to those who recorded Wright’s statement and filed it. Who did you inform about the David Wright statement? Were they aware of its content? What instructions did they give you as to what to do with the statement? When the decision was taken to file the statement and not include it in the Lockerbie evidence file, who took that decision? Was that person Harry Bell or DCI Gilchrist? Unfortunately, without a second appeal or further inquiry into Lockerbie, these questions will never be addressed. The public and the judges will remain unaware of their significance, and yet another element of Scottish justice will remain corrupted.
Wright’s statement remained undisturbed in police archives for eighteen years. The trial and appeal judges and the defence team were unaware of its existence.* We can though be sure that if the defence had been aware of Wright’s statement they would have invited him to give evidence. And if credible he would have contradicted Gauci’s recollection of events. Stronger cross examination of Gauci would have followed which almost certainly would have changed the direction of the trial. Yet the information was never revealed by the Scottish Crown. It was a clear breach of the Lord Advocate’s duty to disclose the statement to the defence and the court, and raises serious doubts concerning the integrity of the entire investigation.**
*SCCRC disclosures and Grounds of Appeal page 143.
**Ibid pages 142 – 148.