Monday, 5 March 2012

Lockerbie bomber Megrahi 'visited Malta for sex'

[This is the headline over a report published today on the BBC News website.  It reads in part:]

The Libyan jailed for life following the 1988 Lockerbie bombing told investigators he travelled to Malta regularly to have sex.
Prosecutors said the bomb which destroyed Pan-Am Flight 103 was in a suitcase loaded on the island.
Previously secret documents, seen by BBC Scotland, detail the explanations of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 59, for his presence on Malta.
They also suggest he could travel there without a passport or identification.
The Mediterranean island was key to the case which saw Megrahi convicted, in January 2001, of murdering 270 people in the bombing. (…)
He has always maintained his innocence, and an investigation by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) found he may have suffered from a miscarriage of justice.
Its 821-page report has never been published, but it has now been seen by BBC Scotland. (…)
A Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, identified Megrahi as the man to whom he sold clothes which were later found in a suitcase which had contained the bomb.
He said Megrahi visited his shop, Mary's House, on December 7, 1988.
Controversy has surrounded that date - and was one of the reasons why the SCCRC sent the case back to the Appeal Court.
But defence lawyers realised if the original trial had known how easily Megrahi could travel undetected to Malta it could have strengthened the prosecution case.
The SCCRC document says: "If the applicant (Megrahi) had spoken to this in evidence it would have removed the need for the Crown to establish the date of purchase of the items from Mary's House as 7 December 1988."
SCCRC investigators who interviewed Megrahi in Greenock Prison discovered he had a mistress in Malta whom he may have visited twice in December, 1988 - including the night before the bombing. (…)
"It was possible therefore that the reason for his visit to Malta on 20 December was to meet a woman for this purpose," the SCCRC report said.
"The woman in question was the same one that he had suggested he might have met during his visit to Malta on 7 December.”

[All of this is of relevance only if the bomb started its fatal journey from Malta; and if Megrahi was the purchaser of the clothes from Tony Gauci's shop.  The evidence for each of these is extremely weak. See Lockerbie: A satisfactory process but a flawed result:

"Commentary. The trial judges held it proved that the bomb was contained in a piece of unaccompanied baggage which was transported on Air Malta flight KM 180 from Luqa to Frankfurt on 21 December 1988, and was then carried on a feeder flight to Heathrow where Pan Am flight 103 was loaded from empty. The evidence supporting the finding that there was such a piece of unaccompanied baggage was a computer printout which could be interpreted to indicate that a piece of baggage went through the particular luggage coding station at Frankfurt Airport used for baggage from KM 180, and was routed towards the feeder flight to Heathrow, at a time consistent with its having been offloaded from KM 180. Against this, the evidence from Luqa Airport in Malta (whose baggage reconciliation and security systems were proven to be, by international standards, very effective) was to the effect that there was no unaccompanied bag on that flight to Frankfurt. All luggage on that flight was accounted for. The number of bags loaded into the hold matched the number of bags checked in (and subsequently collected) by the passengers on the aircraft. The court nevertheless held it proved that there had been a piece of unaccompanied baggage on flight KM 180. (...)

"Commentary. The most that the Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, would say (either in his evidence in court or at an identification parade before the trial or in a series of nineteen police statements over the years) was that Megrahi “resembled a lot” the purchaser, a phrase which he equally used with reference to Abu Talb, one of those mentioned in the special defence of incrimination lodged on behalf of Megrahi. Gauci had also described his customer to the police as being six feet [183 cms] tall and over fifty years of age. The evidence at the trial established (i) that Megrahi is five feet eight inches [173 cms] tall and (ii) that in late 1988 he was thirty-six years of age. On this material, the judges found in fact that Megrahi was the purchaser."]


  1. If the BBC have seen this report how come the only thing they want to talk about is Megrahi having a mistress on Malta?

  2. Did he not claim before his only purpose in visiting Malta on the 20/12/88 was to buy a bannister?

  3. If the BBC really have seen this report, and this is the only element they considered sharing, then they really en route to hell in a handcart.

    Not one mention of the grounds for appeal, just a bit of Sun-style titillation and an implicit dig at how it potentially strengthened the prosecution case (with no mention of the SCCRC concerns).

    Just scandalous.

  4. Did he not claim before his only purpose in visiting Malta on the 20/12/88 was to buy a bannister?

    According to his account in the book, which tallies more or less with Marcello Mega's article in the Record some time ago, and with what was presented at trial, he said he went to Malta primarily so that Fhimah could introduce him to his business partner Vassallo. A mutual acquaintance had asked Megrahi if he could help with the pair's new business venture, MedTours, and Megrahi was intending to employ Fhimah as a co-ordinator of the Paris to Dakar rally, whose Libyan leg he was organising. Megrahi also intended to do some shopping in Malta, particularly to buy carpets for the new house he was building.

    He said that while he was meeting Vassallo in Vassallo's house he admired the wooden staircase there, and enquired about having one made in Malta for his new house. Fhimah subsequently contacted the joinery workshop on his behalf, and the workmen visited Tripoli to tender an estimate, but Megrahi rejected it as being too expensive.

  5. Megrahi's claim that he could travel to and from Malta without documentation has been in the public domain for a long time. It may be true that it weakens his alibi for 23rd November 1988, but it doesn't appreciably strengthen the Crown's case either. The Court of Appeal held that the so-called identification relied on Megrahi being provably in Sliema on 7th December. (And that in itself is a dodgy argument - if I'm in town and someone who looks like me commits a crime, then I've been positively ID'd as the perpetrator.) That's without factoring in the complete demolition of Gauci's evidence that has since occurred.

    Secondly, if Megrahi could travel to and from Malta leaving no documentary trace, why didn't he do so on 20/21 December?


    Has BBC no more ammunition for the DIRTY CAMPAIGN against Mr. Al Megrahi -- they must shoot at those nasty facts ?

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland. URL:

  7. My question is where did they get the report and how soon will we get a full investigation.

    We were told only the SCCRC had access to it, that the Crown did not have access to it nor even the Justice Minister. So where did they get it? Or is it simply not true that only the SCCRC have the report?

    While it was illegal for anyone to hand it over I'd bet it is also a major, major breach of the BBC's own code to attempt to get access to such a document, encased, as it is, in Data Protection Law.

    The other big part of their own code they have breached is the section on impartiality. We ALL know the SCCRC ultimately concluded that, sex-jaunts to Malta or not, there were SIX grounds to suggest a possible miscarriage of justice. If the BBC obtained this document illegally it would be nice to think they'd done so in the interests of justice. Given the manner in which they have selected the material released it appears however that there is a clear intention to scupper the growing calls for justice in this terrible case in which we are talking about the loss of 270 lives. The conduct of BBC Scotland is therefore utterly despicable, all the moreso when those lives were actually lost in Scotland itself.

    Ken MacQuarrie was allowed to walk away from searching questions when his mob obtained video tapes of the Sheridan police interviews even before the verdict was announced. MacQuarrie bleated then, in a defence more suited to a Sun "journalist" that he had to protect his sources, even if the sources then, the police or the crown, were themselves breaching DP laws and committing contempt of court by handing those tapes over. He cannot get away with that this time. There must be a full inquiry into how they got that report. If this report didn't come from the SCCRC then I suspect THEY will be calling for answers too.

  8. Exactly who can be allowed to see that report?

  9. Megrahi has had a copy all along. I imagine Ashton has seen that. As I understood Maggie Scott, it's only illegal for the lawyerly types to reveal the contents.

    This is leaking so bad, I don't know why someone doesn't just send it to Wikileaks and be done with it.

  10. Thanks, Rolfe.

    Jo G's posting (that crossed mine) asks all the pertinent questions.

  11. Thanks Rolfe but I was too quick off the mark and got a whole lot wrong. : (

    Matt (Berkley) provided some info on the FB Friends of JFM site which clarified for me a few things I didn't know. Matt said,

    "By "those closely concerned with the criminal case" I was referring to the people who received the report when the case was referred in 2007:

    "In accordance with the Commission’s statutory obligations, a statement of the reasons for its decision has been sent to the High Court, the applicant, his solicitor, and Crown Office." (by the SCCRC)

    Since the revelations on Monday by BBC Scotland John Ashton, the biographer, has stated he allowed access to his copy (which he used with Megrahi's permission) to the producer of the documentary BBC Scotland did. That info was shared with BBC Scotland who chose to then use selective parts for their own very odd reasons. I believe John had a written agreement about how the report was to be used and I understand he has now formally complained about the paperwork being passed to the BBC.

    I do admire John Ashton for the work he is doing however it upset him somewhat that I believed he had been naive in trusting anyone connected with the media with that report. John felt that without it there would have been no documentary.

    I'm saddened too by quotes from a BBC "spokesperson" who said it was in the public interest to release "selected abstracts" of the report. Why selected? Why not the whole lot???? Surely that would have been more in the public interest and in the interest of justice too?

    So while I now withdraw my earlier rant about carting Ken MacQuarrie off for questioning I remain utterly convinced that BBC Scotland's handling of this information breaches its own code of impartiality. There was a clear agenda here and it is shocking that Lockerbie, where 270 lives were lost, is something BBC Scotland wants to play appalling games with!