Sunday, 19 June 2011

The photographic identification of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi

This is the title of a paper prepared by Dr Morag Kerr which can be accessed here. It demonstrates, with illustrations, just how suspect was the alleged identification of Abdelbaset Megrahi as the purchaser from Mary’s House in Sliema, Malta, of the items which were in the suitcase with the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie.


  1. In his book, DC John Crawford asserts that he was actually there, sitting beside Tony Gauci, when Gauci positively identified Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from a series of mug shots.

  2. Read the article, Patrick, why don't you?

  3. "DC John Crawford has no time for conspiracy theorists. He is impatient with those who claim that the fragment of the bomb timing mechanism discovered embedded in a scrap of cloth at the Pan Am 103 crash site was fabricated. And he dismisses as 'nonsense' the claims that Tony Gauci, the Maltese who identified Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi as the man who purchased from his shop the clothes that were packed into a suitcase with the bomb, is an unreliable witness. 'It pisses me off when people say Megrahi is innocent,' he says. 'That makes a mockery of all the work we did to make sure he ended up in court. If we hadn't done it, nobody else would have. The Americans would have had him shot somewhere. But we made him face justice.'

    "Crawford was honoured when he was asked to join the investigation proper. His work would take him to Sweden, Jordan, Libya and especially to Malta, where he spent 18 months investigating the clothes known to have been in the suitcase with the bomb. He was sitting beside Gauci when he identified Megrahi from a line-up of a dozen photographs. He was elated then, and ecstatic when Megrahi was found guilty."

  4. Oh for goodness sake Patrick..

    The article is a brilliant while also an utterly shocking indictment on the methods and procedures utilized to achieve Mr Megrahi's identification. As Mr Crawford puts it, "to get him to court". Job done. To hell with small matters of the quality of identification or indeed guilt then..

  5. The point about Crawford and the other policemen present isn't a small one. Current guidelines for the conduct of identity parades all mandate that nobody in the room with the witness should know which of the men or the photos is the suspect, for exactly that reason.

    If a horse can do it for sugar lumps ("Der Kluge Hans", Google "Clever Hans" if you're not familiar with the story), then Tony Gauci can do it for two million bucks. Crawford's account of the exercise is absolutely damning.

    I watched his eyes as he scanned each picture, his expressionless face moving from one to the other as he concentrated his thoughts on each...
    When he was finished he looked again at number eight and I thought, he's gonna pick him!

    Tony may not have been very bright, but he would have had to be pond life not to pick up on that.

    His earlier enthusiasm for the photo of Abu Talb with the word "bomber" emblazoned across the corner shows his willingness to agree to anyone the police thought was a likely suspect.

  6. You know, looking at that photospread, it would be interesting to do a little exercise with it. Show it to a bunch of people who know nothing about the case, and ask them one of two questions. Ask them which, if any, picture stands out as being different from the others. Or ask them which picture they think is of the police suspect.

    I'd take a pretty good bet that a large majority of people would pick number 8 as the one that stands out, and that the same picture would be favoured as the probable police suspect.

    And that's without benefit of Crawford tensing up and holding his breath when they look at the "right" picture.

  7. I've just been reading a bit of Richard Marquise's memoirs, and riveting stuff it is too. I don't remember when I saw so many dubious, debatable, disputed and just plain wrong facts being confidently asserted as incontrovertible truth.

    One of these is of course that "Gauci picked Megrahi out of the lineup and identified him as the person who purchased the clothing which had been contained in the bomb bag." OK, he was quoting Henderson there, but his own version is nearly as bad. He quotes Tony, "Of all the pictures I have been shown the one (of Megrahi) most resembled the person who had bought the clothing in my shop...." But he "forgot" the rest of the sentence. ".... apart from the one my brother showed me."

    That last phrase destroys the whole thing. Tony wasn't recognising the customer, he was picking out clean-shaven middle-aged men with a full head of curly or frizzy black hair. How many of these are kicking around the eastern Mediterranean?

    But I digress. I note Richard has commented on a post a couple before this one, and on another post a couple after this one. No comment here. And yet the identification of Megrahi as the clothes buyer is the central and indeed the only plank in the case against him. Just a little bit more crucial than which day the timer fragment was found, or the other peripheral mistakes he was going on about.

    I'd dearly love for Richard to read that article and tell us all, straight, if he really believes that is a reliable identification, beyond reasonable doubt.

  8. One possible contributory factor here might be the fact that Richard was getting his information from Malta via Henderson. So Bell talks up his findings to Henderson and Henderson talks them up again to Marquise. According to bell's diary,

    The SIO agrees we have a partial identification on the person named Abdelbaset considering all of the circumstances...

    Henderson reports this to Richard as a positive ID (or so Richard recalls it) and indeed is celebrating the closure of the case with a wee drappie. Of course, he may have been taking the 'partial ID' in conjunction with Megrahi's presence in Sliema on 7/12/88, which had by some mysterious process become the day of purchase rather than one of two possible days.

  9. Come to think of it, the 'mysterious process' I referred to in my previous post was in fact the not-at-all-mysterious process of choosing the date on which Megrahi was on Malta and ignoring the other, as Bell admitted to the SCCRC.

    Tony and Paul Gauci's recollections were sufficient to narrow down the possible dates of purchase to two alternatives. It seems that when the investigative team found that it wasn't straightforward to decide between those two dates, they simply left the question unanswered until they had a suspect who fitted only one of the dates. Now, it strikes me, as a simple minded layman, that the obvious thing to do at that point was to go hell-for-leather after a definitive date of purchase. There were obvious avenues to follow, after all - the rain which prompted the purchase of an umbrella, and the Christmas lights being not yet switched on. Admittedly, I'm using the benefit of hindsight, but noticing leads like these that is what we pay our coppers to do.

    And once the 23rd of November had been 'eliminated' in this way, it seems to have dropped completely from everyone's memory. According to Marquise,

    Tony also helped pin the date of the sale to December 7, 1988.

    AFAICT, November 23 gets exactly one mention in Marquise's book, and that's when he is forced to mention it in the context of Joseph Mifsud's evidence at Zeist, which he totally misrepresents. That's one more mention than John Crawford makes. According to him,

    [Gauci] even remembered that Wednesday 7th December 1988 had been cold and wet - he'd sold an umbrella to the man because of the weather.

    It's false and misleading to imply that Gauci remembered the date of purchase. It's also a complete fabrication (though irrelevant) to add the word 'cold'. I just hope Crawford wasn't that careless when he was on the job.

  10. PS This is what they mean when they repeat the mantra We followed the evidence.

  11. I have today deleted a comment from Patrick Haseldine. All further comments from this source will be deleted as soon as I become aware of them.