In his report on the trial, the official United Nations observer, Professor Hans Koechler described the finding of only Megrahi being guilty as ‘incomprehensible’.
As Megrahi’s legal team prepared to attempt to overturn the verdict for a second time, one last, crucial piece of evidence was finally unearthed — evidence that would almost certainly have caused the case against him to collapse had it been known at the time of the original trial.
This evidence was never heard, because Megrahi was released in August 2009 on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with prostate cancer before it was due to be presented in court.
For years, a cornerstone of the evidence of Libya’s involvement in the Lockerbie outrage — and, therefore, of Megrahi’s — was that tiny fragment of printed circuit board which had been found in one of the items of clothing bought from the Gaucis. The Americans had matched it to a small consignment of timers that had been sold to Libyan intelligence.
But exhaustive forensic tests carried out on behalf of Megrahi’s defence team proved in 2009 that although the fragment of circuit board apparently came from the bomb’s timer, it did not actually match any of the timers which had been sold to Libyan intelligence.
The Libyans had been supplied with timers whose copper circuitry was covered in an alloy of lead and tin. But the circuitry on the fragment from the Lockerbie bomb was covered only in tin.
It is a tiny difference, but a crucial one. There was now no evidence that the Lockerbie bomb had a Libyan timer.
In the event, at the original trial the judges recommended that a man they had sentenced to life imprisonment, a mass murderer who had killed 270 people, serve a minimum sentence of just 20 years. Ever since, the Megrahi team has spent years trying — successfully, I believe — to prove the Libyan was never guilty.
And while as a member of that team I accept that I may be regarded as party pris, it is surely difficult to avoid the feeling that the evidence against Megrahi was unreliable and that an innocent man had been convicted of committing the worst terrorist atrocity in British history.