Sunday, 11 March 2012

'Insult' to injury

[This is the headline over an article in the current issue of Private Eye.  It reads as follows:]

David Cameron would have done better to read a detailed new book on the Lockerbie atrocity before dismissing it in a soundbite as an “insult” to the families of the 270 who perished just before Christmas 1988. Families want and deserve the truth.

The book reveals fresh scientific evidence relating to a tiny fragment of electrical circuit board which the prosecution claimed had in effect solved the mass murder. Had there been a second appeal, the new evidence would have shown that not only did Abdelbaset al-Megrahi suffer injustice, but also that there was no evidence tying Libya to the atrocity.

The book, Megrahi: You Are My Jury, by John Ashton, a researcher, writer and one of the Libyan’s defence team, also claims that the results of forensic tests carried out by British government scientists on the circuit board cast doubt on prosecution claims but were kept from the trial and defence team. In fact they were not disclosed until a month before Megrahi was freed to return to Libya.

The tiny fragment of board was said to have been found among remains of a man’s shirt at the crash site. The shirt was traced to Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who said more than two years alter the bombing that Megrah resembled a man who bought the clothing. As Eye readers know, Megrahi bore no resemblance to the man originally described by Gauci to investigators.

The board fragment was said to have been found by Dr Thomas Hayes at Rarde, the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment, on 12 May 1989. At trial his colleague Allen Feraday said it was “similar in all respects” to circuit boards used in timing devices from a Swiss company Mebo, which had supplied the Libyans with 20 such devices.

But it was never revealed that Feraday had overseen tests on the metallic content of the fragment which found it was different from a control sample of one of the Mebo boards. Had the results been disclosed, not only would Feraday had been called to answer for them, but defence experts could have been called upon to examine the metal mix, including under blast conditions. According to Ashton’s book, Megrahi’s legal team recently did exactly that and two experts, Chris McArdle and Dr Jess Cawley, confirmed the fragment was no match for Mebo and was probably not commercially made.

Eye readers have long been aware of concerns about the discovery of the fragment and its handling. Relevant pages on Dr Hayes’s notes had been renumbered and the shirt’s exhibit label had been altered.

It seems that by the time of Megrahi’s 2001 trial, prosecutors had learned few lessons from scathing criticisms eight years earlier from the May inquiry, which heard in essence that an Irish family had been wrongly convicted of handling IRA explosives largely thanks to the activities - including hidden results and altered notebooks of Rarde scientists.

This new material, coupled with doubts over Gauci’s identification evidence, destroy the two main pillars of Megrahi’s conviction. It also confirms the fears of observers who sat through the original trial in the Netherlands. One of those was Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the Atrocity. He is convinced that a grave injustice has allowed the real killers to go free and is now at the forefront of demands for a public inquiry.

Dr Swire told the Eye that it was Cameron’s attempt to dismiss the book without reading it that was the “insult” to families, who are now confronted by what appears to be a deliberate cover-up. The question is, how high does the cover-up go?


  1. I am trying to find out what happened to Al-Megrahi after the opposition took over Tripoli. There are no news in the media. Is it a news black out? I am at radioblue99 in please contact. Thank you for your time and patience.

  2. The last information that we have derives from Dr Jim Swire’s visit and that of George Thomson.