Sunday, 17 July 2011

New doubts over crucial evidence in Lockerbie trial

[This is the headline over an article by John Ashton in today's edition of the Sunday Herald. It reads as follows:]

A prosecution expert misled judges at the Lockerbie trial about key evidence, according to a classified police memo obtained by the Sunday Herald.

Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish border town on December 21, 1988, killing 270 people.

The trial of the two Libyan men accused of the bombing began in May 2000, in front of a Scottish court set up in the Netherlands. During the trial, Dr Thomas Hayes, an expert witness for the prosecution, testified that a fragment allegedly from the bomb’s timer had not been tested for explosive residues.

However, according to the memo, tests were in fact carried out – and proved negative.

The revelation comes as the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee prepares to consider calls for a public inquiry into the conviction in 2001 of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Campaigners believe he was wrongly convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, and accuse the police and Crown Office of concealing evidence that might have cleared him.

Forensic evidence suggested that the fragment, known as PT/35, was part of a timer supplied to Libyan intelligence by the Swiss company Mebo. Mebo’s offices were shared by a company co-owned by Megrahi.

According to the prosecution, the timer and the explosive were hidden in a Toshiba radio-cassette player which Megrahi packed into a suitcase along with clothing.

Hayes was employed by the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE), linked to the UK Ministry of Defence. Scientists from the RARDE were involved in examining material found at the Lockerbie crash scene.

Hayes told the trial in June 2000 that he did not test PT/35, or a fragment of Toshiba circuit board, for explosive residues because it was clear from their appearance that they were bomb-damaged.

He added that the chances of finding residues were “vanishingly small”, but acknowledged that residues had been found on pieces of aircraft debris, and that test results for other items were not disclosed.

A previously secret memo, dated April 3, 1990, describes a visit to the Lockerbie investigation by French police officers examining the 1989 bombing of a French airliner in Niger. The memo states that Detective Superintendent Stuart Henderson, senior investigating officer, told the French delegation “that the piece of PCB [printed circuit board] from the Toshiba [cassette player] bore no trace of explosive contamination and that this was due to the total consummation of the explosive material. Similarly with PT/35, the item was negative in regard to explosive traces”.

It is not known whether Hayes knew of the tests alluded to in the memo, and there is no suggestion that he deliberately misled the court. Henderson did not testify at the trial, and there is no suggestion that he acted improperly.

Christine Grahame, SNP MSP and convener of the Justice Committee, said yesterday: “This adds to the growing body of evidence that Megrahi’s conviction, if it was placed before the appeal court today, would not stand the test of being proven beyond reasonable doubt.”

Calls for a public enquiry have been led by the campaign group Justice for Megrahi. Group member Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the Lockerbie bombing, said yesterday: “At the end of Megrahi’s trial, PT/35 stood out for me as being shrouded in a cloud of anomalies. Everything that I’ve learned since then has added to my suspicion that there was something very wrong.”

The trial court heard that Hayes found the fragment in May 1989 in the collar of a blast-damaged shirt. However, his laboratory notes and the collar’s police evidence label were inexplicably altered, and other official documents gave the date of discovery as January 1990.

Hayes’s employer, the RARDE, was involved in a string of miscarriages of justice in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1990, Hayes and senior colleagues were criticised by former appeal court judge Sir John May in his report on the Maguire Seven case, in which individuals had been charged with handling explosives linked to the IRA. Sir John said they knew of evidence pointing to the innocence of the accused yet failed to inform the court.

After seeing PT/35, Mebo’s owner, Edwin Bollier, said it was from a prototype circuit board that was never part of a functioning timer.

The police memo was one of hundreds of documents appended to the 800-page report into Megrahi’s conviction produced by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. However, its potential significance was apparently overlooked.

The Crown Office would not comment directly on the memo. In a joint statement with Dumfries and Galloway Police, which led the Lockerbie investigation, it said: “The only appropriate forum for the determination of guilt or innocence is the criminal court. Mr Megrahi was convicted unanimously … following trial and his conviction was upheld unanimously by five judges in an appeal court.”

[The flaws in the Zeist trial and the strictly circumscribed nature of the appeal are described in my article Lockerbie: A satisfactory process but a flawed result.]


  1. New evidence casts doubts over the smoking ban as well.

  2. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2011, doc. nr.1456.rtf. (google translation, german/english):

    Of suspected fraud also with the Toshiba fragment AG/145...

    I now working on the elucidation of the "strangeness" fragment (AG/145) from the radio-recorder Toshiba RT-8016' SF16. The original fragment (101--L'106) from the radio is mislabeled as (AG/145) and is a piece of circuit board, which was manipulated by a blank PC board and was not equipped with electronic components, like the corresponding fragment patterns "AG/145". An enlargement shows that the "original" fragment, on the green underside of the two "hole solder rings" (silver-coloured solder connection points) there is no solder is! This shows that no electronic components were soldered before !

    page 107 to the heading 6.1, "Control Samples."
    The circuit board bears the type identification number "22199070" etched into the tracking pattern side of the board. On both photographs 234 and 235 the
    positions of some recovered fragments (detailed below in Section 6.2.1) are encircled in red.

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO LTD Switzerland. URL:

  3. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2011: The Murdoch-Tsunami and Lockerbie
    With the Murdoch scandal in full flood, this is just the sort of time to get out really bad news.

    And the really bad news is that Lockerbie is not yet solved !

    Everyone except the Scottish Government, the UK one and the US administration knows that neither Libya nor Mr Abdelbaset Al-Magrahi have anything to do with it.
    For the Forensic Examiner Dr. Thomas Hayes, Mr Allen Feraday and some Officials will it closely ...

    by Edwin Bollier

  4. It is not known whether Hayes knew of the tests alluded to in the memo [dated 3 April 1990], and there is no suggestion that he deliberately misled the court.

    RARDE's Dr Thomas Hayes and Alan Feraday, and the FBI's Tom Thurman were all perfectly well aware that a test for explosives residue on the Mebo timer fragment PT/35 proved negative. This is because Tom Thurman had fabricated not only Lockerbie's Mebo timer fragment but also the 'TY' timer fragment that convicted Abdullah al-Senoussi and five other Libyans for the sabotage of UTA Flight 772 (see Fabricated evidence of Libyan terrorism).

    Henderson did not testify at the trial, and there is no suggestion that he acted improperly.

    Irrespective of what DCS Stuart Henderson told the visiting French Police forensic team in April 1990, he has a number of questions to answer. In particular, DCS Henderson should publish DC Crawford's summary of the FBI's FD402 report on Pan Am Flight 103 interline passenger Bernt Carlsson.

  5. The only 'out' DCS Henderson has here is to say that the forensic experts reported no residue found, assuming that he hasn't read the report showing no residues were tested for. Who else would be testing if not RARDE?

    I'd like to know how DC Crawford can list 16 names in the "First Fifteen"
    Which of the names didn't get a 'fat file' ? It would be very interesting to know what the FBI thought about Bernt Carlsson.

    Ebol's got a point about the Murdoch flood, but I think that the Lockerbie and then Megrahi stories all happened just a bit too far away from London to keep readers' interest and sell enough newspapers.

  6. I only counted 15 names in the "first fifteen".

    These 15 people were the people who interlined into Heathrow to board Pan Am 103. It seems to be pure coincidence that a significant number had "interesting" backgrounds. Many of them were of course perfectly ordinary people.

    They were of interest because these were the people who might have had luggage in AVE4041, that's all. Crawford obviously wasn't told that bit. They were the people who might have provided an innocent explanation for a maroony-brown Samsonite suitcase appearing in that container before the feeder flight landed. None of them owned or had been seen with such a suitcase. Not that you'll find any witness called at Zeist to reveal that, of course.

  7. So the bloody timer fragment tested negative for explosives. Big fat hairy deal. They'll only say it had been cleaned off or something.

    That piece of evidence never connected Megrahi directly to the bombing anyway. He was never shown to have had one in his possession, and he didn't seem to have had the pleasure of making Edwin's acquaintance until well after the sale of the timers to Libya. As evidence against him, personally, it would have been immaterial in isolation.

    The point about the timer fragment isn't about Megrahi at all. It's that it contradicts the theory that the bomb was triggered by the sort of barometric timer Khreesat was playing with.

    Pity they never explained why anyone with an MST-13 would (a) use it for this purpose in the first place, and (b) set it to blow up only 38 minutes into the flight time of an on-time seven-and-a half-hour flight.

  8. Wrong, Rolfe! The sixteen names on the "first fifteen" interline passenger list that DS Alex Brown and DC John Crawford had to profile were:

    Thirteen US nationals: Michael Bernstein, Richard Cawley, Joseph Patrick Curry, Robert Fortune, James Fuller, Matthew Gannon, Ronald LaRiviere, Charles 'Tiny' McKee, Louis Marengo, Daniel O'Connor, Robert Pagnuccio, Peter Pierce and Elia Stratis;

    One Belgian national, Arnaud Rubin, who worked in America;

    One British national, James Stow, a New York banker; and,

    One Swede, Bernt Carlsson, UN Commissioner for Namibia based at UN headquarters.

    According to Crawford, the FBI had to produce an FD402 report on the interviews they conducted in respect of each of these sixteen interline passengers. On page 87, he said: "Alex Brown and I eventually got fifteen fat files of information on our subjects. A few had proved very interesting - particularly those four US State Department officials [Gannon, LaRiviere, McKee and O'Connor] who had travelled on the same flight from Cyprus."

    Crawford was silent on the FD402 report on Bernt Carlsson so I posed seven questions to the FBI's Richard Marquise and to DCS Stuart Henderson of the Scottish Police on Professor Black's blog:

    Still waiting for answers to those questions!

  9. Damn, you're right! I counted again and got 16.

    I also note that Richard, in his book, said there were 16 Heathrow interline passengers. (Elsewhere he said there were 6, but Richard and accuracy are not close acquaintances I find.)

    Why did they call them the "first fifteen" if there were 16 of them? Enquiring minds want to know.

    1. Michael Bernstein A Nazi hunter who was employed by the US State Department and was returning from a job in Austria to the USA.

    2. Bernt Carlsson A United Nations Commissioner who was heavily involved in negotiations regarding the independence of South West Africa (Namibia).

    3. Richard Cawley An American businessman with no known inks to any State function.

    4. Joseph Patrick Curry A 31-year-old US Special Forces captain who had been attending an international security conference in Italy.

    5. Robert Fortune Another American businessman, again no links with any State authority.

    6. James Fuller Vice President of Volkswagen in America returning to the US - no links with any State authority.

    7. Matthew Gannon A US State official who had been operating in Beirut.

    8. Ronald LaRiviere Another US State official who had been operating in Beirut and who had travelled from there to Cyprus with Gannon and McKee in a military helicopter.

    9. Charles 'Tiny' McKee A Major in the US Army working in Beirut. A 40-year-old communications and code specialist, he had travelled to Cyprus with Gannon and LaRiviere.

    10. Louis Marengo Marketing director of Volkswagen in the US. Along with his fellow senior executive James Fuller, Marengo was returning home from a business trip. He had no links with any State authority.

    11. Daniel O'Connor Another US state official who was responsible for security at the American embassy in Cyprus. He had flown from Cyprus in company with Gannon, LaRiviere and McKee.

    12. Robert Pagnucco An American businessman returning from a business trip in Europe. No links with state authority.

    13. Peter Peirce A US citizen returning from a postgraduate course in Italy.

    14. Arnaud Rubin A Belgian national who was returning from a holiday at his parents' home in Belgium to his work in America.

    15. James Stow An Englishman living in New York. He had been in Switzerland on a business trip.

    16. Elia Stratis Another American businessman returning home from a trip. No links with any state authority.

  10. I agree that the timer fragment has a tenuous link to Mr Megrahi.

    Mebo sell timers to Libya. Mr Megrahi is Libyan and has a coded passport. Send him down.

    A bit like the days of being caught in the possession of an Irish accent.

  11. @ Rolfe: The highest profile interline passenger, Bernt Carlsson, is also of the most interest. That's why DCS Henderson and the FBI's Richard Marquise have to answer these seven questions:

    1. Did the FBI 'establish antecedents' on Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson?

    2. If so, will you publish the relevant FD402 report in full?

    3. Could you please tell us about the previous attack on Bernt Carlsson’s aircraft?

    4. Could you please publish DC Crawford’s report on Bernt Carlsson?

    5. Does the fact that in December 1988 the diamond mining and trading company De Beers was facing prosecution under the UNCN Decree for illegally exploiting Namibia’s gem diamonds over a 20-year period (estimated value $18.7 billion) make Bernt Carlsson a PA 103 target?

    6. Does the fact that in December 1988 the owners of the Rössing uranium mine were facing prosecution under the UNCN Decree for illegally exploiting Namibia’s uranium oxide over a 14-year period (estimated value $1.2 billion) make Bernt Carlsson a PA 103 target?

    7. Does the fact that the Rössing uranium mine is part-owned by the Iranian government, who were clandestinely receiving shipments of Namibian uranium oxide in 1988-1989, make it likely that Iran targeted Bernt Carlsson on PA 103?

  12. The fact that none of these interline passengers had a brown or bronze Samsonite suitcase is perhaps marginally more interesting though, I would suggest.

  13. Now that, Rolfe, is an excellent point.

  14. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2011, doc. nr.1457.rtf. (google translation, german/english):

    A criminal pursuit lie in the air, against some official experts, photographers of RARDE and of some Scottish police officers...*
    The main subject dealt with the notorious 'timer circuit board MST-13 fragment', called (PT/35'B) und the manipulated Toshiba radiorecorder Fragment, marked with "101--L'106" in the court records.
    *(They are not involved in the PanAm 103 bombing, but responsible for the conspiracy against Libya).

    Notices: the words from ex FBI Task Force chief Richard Marquise, cordinator between FBI and CIA in the "Lockerbie-Affair":

    FBI Special Agent and Task Force Chief Richard Marquise answered Gideon Levy's (VPRO) question G. L.: Would you have a case if you wouldn't have these evidence (MST-13 timer)? R.M.: Would we have a case. It would be a very dificult case to prove ... I don't think we would ever had an indictment.

    And he said also: But I can tell you that now money was paid to any witness, any witness prior to the trial. No promise of money was made to any witness prior to the trial. G.L.: And was there paid any money after he trial? R.M.: I'm not gonna answer that.

    And he said: If someone manipulated evidence, if somebody didn't invesitgate something that should have been investigated, if somebody twisted it to fit up up Megrahi, or Fhimah or Libya, then that person will go to jail. I mean that sincerely, that person should be prosecuted for that.

    We hope the Scottish Justice takes this fact to knowledge and goes into a faster action with a criminal charge against her officials than with the case of Mr. Abdelbaset al Megrahi...

    Please watch now the full documentary film "Lockerbie revisited" by Regisseur Gideon Levy, shown to Scottish members of Parliament about important facts concerning the conspiracy against Libya.

    Justice For Abdelbaset Al Megrahi and Libya!
    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland. URL:

  15. McKee didn't travel to Cyprus on a Military helicopter. He took the Ferry.

  16. DC Crawford said: "Gannon, LaRiviere, McKee and O'Connor travelled on the same flight from Cyprus."

    Baz said: "McKee didn't travel to Cyprus on a Military helicopter. He took the Ferry."

    Aaahhh, So!

  17. Baffled Patrick - McKee took the Jounieh Ferry TO Cyprus.

  18. Major Chuck McKee, head of the hostage rescue team takes the Sunday boat, the Jounieh ferry from Lebanon to Cyprus.

    The crossing takes about 12 hours. So did McKee spend a couple of days on the island until flying to Heathrow on the Wednesday? Or did he take an earlier flight from Cyprus, and spend some time in London?

  19. Who says it is "The Sunday Boat". Is Patrick as usual just making this up? In 1988 the Jouieh Ferry was the only means of travelling to the outside world for residents of East Beirut the Airport being on the other side of the Green line.

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  21. I see that at the there is some material from the spoof documentary "The Maltese Double Cross" which refers to Major McKee taking the "Sunday Ferry." Again I suspect the Ferry had a greater frequency.

    Further on there is a quotation from Linda Forsyth which indicates that Major McKee and the other three Americans were not together. I have always assumed they were on the same flight from Larnaca but have never seen any real evidence that they were.

    The central point I was making is there have been many extravagant claims about these passengers notably McKee & Gannon that they were part of a "team" or that Army Officer McKee was somehow also a CIA Operative. If they did not travel together on the helicopter there is no evidence they actually knew each other.

  22. There is a quotation from Linda Forsyth which indicates that Major McKee and the other three Americans were not together.

    DC Crawford says the four were on the same flight from Larnaca. But I guess that by the time they were all assembled in the departure lounge at Heathrow they had become very well acquainted.

    So the questions (and my answers) are:

    1. Were any of these four Americans targeted on Pan Am Flight 103? (A. Not to my knowledge.)

    2. What was the motive? (A. None that I can think of.)

    3. How did the bomb get on board the aircraft at Heathrow? (A. The Europe Branch (based in London) of South Africa’s Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) executed Iran’s revenge attack. CCB operatives substituted the ‘bomb bag’ for Bernt Carlsson’s suitcase. No trace of his suitcase was ever found.)

    Please see Lockerbie: Ayatollah's Vengeance Exacted by Botha's Regime.

  23. Patrick may not be able to think of a motive (monetary gain might be one) but then I can't think of a motive for for the murder of Bernt Carllson.

    Such a shame. For once Patrick nearly came up with something of interest.