Thursday, 31 May 2012

Justice short-circuited

[This is the headline over an article in the current issue of Private Eye.  The following text is taken from John Ashton’s Megrahi: You are my Jury website:]

The new edition of Private Eye carries the following article under the headline Justice short-circuited. The newly-revealed document to which it refers can be read here.

For 19 years prosecutors and investigators kept secret a detailed report about the most important forensic evidence recovered from the debris of Pan Am 103 at Lockerbie – a fragment of timing device circuit board – which completely undermined their own case against Abdelbasset al-Megrahi.  

That such crucial material, obtained by the Eye,  was never disclosed before the Libyan was convicted of the worst terrorist atrocity on UK soil,  should in itself be sufficient grounds for a public inquiry of itself. Added to the wealth of other evidence concealed from his trial (Eyes passim)  the deeply flawed identification evidence “linking”  Megrahi to the  bombing, the use of a discredited Walter Mitty-type FBI informer as a “star witness”, and the fact that other material in the case still remains secret protected by “public interest immunity”, the stench of cover-up becomes overwhelming.

The 11-page document is a detailed summary of the forensic analysis of the circuit board, which reveals that police and experts were well aware, relatively early in the investigation, that there was something “very unusual” about the board. They had found that tracks on it were coated with pure tin, whereas the vast majority in manufacture have a tin/lead mix. This was a significant lead.

“Without exception it is the view of all experts involved in the PCB [printed circuit board] industry who have assisted with this enquiry that the tin application on the tracks of the circuit was by far the most interesting feature”, said the police report.

Scandalously this was never revealed at Megrahi’s trial and not disclosed to his defence lawyers until 2009 – a month before he was freed from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds to return to Libya, where he recently died.   

The Crown’s case against Megrahi regarding the circuit board was always the opposite: namely, that the fragment was identical to circuit boards used in timers that were supplied to Libya by a Swiss company Mebo.  But these were not remotely “unusual” as they had the common tin/lead mix.

Earlier this year writer and researcher John Ashton in his book,  Megrahi: You are my Jury, revealed how the government scientist, Allen Feraday, who had told the trial that the circuit fragment was “similar in all respects” to the Mebo devices,  had, in fact, overseen tests on the fragment and a control sample circuit board, (revealed in recently disclosed notebooks) which pointed up the differences between the two.

As this new document shows, the significance of such findings was known more widely. This raises questions about why the evidence remained buried for years and who exactly knew the Mebo timers were different.

The piece of board was discovered among parts of a man’s shirt recovered from the crash site. The shirt was in turn traced back to Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper, who put Megrahi in the frame three years after the bombing, saying he resembled the man who had bought the clothing. (As Eye readers know Megrahi bore no resemblance to the man first described by Gauci to investigators, and it later emerged that the shopkeeper and his brother were handsomely “rewarded” by the FBI.)

The new material coupled, and the doubts about the veracity of the Gauci evidence, undermine the two main pillars of Megrahi’s conviction. And while the Libyans were not averse to state-sponsored acts of terrorism at the time of the bombing in 1988, it remains the case – as the late Paul Foot pointed out in an Eye special report, Lockerbie: The Flight from Justice, in 2001 -  that the attack bore the hallmarks of a Syrian-backed Palestinian terrorist cell which had been caught red-handed with devices equipped to bring down planes.

The excuse for not holding a public inquiry is because the criminal investigation is continuing.  So far investigators only seem to have travelled to Libya – no doubt to see if they can obtain new evidence that might somehow prop up the crumbling conviction. 


  1. Very interesting. Is the date "3.9.90" March or September?

    It is true that "the attack bore the hallmarks of a Syrian-backed Palestinian terrorist cell which had been caught red-handed with devices equipped to bring down planes."

    Indeed there was a recent interview with the man I suspect to be the "mastermind" of the Lockerbie bombing on the telly last night!

  2. The fact that the document is from one Scottish police officer to another Scottish police officer suggests that the UK convention of day/month/year is being used. Another date in the body of the document is in this format.

  3. There's also a handwritten note on the top that seems to say ".... [up?]dated 6/3/90", which I would have thought was a bit of a dead giveaway.

  4. Hmmm, it's a pity these comments can't be edited. Anyway, the filename of the document is

    That's right, Sept-3rd-1990

  5. Rolfe, I'd frankly be amazed if a Scottish police officer used the American dating convention in a memo to the Scottish SIO. All of the dates within the document conform to the UK convention. I think the person who pdf'd the memo got it wrong. Though I'm at a loss to explain the handwritten annotation.

  6. Sorry, Prof, I was typing too fast and confused myself. I also thought it was September, just as the typed date seemed to suggest, and as the file name states. I agree the hand-written annotation is an anomaly.

    Can I go out and come in again?

    This document is very strange for September 1990. In June 1990 the fragment in question was matched to the MEBO MST-13 PCB by Tom Thurman. This document seems to be written from the point of view that the thing is still unidentified.

    There are several examinations recorded in the document with dates which are later than 3rd March 1990, which effectively rules out the possibility the document was written on that date. Nevertheless the latest date I can see in the text is 23rd May 1990, which is still some weeks prior to Thurman's revelation.

    It may be that the document is some sort of retrospective, to demonstrate the lengths the Scottish police went to to try to ID the fragment. Logically, it seems to have been written in early June 1990!

  7. Re the US dating...
    Maybe the document passed through the hands of US officialdom at some stage? Now, why might that be?
    Interesting that it has American fingerprints on it.

  8. Also, on page 8 of the memo, the quoted date ‘23rd May 1990’ (paragraph headed ‘Further Evaluation Production PT35’) seems to confirm that the date in the heading would imply September rather than March.

  9. Sorry, Rolfe. My last comment was posted before I'd seen your later ones.

  10. The 2 main pillars of Megrahi’s conviction, his identification and the piece of circuit board, have been debunked!

    Yes, but the main pillar of Megrahi’s defence, which was never used, is there would not be any clothing to identify, or any identifiable clothing, if as alleged, the clothing in question had been wrapped around a bomb that destroyed a Boeing 747 in 3 seconds!

    Imagine, do you recognise this bit of torn and burnt collar and the person who bought it, some years ago?

    The whole trial and conviction falls on this elementary point alone.

    I know this has led some people to blame a ‘Syrian backed Palestinian group funded by Iran’, but this is another flight of fancy, encouraged by the CIA.

    Instead if you doubt who did it, why not what caused it and cross-examine the AAIB.

    See websites: Lockerbie No Bomb and Boeing 747 Pan Am 103 not brought down by bomb explanation.

  11. The document is a bit confusing and seems to be incomplete. Perhaps it was never submitted. The document is odd as it isn't signed, it just seems to peter out.

    When did Stuart Henderson succeed John Orr? Was Stuart Henderson a Chief Superintendent?

    It may be that the examination at Ferranti was not on the 23rd May as there seems a big gap from any earlier date - I cannot see any date in April.

    My sighting of "The Lockerbie Bomber" was a bit of a shock. I had been aware of his identity for some time (about 16 years) but I had never seen his face. There was this talking head on TV for a few seconds and then his name was displayed. I was gobsmacked!

  12. The document is a bit odd as it isn't signed and is a bit difficult to follow. Numbered paragraphs may have helped.

    I suggest the date "23rd May 1990" may be wrong but clearly the document itself is less important than the evidence of the various witnesses.

    Perhaps the document was started on the 9th March 1990 and was draft or a work in progress.

    It was quite a shock to see the man responsible for the Lockerbie bombing on TV. While I have been aware of his ID for some 16 years I have never actually seen his face before. There was this talking head on the box and then his name popped onto the screen. I was gobsmacked. The point is he is (at least until very recently) alive and well and very lucid.

  13. Oh come on Baz, you've been smart about a lot of things, but then been so obscure about it all that nobody noticed. How about at least telling us when and where this "talking head" made its appearance?