A commentary on the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of the murder of 270 people in the Pan Am 103 disaster.
Sunday, 11 March 2012
'Insult' to injury
[This is the
headline over an article in the current issue of Private Eye. It reads as
David Cameron would
have done better toreadadetailed new book onthe Lockerbie atrocitybefore dismissingitinasoundbite asan “insult”to thefamiliesof the270who perishedjustbefore Christmas1988.Familieswantand deserve thetruth.
Thebookreveals freshscientificevidence relating toatiny fragmentof electricalcircuit boardwhichtheprosecution claimed hadin effectsolved themass murder.Had there beenasecond appeal,the new evidencewouldhave shownthatnotonlydid Abdelbaset al-Megrahi suffer
injustice,but also that there was no evidence tying Libyato the atrocity.
The book, Megrahi: You Are My Jury, by John Ashton, a researcher, writer and one of the Libyan’s defenceteam,alsoclaims thatthe resultsof forensictestscarriedout by Britishgovernment scientists onthecircuitboardcastdoubt on prosecution claims but
were kept from the trial and defence team. In fact they were not discloseduntilamonth before Megrahi was freed to
Thetinyfragmentof boardwassaidtohave beenfoundamong remainsof aman’sshirt atthecrashsite.Theshirtwas traced to Tony Gauci, aMaltese shopkeeper who said morethantwoyears alterthebombing that Megrah resembledamanwho bought the clothing. As Eyereaders know,Megrahiborenoresemblance to the man originally
described by Gauci to investigators.
The board fragment wassaidto havebeenfoundby DrThomas HayesatRarde, the RoyalArmamentResearchand Development Establishment, on
12 May 1989.At trial his colleague Allen Feraday said it was “similar in all
respects” to circuit boardsused in timing devices from a Swiss companyMebo,whichhadsupplied the Libyanswith20 such devices.
But itwas never revealedthatFeraday hadoverseentests on the metalliccontentof the fragmentwhichfound itwasdifferent from acontrolsampleof one of theMeboboards. Had the results been disclosed,notonly would Feraday had been
called to answer for them, but defence experts couldhave beencalledupon to examine the metal mix,
including under blast conditions.Accordingto Ashton’s book, Megrahi’slegalteam recently did exactly that
and two experts,ChrisMcArdle and Dr JessCawley, confirmed the fragment was no match for Mebo and was probably
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.
Itseemsthatbythetimeof Megrahi’s2001trial,prosecutorshad learnedfewlessons fromscathingcriticismseight years earlier fromtheMayinquiry,whichheardinessence thatanIrish family had been wronglyconvictedofhandling IRAexplosives largely thanks to theactivities-includinghidden results and altered notebooksof Rarde scientists.
This new material, coupledwith doubts over Gauci’s identification evidence, destroy the two main pillars of Megrahi’s conviction. It alsoconfirmsthe fearsof observers whosat through theoriginal trialintheNetherlands.Oneof thosewas Jim Swire, whose daughterFloradiedintheAtrocity. He is convinced thatagrave injusticehasallowed the realkillers to gofreeand isnowat the forefront of demands fora publicinquiry.
Dr Swire toldtheEyethat it was Cameron’sattemptto dismiss the book without reading itthatwasthe“insult”tofamilies, whoare nowconfronted bywhatappearsto beadeliberate cover-up. The question is,howhighdoesthe cover-up go?