Friday, 26 April 2013

Lockerbie relatives still wait for truth

[This is the headline over a letter from Dr Jim Swire published in today’s edition of The Herald.  It reads as follows:]

The aircraft wreckage from the Lockerbie bombing has been moved to Dumfries and Galloway.

I would question the probity of spending so much taxpayers' money on moving material which can add so little to the understanding of the case.

As far as I am concerned the wreckage should be recycled and the money put towards an independent inquiry into the Crown's previous performance. Having it in Scotland, not England, might encourage the realisation that it is up to Scotland to sort out the mess it has made. We must not lose sight of the fact that the bomb which caused this terrible disaster flew in over our border after being loaded at Heathrow.

It may be that this is simply a publicity exercise by the Crown Office to distract attention from the fact it will now have to answer for what I believe is its disastrous mismanagement of the inquiry and trial in the Lockerbie case.

The Justice for Megrahi group has lodged allegations of criminality against bodies and individuals involved in the Lockerbie inquiry and trial. The Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has passed the allegations to the Crown Office and through them to the Dumfries and Galloway police, with the result that Patrick Shearer, former Chief Constable of that force, now finds himself in charge of investigating them.

I have met Mr Shearer and been impressed by his integrity and impartiality. So great are the implications of these allegations for the future of Scottish criminal justice that we should all wish Mr Shearer Godspeed in investigating this ancient and tangled case. I am encouraged to believe he is a man who will seek the truth, which is the core of what we UK relatives of the dead seek. 

[In an article in today’s Scottish edition of The Sun headlined ‘The dark cloud took a long time to clear over Lockerbie... this news just brings it all back’ Dr Swire is quoted as follows:]

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora, 23, died in the bombing, claimed the wreckage may have been moved back to Scotland as a STUNT to distract from cover-up claims. The Justice for Megrahi campaign has complained to police about the Crown Office and Dumfries and Galloway cops over claims they hid evidence and perverted the course of justice in Megrahi’s trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

Dr Swire said: “My number one suspicion would be that moving the wreckage is designed to distract attention from the fact allegations have been made that Scotland has completely misled the world over this terrible case.” The Crown Office declined to comment. 

[The Scottish edition of The Times today picks up the story of the return of Pan Am 103 wreckage to Scotland. Its report (behind the paywall) contains the following:]

The Crown Office and detectives from Dumfriesshire are still investigating the case, and in February joined with the FBI to meet Libyan officials in Tripoli, but failed in their efforts to question new witnesses. (...)

Megrahi was found guilty of mass murder at a trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in 2001, but continued to protest his innnocence until his death last May. A posthumous appeal by members of his family, however, appears increasingly unlikely, with some sources suggesting that they are reluctant to antagonise the authorities in Libya by raising the case again.

[It might have been hoped that somewhere in this lengthy article, most of which simply rehearses already well-known facts, space could have been found to mention that Scottish police are currently investigating serious allegations of criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial. 

Some good sense on the wreckage removal issue is to be found in this post on Oh No! Not another Lockerbie blog...]


  1. I can only imagine that Jim Swire’s comment that the wreckage should be sold for scrap is the result of understandable anger and frustration at the lack of progress in the ‘live’ investigation.

    Because is it really a good idea to dismember and move a reassembled aircraft before the investigation is over and risk losing or contaminating vital evidence?

    Particularly when an open cargo door, rather than Heathrow ‘bomb’ is the likely cause of the crash!

  2. You didn't click on any of the links then?

    In any case, the cause of the crash is completely understood. No open cargo door was identified, but a whole bunch of things that had been close to a Semtex explosion were. Maybe one day you can pay your fiver and go see the remains in a museum. Then no doubt you will announce it's all faked anyway, since your pet theory appears to be unfalsifiable.

  3. > Particularly when an open cargo door, rather than Heathrow ‘bomb’ is the likely cause of the crash!

    A recurring deja-vue I recall from numerous times earlier just re-surfaced to me in a repeated manner, all over again!

  4. Dear Rolfe, presumably you do not object to the plane being moved because you have examined the condition of the forward cargo door!

    Was this by examining photos from the AAIB report or by looking at the reassembled aircraft before it was disassembled?

    However if you click onto the ‘Oh No, not another Lockerbie blog’ the explanations for why the plane was moved do not include a comment on the risk of moving vital evidence!

    Perhaps the contentious claim on that blog that “the cause is not in doubt”, explains such a serious omission!

  5. The thing has already been strip-mined for evidence, then crawled all over by generations of AAIB trainees. I don't think it should be sent for scrap, I think it should become a museum exhibit so that people like you could pay your fiver and go in and look at it.

  6. In other words you haven’t examined the condition of the forward cargo door?

  7. I've examined it just as thoroughly as you have.

    I have also examined the items of luggage that were in the bottom front left-hand corner of AVE4041, and that part of the container itself, and the interior of the aircraft hull at the position where that container was loaded. I have examined them in minute detail.

    Have you?

  8. The evidence for an open cargo door is the speed and way the plane disintegrated and this rational explanation can be easily verified or disproved by an examination of the forward cargo door and publicly stated in official reports.

    Except it isn’t mentioned in the AAIB report and whereas some claim this is because there is nothing to report, more enquiring minds would consider the omission worthy of investigation, if only to exclude it!

    Therefore neither I nor Rolfe knows about its condition!

    Also examining the minutiae of the blast damaged cases does provide impressive detail, but disproves the ‘bomb theory’ because these remains would not have survived the explosion.

  9. I don't suppose there's any point in suggesting you think about what you're saying? You think everything within a certain radius of an explosion is completely vaporised, while everything outside that shows no sign of blast damage at all? That's what your ludicrous argument implies.

    Some stuff close to the blast would be completely destroyed. Though closer than you seem to think because even though the temperature of the blast was very high, the flash was of very short duration. Stuff further out than that shows evidence of blast damage. That's the interesting stuff, because it reveals where the bomb suitcase was positioned within the container.

    The interesting thing about this examination is that it shows quite clearly, using the evidence the Crown itself collected and presented, that the bomb suitcase was exactly where they were desperate for it not to be. I'm rather surprised you're not interested in this. Oh wait, I'm not.

    There is absolutely no reason at all why an open door on the right side of the plane is the only possible explanation for the way the plane broke up. The real hole on the left side was perfectly adequate to the task, sadly.

  10. The contentious claim, not tested at Zeist, that a tiny bit of inflammable circuit board could survive a ‘450g semtex IED’ explosion was vital if the prosecution claim that the fragment was genuine was to be taken seriously and admitted as evidence.

    Vital because unless it could survive the fragment becomes an obvious fake!

    However now we know the fragment is a fake for other reasons, this makes the common-sense claim that no fragment could have survived the explosion more compelling!

    I know Rolfe still asserts it would survive, but until it became untenable, Rolfe also said the fragment was genuine.

  11. Dave, I'm not even talking about the bloody "timer" fragment. I'm talking about the suitcases.

    I have never asserted the timer fragment was genuine. It's just a lot more difficult to prove it was fabricated than most people seem to think. Unfortunately, a weak case for fabrication is going to get precisely nowhere with the authorities. Not much point in alleging the thing was introduced into the chain of evidence in 1990 of they have cast-iron photographic evidence of its presence in May 1989, old bean.

    Even now, all we know is that it wasn't a part of one of the 20 MST-13 timers supplied to Libya by MEBO. We don't know who made it, or why, or how it got into the chain of evidence. We don't even know for sure that it didn't fall from the sky.

    And yes, repeated test explosions have all demonstrated that it is entirely possible for a piece of fibreglass laminate to survive an explosion like that. Test after test, done by both the investigators and by experts working for the defence. Lots of tests, and all of them show that bits of the circuit board survive.

    Argument by blatant assertion of falsehoods is one of the more unsubtle logical fallacies you know.

  12. Rolfe argues that the inflammable fragment could have survived the inferno because the inferno only lasted for a short (unstated) period!

    However even if we indulge this view and agree it is possible, surely sufficient doubt remains for the defence team to have questioned this possibility and demanded an examination of the fragment!

    And an examination would have easily exposed the fragment as fake, for reasons we now know.

    Therefore for Rolfe to say he didn’t say the fragment was genuine, only that it was difficult to prove it was a fake is dissembling, because it was easy to prove the fragment was fake, if examined.

    And this fake-test applies irrespective of when or who entered it as evidence.

  13. I take it you haven't read John Ashton's book, then?

    Far better not, really. It's much easier to go on making stuff up at random if you keep yourself resolutely free from knowing the actual facts of the case.

  14. I’m sure your elusive point is well made, but please stop dissembling and speaks plainly for the benefit of other readers of this blog!

  15. All right. John Ashton in his book explains exactly what the defence did and didn't know about the metallurgy analysis of the timer fragment, and the reasoning behind their failure to challenge that part of the evidence in court.

    I can't understand why you bother to make stuff up, when the actual facts are clearly in the public domain.

    It's certainly possible for a fragment of PCB to have survived from that close to the explosion. We don't know whether that one did or didn't. All we know is that it wasn't one of the 20 MST-13 timers sold to Libya in 1986, and it appears to be a copy in which the copier used the wrong tinning process.

    However, we were originally talking about the blast-damaged suitcases, baggage container and airframe, and the evidence they provide for an explosion having occurred inside a suitcase packed in the lower angle of the overhang section of AVE4041. And the real hole this caused in the skin of the plane, which led to rapid and catastrophic disintegration.

    This evidence is real, and meticulously documented. And there is no particular reason why a real hole in the left side of the plane can't have caused the disintegration you are trying to blame on an entirely fictitious hole in the right side of the plane.

  16. Dear Rolfe you say John Ashton book explains why the defence never challenged the forensics.

    It would have been useful for you to explain these reasons because this was a terrible omission, because the fragment was an obvious fake.

    For me, because it would not have survived the explosion, but for others because there should have been sufficient doubt to demand a closer look and forensic proof!

    Maybe you are right about the suitcases, but it is odd for a genuine investigator to reject looking at the condition of the forward cargo door, when this could easily verify or disprove contrary explanations!

  17. Why don't you just buy a copy of Mr. Ashton's book and read it? Amazon has it on at £9.70 at the moment.

    You promote a wild and ridiculous theory you read on a web site somewhere, quite uncritically, but you make no attempt to read the core literature of the case. I'm fed up spoon-feeding you.

    I am right about the suitcases.

    I have no reason at all to suspect anything untoward in relation to any of the cargo doors. Perhaps you might explain why you so determinedly accuse all the AAIB inspectors of lying. What evidence do you have of this grand and improbable conspiracy? You assert that the entire AAIB report has been falsified, but you have not yet given any details of who falsified it, how they managed to do that, who ordered or commissioned them to do it, or why.

    I find this very odd. These are serious allegations, and yet all you offer are oblique hints. Sometimes I speculate about your motives for so determinedly muddying the waters, I have to say.

  18. Dear Rolfe, thank you for inviting me to read John Ashton’s book, but explaining the reason why the defence failed to forensically examine the fragment would I’m sure have been appreciated, by other readers of this blog.

    Also alas my invite for you to stop dissembling has incited you to misrepresent me regarding the content and authors of the AAIB report.

    My one point is (and sorry, but I became aware of this from reading other websites), is that the report does not include information about the condition of the forward cargo door.

    This omission should be investigated, because it could easily verify or disprove contrary explanations.

    Your unwillingness to look is revealing, when looking is an elementary part of any investigation and makes more sense than repeat visits to Libya?

  19. Don't adopt the mantle of "other readers of this blog". You're on your own here. Normal people read the literature and the evidence for themselves and don't demand to be spoon-fed.

    You seem to imply that you haven't even read the AAIB report for yourself! That is quite astonishing. The report does include information about the condition of all the recovered parts of the airliner, which is most of it.

    The AAIB report goes into a great deal of detail about the cause of the crash, which is understandable because that's what the inspectors were tasked with determining. They present a very detailed report showing how the plane disintegrated as a result of an explosion in the left forward baggage compartment penetrating the hull. VERY detailed.

    If that is not what happened, the entire report is a huge lie and a fabrication, and the entire Air Accident Investigation Branch of the Department of Transport were complicit in the lie. That is what you are suggesting, and that is what you are accusing these people of doing.

    Why would they do that? Who asked them to do it? How did they manage to force everybody who knew about it to co-operate?

  20. Oh yes, and how DARE someone who hasn't read Ashton, and hasn't read the AAIB report, and apparently hasn't read ANYTHING except one nutbar web site, accuse me of being "unwilling to look" at anything!

  21. This correspondence is now closed.