[This is the headline over an exclusive report published today on the website of the Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. It reads in part:]
The claims of the former justice minister in Libya's collapsing regime that Colonel Muammar Gadaffi personally ordered the Lockerbie atrocity have been described as "at the very least, unreliable" by Dr Jim Swire of UK Families Flight 103, who has met Gadaffi several times.
The claims were made to a Swedish tabloid newspaper, and have been given heavy coverage in UK tabloids and around the world.
No evidence has been offered to support the claims.
"If I were running away from my violent boss of many years in the hope of sanctuary with whatever might replace him, I too might be motivated to try to ingratiate myself with my chosen new protectors by offering them news blackening the name of my former boss," Swire told The Firm.
"The circumstances surrounding the story render it at the very least unreliable, in my view."
Swire also said that prior to the claims of responsibility emerging, he had predicted that such revelations would surface amidst the turmoil in Libya as the regime collapsed.
[Dr Swire's full statement to The Firm reads as follows:]
You will already be aware of the circulating story about the Gaddafi minister claiming that he can 'prove' that Gaddafi personally ordered the Lockerbie event. It originated from a Swedish tabloid where it emerged as a tale translated into Swedish from the Arabic. It also said that while the defecting minister claimed to be able to prove this, he was not able to reach the supportive evidence 'at present'.
If I were running away from my violent boss of many years in the hope of sanctuary with whatever might replace him, I too might be motivated to try to ingratiate myself with my chosen new protectors by offering them news blackening the name of my former boss.
It is interesting that from my phone and emails, inquiries about this story have been from the Mirror, the Sun and the Express. Wisely none of the haughtier papers have deigned to become involved in it, at least not by involving me, neither have the BBC, nor Channel 4, though Sky did try.
The circumstances surrounding the story render it at the very least unreliable, in my view.
The position of people like myself and some other UK relatives has always been that whereas the evidence for Megrahi's guilt did not add up, and should never have led to a conviction, we do not know whether the Gaddafi regime was involved in Lockerbie or not. I have said on occasion to interviewers that I thought that at the very least it would be likely that Gaddafi would have known that Lockerbie was being planned.
Of course we would love to know for certain who really did plan it, but the use of a Syrian made specialised IED (as described to the Zeist court), at the behest of Iran, still smarting from the Vincennes 'incident' still seems the more likely explanation. It may turn out that Gaddafi really was responsible, in which case the nonsense about Megrahi risks being sidelined in history, the end being held to have justified the means. But the trial verdict will remain crippling to the Scottish justice system unless they take their own steps to review their precious verdict.
I had already sent out an email 48 hours ago, in which I warned that if the Gaddafi regime did collapse, I would anticipate that America would see to it that 'irrefutable evidence' of Gaddafi as the perpetrator would emerge from the wreckage. I am already receiving gloating 'we told you so' emails from the States. I should have twigged that absconders from Gaddafi's regime would also have a very strong personal motive - terror for their lives at the hands of 'the people' - for doing so too. I think this story may be too naive even for the CIA.
Time may show.
Me, I'm for waiting to see if any verifiable evidence for Gaddafi's guilt does eventually emerge once the dust has settled, meanwhile Scotland still has to wrestle with how her criminal justice system ever came to reach that verdict against Megrahi.
I am increasingly concerned for the future of Megrahi. I believe he may be on life support, and the organisation of the hospital facilites in Tripoli may well no longer be up to maintaining that. If he dies now, the US may claim that Gaddafi had him killed rather than the cancer doing so. The senators will not want anything emerging that might justify MacAskill's decision on compassionate release.
I did a long interview for a Dutch TV news channel yesterday, which their team told me would air on Sunday for about 15 minutes. Typically I forgot to get them to define which channel it would go out on. It was mainly about Gaddafi as a man, since I have had discussions with him on four occasions.
I described him as a paranoid schizoid individual. Of course being a tyrant ruling by force, his paranoia was largely justified (see below!). Schizoid because of his wild variability in mood and attitude, and his many hatreds. I suppose an alternative diagnosis of cyclothymia could also be possible.
We went into the details of my first meeting with him, which had been preceded by interrogation by a Libyan intelligence officer drunk on Scotch. We talked of how that intelligence guy had tried to get me drunk on Scotch too (of which he had a cupboard full of bottles behind him) and how he was so drunk that I was able to pour away his multiple refillings of my glass into old Fanta tins that were lying about on the floor of his office. I recalled how he had then produced an automatic from his shoulder holster, and started to polish it lovingly with his fingers. He must have thought I had a quite remarkable immunity to alchohol, if he was thinking at all. I could not see a sign for the fire exit! The drive back from his office to my hotel was the scariest bit, but other traffic was so scared of his car that it all got out of the way. All that part's a story that would go down well at an Oldie lunch one day. It hasn't been told before.
Then we covered the first meeting with Gaddafi himself, and how the female bodyguards (spaced round the walls of the 'tent') all clicked the safety catches off on their AK47s as I approached 'the leader' and pinned a badge on his lapel as we rose at the end of the interview. The badge said "Lockerbie, the TRUTH must be known".
I must have been crazy to do all that, and probably remain slightly so.
All these and many other strange encounters with the Gaddafi regime are much more fully told in a book titled Lockerbie - Unfinished Business co-written with Peter Biddulph, it has now been 'legalled', has found a publisher, and should hit the stalls soon. How's that for product placement? It would be a pity if the strange twists and turns written from the point of view of a simple seeker after truth should be lost.