Monday, 17 June 2013

Lockerbie forensics

Two years ago today I reproduced on this blog a substantial part of a long article by physicist and former Church of Scotland minister Dr John Cameron entitled Forensic report on the Lockerbie bombing

Although it came before the devastating disclosures about the dodgy timer fragment (PT35b) in John Ashton's Megrahi: You are my Jury, the article is still well worth reading, as are the comments that it generated from Rolfe, Vronsky and Richard Marquise amongst others.


  1. There are some interesting points in that article, among the factual errors, and the one about the "canteen culture" among the forensic scientists is one of them.

    Of course what Feraday did with the metallurgy results was extremely reprehensible, but the thing that's been exercising me two years on from that article is the subjective opinion that there was another suitcase below the bomb suitcase. That wasn't just Feraday. It seems to have started with Claiden, or at least he was the first one to put pen to paper about it, but the absolute chorus of RARDE and AAIB personnel lining up to endorse that opinion is quite startling.

    It's the thing that stopped the FAI from realising that the Bedford suitcase was the bomb, back in 1991. All the evidence was there, but Feraday was "adamant" that the explosion hadn't happened inside the case on the floor of the container, so it couldn't have been that one. By Zeist, we have Feraday, Cullis, Claiden, Protheroe and possibly Peel all saying the same thing, and all giving slightly different reasons for it.

    And all of them were looking only at the condition of the floor of the container. It's pure moonshine. You can't tell anything for sure from the condition of the floor. Cullis in particular seems to think he's Mystic Meg reading someone's palm. And none of them looked at the extent of the damage to the airframe UNDER the floor of the container. Or at the pattern of damage to the two Heathrow interline cases that were sitting upright behind the bomb suitcase. (Hint, look at the damage to the bottom front corners.)

    Gross incompetence, or conspiracy? When does one become the other?

  2. Dear Rolfe, you cast doubt on the professionalism of AAIB personnel!

    Whatever next!

    Support for examining the condition of the forward cargo door that was omitted from the AAIB report?

  3. Oh for goodness sake. The forward cargo door was not omitted from the AAIB report. It had nothing to do with the crash.

  4. And yet you are unable to locate it within the report. Shameless!

  5. I know exactly where it is within the report. It had nothing to do with the crash.

  6. No you don’t and brazen assertion is a poor substitute for evidence.

  7. Ha ha, you should know, since that's all you ever do. Of course it's there, as is the left tail-fin which I keep telling you could be just as important as the cargo door.

    I thought you said you hadn't actually read the AAIB report? How about you do that, and then you'll see for yourself.

  8. Some common sense forensic questions that weren’t asked at Zeist or appeal are:

    • Are you sure this tiny bit of inflammable circuit board that could be ignited with a match would have survived a 450+ gram semtex explosion?

    • Are you sure this tiny bit of identifiable circuit board could have survived the inferno without getting singed or covered in explosive residue?

    • Has the fragment been tested for explosive residue?

  9. 1. Yes.
    2. Who says it wasn't "singed or covered in expolsive residue"?
    3. That depends on who you talk to. Mibbes aye, mibbes naw. In any case, if this was a problem, why not just rub a wee bit of PETN on it and do the freaking test?

    How are you getting on with the AAIB report? Have you found the page numbers where the forward cargo door is mentioned yet?

  10. Dear Rolfe,

    • Do you also think the fragment could have survived a 680g semtex explosion?

    • What do you think the odds are for the bit of inflammable circuit board that survived the inferno to remain identifiable because of clear markings?

    • Are you implying the defence never inspected the fragment’s condition or considered an explosive residue test necessary?

    Unless we hear from others it appears only you believe the condition of the forward cargo door is referenced in the AAIB report!

  11. You know what, you could read the report for yourself and find the references. I think it's utterly hysterical the way you pontificate about this without actually having read it. It's not even particularly long.

    It's obvious the fragment could have survived the explosion. Repeated tests by both the investigating authorities and the defence have shown that it could.

    The jury is still out on whether it did.

  12. Dear Rolfe,

    To say something could happen becomes a theoretical rather realistic statement if the chances of it happening are non-existent.

    But even if we agree the fragment could have survived the inferno, you would still expect a defence team to doubt the fragment was genuine given the extremely small chances of it surviving.

    Indeed even if the probability of it surviving was high, you would still expect the defence team to question the fragment’s authenticity, because of its significance to the trial.

    Therefore the failure to do so at Zeist and on appeal is damming.

    And for you to say the jury is still out on whether it did survive is silly because we now know the fragment is a forgery – or do you disagree?

    It is also silly for you to repeatedly avoid presenting information (you claim to have) to resolve an issue under debate.

    Presumably this is because you don’t have it or you think I am the only one who reads your comments?

  13. Dave, I think you're an idiot. I only reply to your posts so that they don't sit there apparently unchallenged.

    The defence tactics at Camp Zeist are a catalogue of failures that would fill a book. The improbability of exactly the corner of the circuit board that could be visually matched to the control item is scarcely on the radar. Their failure to challenge the metallurgy results is the main issue there.

    The AAIB report is sitting there on the internet for anyone to read who chooses to do so. I have supplied the links on a previous occasion, but it comes up on Google with no special effort required.

    You have not read it, but repeatedly claim that something isn't mentioned. It is mentioned. Twice. If you refuse to go read it for yourself, that's not my problem.

  14. Dear Rolfe,

    I have read the AAIB report and I cannot find the reference to the condition of the forward cargo door and nor can others.

    This is a pity because I would like to read it, but if you reference it, I will apologise for not finding it.

    I was made aware of this omission by reading articles by John Barry Smith who is a qualified aircraft accident investigator who says his motive is to improve aircraft safety.

    Such a motivation would explain the time, effort and research needed to produce his impressive website.

    He may be wrong, but his explanation can be easily tested by an examination of the condition of the forward cargo door.

    You say it has been tested and is referenced in the AAIB report, but refuse to say exactly where in the report.

    And sorry, but only providing a link to the report itself is a cop out!

    PS. Is “scarcely on the radar” the same as “could”?

  15. I don't believe you. You've said previously that you hadn't read the report. If you had read it, you would see the two places where that door is mentioned. You would also see all the evidence that the fatal defect in the plane's structure, which led to the crash, was on the other side of the hull from the cargo door in question.

    John Barry Smith is unquestionably wrong. There is an absolute shedload of evidence that an explosive device, a home-made bomb, whatever you want to call it, went off inside a piece of luggage in baggage container AVE4041, and that caused the crash. The internet is full of photographs of the damaged container and suitcases, and old newspapers are full of reports of that stuff being found in the last week of 1988.

    You're on fantasy island with your "cargo door" nonsense.

  16. Dear Rolfe,

    I never said I hadn’t read it, I just said it wasn’t necessary to read all of a technical report before commenting on part of it, particularly if that part isn’t in it!

    Therefore instead of digging a bigger hole, just be honest and say “the condition of the cargo door isn’t referenced in the report but hey so what, because it had nothing to do with the crash”.

    Except you don’t want to say this, because if it isn’t in the report then it would become a good idea to examine it.

    But you don’t want this to happen in case it pushes your pet theory off its perch!

    So you pretend it is in the report, but won’t say where?

    But if you do I promise to apologise for not finding it.

  17. Oh for goodness sake, do you want me to wipe your backside for you too?

    Start with figure B-20.

  18. Dear Rolfe,

    You say “Start with figure B-20”!

    Are you referring to a picture of explosive damage on the right hand side?

    (Appendix figure B-20 Explosive damage - right side)

    Presumably you think this is relevant, but where next, because the contents do not list the forward cargo door?

    Perhaps you meant to say ‘start and finish with B-20’? If not, please elaborate.

    Thanking you in anticipation.

  19. Are you being deliberately obtuse, or does it just come naturally? I mean, you have looked at figure B-20, have you?

  20. Yes, a pencil line drawing that includes the words cargo door?

  21. The cargo door is specifically referenced on several drawings and schematics, and its condition made perfectly clear.

    What do you want? A specific note saying, hey Dave, this had nothing to do with the crash? On every single piece that had nothing to do with the crash?

    Look at the next diagram. It's even more obvious on that.

  22. Dear Rolfe,

    If you went for a medical examination and the doctor took a photo of you and said come back in a few days for an opinion, would you be satisfied?

    The following is from John Barry Smith’s Public Address:

    “PA 103 AAIB report is silent too but does state aft and bulk doors were locked but is mute on latch status of forward cargo door.

    What shall we assume is the ten latch status of the unreported forward cargo door?

    If same as latched it would have been reported like other two reported as latched, so assumption can be made the forward cargo door was unlatched and unreported.

    The dilemma can be easily resolved by an examination of the latches of the forward cargo door of PA 103 in the wreckage reconstruction at Farnborough.

    Could a US aviation official ask UK AAIB for that information?”

    Rolfe do you think this is a fair question to ask before the wreckage is dissembled and moved?

  23. Whoosh go the goal posts. You have spent many months declaring that the forward cargo door was not referenced in the AAIB report. You were of course wrong.

    Now you change your argument completely, to an assertion that the report should have stated that the door was latched. Once one claim of your is disproved, you move on to another with no embarrassment at all, it seems.

    Look at figure B-21. Why would you expect it would be possible to tell whether or not the forward cargo door was latched, when it was on a part of the plane that came apart?

    It is extremely clear from B-21 that the fuselage rupture occurred some distance from the door, on the other side of the aircraft. However, I see no reason why one would expect to find that door actually latched.

    Why don't you just admit there's nothing will shake you from your fantasy, and you'll just assert that the entire AAIB report is a fabrication because it doesn't support you.

    It's of no importance whether or not the door could be seen to be latched. The damage was elsewhere, and can clearly be seen to be elsewhere. The condition of the door is adequately documented, in exactly as much detail as you'd expect for something which was in the general area of the explosion, but not actually involved in it.

    Does John Barry Smith pay you to promote his delusions?

  24. Dear Rolfe,

    A pencil line picture may be good enough for you, but I don't think a qualified aircraft accident investigator would suggest examining the latch status of a cargo door, if such an examination was pointless?

  25. There are ant number of drawings showing that cargo door. It's just one of any number of structures that were in the general region of the petalled section, but not involved in the petalling.

    You said the report didn't mention the cargo door. It does. Now you say it doesn't say what you wanted it to say. Well tough. The diagrams are extremely clear. Get over it.

  26. Dear Rolfe,

    A pencil line drawing and the words 'cargo door' do not reference the door’s condition as you claim, but only show its location on the plane.

    Have you any text you can add to your drawing to assist readers?

  27. How would you know it's drawn in pencil, and why does the medium matter?

    The diagrams in the AAIB report are not only comprehensive, they are the meat of the report, showing as they do the detail of the fracture lines and the distribution of the damage far better than can be described in words. The cargo door appears in multiple diagrams, always shown as being recovered intact. The pattern of fracture lines (figure B-21) is even more revealing, as it shows that the breakup of the plane originated on the other side of the fuselage from the door you're so obsessed by. The fracture lines around the door show that is wasn't the centre of the break-up.

    You said the cargo door wasn't mentioned in the report, I showed that it is. You now complain it doesn't say what you want it to say. What it does say is "every picture tells a story", and the story these pictures tell is of the hull being penetrated on the port side.

    John Barry Smith is delusional. Get over it.

  28. This thread is now closed.