Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Police investigations in Lockerbie case "moved very quickly away from Heathrow"

[What follows is an article by Ian Ferguson headed Confidential memo discloses reason police suspected PFLP-GC published in August 2000 on TheLockerbieTrial.com, a website that he and I edited:]

It is not expected that Heathrow Airport will take up much time in the presentation of the Crown case.

Police investigations in this case moved very quickly away from Heathrow and focused on Frankfurt instead.

As early as twelve weeks after it was established that a bomb had brought down Pan Am 103, Detective Chief Superintendent John Orr, the senior investigating officer was briefing his colleagues in the FBI and the German BKA and told them on 28 March 1989: "To date 14 pieces of explosive damaged baggage have been recovered and enquiries to date suggest that on the balance of probability the explosive device was likely to be amongst the Frankfurt passengers baggage items. Of all the currently identified explosive damaged baggage, all but one item originated from Frankfurt."

This extract is from a "confidential" report of the Lockerbie Incident Investigation: International Co-ordination Meeting held on 28 March 1989 and obtained by us.

The report is illuminating and describes in detail how John Orr told the meeting of the "evidential connection between the murder of 270 persons at Lockerbie and activities of the PFLP-GC in Germany."

He went on, "There were a number of important factors to be considered including: the history of this organisation (PFLP-GC); the fact that a Toshiba make radio cassette recorder packed with 300 gramms of Semtex Explosive was found in West Germany; at least one hard-shell suitcase, possibly Samsonite, was traced to a member of the PFLP-GC in West Germany in October 1988; previous conduct of this organisation which makes clear that the group is prepared to make repeated attacks on similar targets with identical Modus Operandi."

Despite the very early stages of the investigation it is clear from these extracts that Heathrow had taken second place to Frankfurt and at this stage Malta was nowhere in the picture.

It is interesting though that then Detective Chief Superintendent Orr, now Chief Constable Orr, chose to describe the modus operandi of the PFLP-GC as being "identical" to that which blew up Pan Am 103.

A number of police officers, including some who worked at Heathrow, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told us that they felt the investigation at Heathrow was not an in-depth investigation and one even described it as being "cursory".

Whatever the depth of the Heathrow investigation the extracts of the confidential report above show that the investigators were heavily leaning towards the PFLP-GC and Frankfurt airport.

At the time of the bombing, the terminal for Iran Air, the national airline of Iran was situated next to Pan Am's terminal at Heathrow. Iran is alleged to have been one of the financial sponsors of the PFLP-GC in the 80s.

It is also very surprising that the Crown have not called Chief Constable John Orr to testify at Camp Zeist considering that, at the time, he was the senior detective and effectively in charge of the Lockerbie investigation.


  1. Bang on Ian! The rot began with Orr.


  2. Earlier than Ian described though. Where did the Times get its hogmanay story that the bomb wasn't loaded at Heathrow? Mr. Orr I would imagine.

    Who decided not to follow up John Bedford's January statement about having seen a brown Samsonite hardshell in the container an hour before the connecting flight landed, even as the forensics guys were reporting that the bomb had been in a brown hardshell (soon identified as a Samsonite)?

    Who decided to file Ray Manly's statement away in February as being of no interest to the inquiry, and not even re-interview him?

    All that happened well before the March meeting.

    At the meeting he seemed to imply that as most of the blast-damaged cases were from the Frankfurt flight, then the bomb suitcase was probably from the Frankfurt flight too. Two problems with that. One that most of the cases in that corner were from Frankfurt anyway - not many Heathrow cases were in the line of fire. And two, if Frankfurt cases were disproportionately represented in the blast-damaged group, that actually suggests the bomb suitcase was more likely to be a Heathrow one, to even up the numbers.

    For me, the big question is, was he simply so blinkered and incompetent that he jumped to a wrong conclusion and wouldn't let it go, or was someone telling him that Heathrow had to be protected.

    Considering how much forensic evidence there was showing that the bomb was the case Bedford described, and that was all missed/ignored/misinterpreted, you have to wonder if someone was orchestrating this.

  3. "...enquiries to date suggest that on the balance of probability the explosive device was likely to be amongst the Frankfurt passengers baggage items. Of all the currently identified explosive damaged baggage, all but one item originated from Frankfurt."

    When the SIO explains it in such terms, indeed you must wonder, since this conclusion flies in the face of the evidence, we now know, provided during the nascent stages of the investigation. They knew there was at least 6 or 7 bags in AVE4041 that were Heathrow origin. They knew there should have been only 6 legitimate items in that container. They knew the location of the explosion, and with the fact that several Frankfurt origin baggage had exhibited explosive damage was inevitable accepting the aggregation of luggage contained in AVE4041. However, by the same token, the lack of conclusive identification of Heathrow origin bags implies an even more intimate position in relation to the explosive device.

    Contradicting that statement made, the baggage identified and location of explosion, in reality suggested 'a bag' in close proximity, perhaps closer, to the explosion than that of the Frankfurt baggage which, unlike the Heathrow bags, have been identified.

    And of course, they also knew about Bedford's mysteriously arriving suitcase and its suspicious introduction into 4041. Which, they also knew, matched every characteristic of the Samsonite bomb bag. And they knew it was last seen within inches explosion.

    Balance of probabilities? Well, yes, if you discard 100% of the evidence actually known about.

  4. It is my belief that John Orr deliberately steered to investigation away from Heathrow from the very earliest days of the inquiry. That Times article which must have been written on 30th December didn't come out of nowhere. It has a startling amount of detail on the methodologies of the PFLP-GC as well as the headline that the bomb came from Frankfurt and not Heathrow.

    It takes a very special sort of stupid to receive Bedford's 9th January statement describing a brown Samsonite hardshell in the container in the interline shed at Heathrow, and reports (the same month) from the forensic scientists that the bomb had been in a brown Samsonite hardshell, and do NOTHING to connect the two. I mean, Bedford described two suitcases which appeared while he was on his break, and then concentrated on "one of them", which he described in detail. The one on the left was in the correct position to have been the bomb, the one on the right wasn't. Nobody even asked him which of the two cases he was referring to as a brown Samsonite hardshell. (Only at the FAI, in October 1990, did he answer that he was talking about the one on the left.)

    On 2nd February 1989 Ray Manly's statement was received at Lockerbie. It was entered into HOLMES and filed away as being of no interest whatesoever to the inquiry. In other words, Heathrow had already been discounted as early as that.

    The "nonsense on stilts" at the March meeting about most of the damaged luggage being from Frankfurt so probably the bomb suitcase was too, has more than a whiff of deliberate obfuscation about it. Are we really supposed to believe that a senior detective heading an inquiry of this magnitude is that stupid? But who would dare contradict him?

    And there's something else too, a little oddity. Back in March I was discussing the case on Twitter in general terms, when a new participant suddenly entered the conversation. This was a Twitter user called @CurlinStane. He had an avatar of a curling stone, partially obscured by a large blue "Yes" twibbon. His profile said he lived in Milngavie and he appeared to be active in Yes Bearsden and Milngavie.

    He stated, right out of left field, that at the "first meeting" of the senior detectives getting ready to tackle the case (this meeting seems to have been in Lockerbie on 22nd December), John Orr informed the team that "it is politically unacceptable for this to have been a bomb."

    He went on to say that Orr had refused to allow the "explosives expert" (whose name he didn't know) to show the searchers what Semtex-damaged aluminium looked like. The expert had to take the leaders of the search teams aside privately and show them what to look for.

    This conversation was short, and @CurlinStane disappeared. I soon discovered that not only had be deleted all the tweets fairly quickly after he'd sent them, he'd blocked me so I couldn't contact him again. Even more confusingly, when I tried to check up on him again yesterday, I discovered that the entire Twitter account has been deleted. The last evidence of anyone tweeting to him is in early June.

    This could be another fruitloop in the same mould as the Golfer. On the other hand he might be on the level, I don't know. What is certain is that it was always going to be impossible to conceal the fact that an IED brought down that plane. The evidence was way too strong, and the first piece of Semtex-damaged aluminium was brought in by a search team on 24th December, only two days after the meeting.

    However, if Orr really was prepared to try to conceal the presence of a bomb on the plane, for political reasons, it's not much a a stretch to imagine that he would also have been prepared to conceal evidence of Heathrow culpability in the security lapse, once the fact of the bomb had to be conceded. (1/2)

  5. (2/2)It wasn't just Orr, though. Parallel with his ignoring of the Heathrow baggage evidence, we see the forensics officers unite as one to declare that the explosion had not been in the suitcase on the floor of the container. This wasn't just the RARDE experts (principally Feraday, but also Cullis and Hayes), but also the AAIB inspectors, principally Claiden and Protheroe. The first report containing this opinion was written by Peter Claiden and is dated April 1989.

    Now, the explosion WAS in the suitcase on the floor of the container. That's incontrovertible, once you realise where PK/139 was positioned within the container. (Nobody even mentions PK/139 in any of the reports. It's just sitting there is a composite photo, mutely screaming "look at me", and nobody paid the slightest attention to it.) And PK/139 is just the single most blindingly obvious piece of evidence - multiple strands of evidence reinforce each other to show that there was no suitcase below the bomb suitcase.

    So how come we have about six investigators from two different institutes, who were officially working separately on the case, lining up to ignore the bleedin' obvious, and declare a mystic knowledge that the recovered floor of the container would have looked different if the bomb had been in the bottom suitcase?

    Not once in any of their reports is there any acknowledgement that the case on the bottom was from Heathrow, while the case on the second layer was from Frankfurt. All that vehemence to exclude the bottom case, and they don't even seem to know that by doing this they are absolving Heathrow. And yet, why bother making the distinction in the first place unless you know that the two cases have different provenances?

    So, at the same time Orr was ignoring Bedford, Feraday and assorted hangers-on were insisting that the case in the position of the one Bedford saw wasn't the bomb. Quite independently of course. And equally in defiance of the evidence in front of them.

    I think Orr probably used this forensic opinion later to justify ignoring the Bedford case, but that's retrosopective, as he was ignoring it well before the opinion was reported.

    So, if Orr was acting on instructions from on high, it seems quite plausible that someone in the forensics team (probably Feraday) was also receiving instructions to interpret the evidence in a way that would deflect from Heathrow. (I suspect Claiden's April 1989 report might have had a wee nudge from Feraday, although at the FAI he was at some pains to declare that the two teams who were examining the wreckage together - and probably eating lunch together and so on - didn't communicate at all.)

    So, was one agency directing both Orr and Feraday in this? Seems likely. All to prevent BAA and Heathrow from being culpable in the loss of 270 lives, and to hell with whether the actual bombers wer caught or not. So who?

    Who privatised BAA in 1986? Who wrote stuff in her memoirs which pretty clearly indicated she knew full well that Gaddafi had not been behind the Lockerbie bombing?

  6. The former Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, Patrick Shearer, contended that Patricia Coyle's case went down as well as up despite the fact that the only forensic evidence pertaining to that particular item was only located above that of the brown, hardshell Samsonite, and no remnants from it were discovered on the floor of AVE4041 or on the deck of the hold.

    Thankfully, Sir Stephen House recognises two things about JFM. 1: We are not going to go away. 2: We know what we are talking about, and that for COPFS to get out of this one, the Lord Advocate is going to have to prove his cred as a circus contortionist remarkable distinction!

    I am not a conspiracy theorist, I like case-hardened evidence. I have expelled certain individuals from JFM for abusing their position with us in order to indulge in their wild and exotic extravagances. Nevertheless, many moons ago certain members of our committee did discuss the possibility that what with Heathrow's earlier flagship privatisation, it might not be beyond the bounds of 'probability' that there may have been an imperative to deflect attention from Bedford et al in order to avoid any inconveniences with Thatcher's further privatisation plans.

    Just a passing thought.


  7. Well, I'm speculating as to motive. However, I have an extremely strong sense of both arms of the investigation (police and forensics) being separately pressurised to deliver opinions that absolved the Bedford case. And it seems only logical that the same person or body was pressurising both groups.

    I very much doubt if there was any US influence in this area at all. I think the Americans were frying entirely different fish. It smells home-grown to me. So, I go figure.

    I think the Americans wanted to blame Libya and Gaddafi, but if it had been proved to have been the PFLP-GC they'd have had to accept that. At first the evidence pointing to the PFLP-GC appeared overwhelming, and they seem to have conceded the point. However, nobody could find any connection between the PFLP-GC and KM180 at Malta.

    If you're looking for the right culprit in the wrong place, you're doomed to fail. The police failed, but never considered that was because they were looking in the wrong place. They ran into the sand. Which was a convenient moment for the US authorities to step in and resurrect the idea that maybe they should all have been looking for Libyans not Palestinians, and maybe if they investigated this Libyan guy they'd find something.

    This is the point where my head starts to explode.

  8. Patrick Shearer, in my opinion, behaved disgracefully. He was tasked with investigating JFM's allegations, and instead of doing that with an open mind, he trawled the evidence to find anomalous isolated points he could cherry-pick and spin in order to dismiss what JFM were saying.

    As an example, although Amarjit Sidhu was consistent throughout several police statements and then in the witness box at the FAI that he didn't move the case Bedford saw, there was one moment at the FAI when he was badgered or bamboozled into saying that he didn't remember and maybe. Shortly after that he reverted to "there was no reason to move that case, that's why I'm telling you I didn't move it." Shearer pulled out that one moment of confusion and declared categorically "Sidhu confirmed at the FAI that he did move that case."

    The most shocking thing, as Robert says, was his dismissal of the suitcase jigsaw evidence. He held the paper describing that evidence and the inevitable conclusions from it in his hand, and said he'd read it with very great interest. That of course included the whole story of PK/139 and all the rest of the evidence that there was no suitcase underneath the bomb suitcase. It also included the description of Mr. Schauble's suitcase, with the deposits showing it was on top of the Coyle suitcase. This is the absolute clincher that the Coyle case wasn't on the floor of the container. But after saying he read all that with interest, he continued to speak of the bomb suitcase having been in the second layer of luggage.

    In some exasperation, I finally asked him, "if you're still saying the bomb was in the second layer, which suitcase was underneath it?" (Of course, there is no candidate for the under-the-bomb position, either among the cases known to have been loaded in the interline shed, or among the blast-damaged luggage recovered on the ground.)

    He repolied, "the blue Tourister" (that is the Coyle case).

    I have to say at that moment I felt like emigrating to a country with an honest police force - if there is such a thing on the planet. However, Mr. Shearer has since retired, no doubt on the sort of pension those of us still working with our bus passes in our pockets can only dream about. And his successors seem to be made of quite different stuff.

  9. My, Rolfe, you are on a roll today. On holiday perchance?

    We've nailed this to The Cross in the space of under six years. It has taken the police, the government, the judiciary, RARDE,and, particularly COPFS 25 years to prevaricate, obfuscate and brush this under the carpet. Like I suggested earlier, Mulholland is going to have prove himself to be an Olympian gymnast to get out of this now.


  10. Strangely enough, I actually see the police, with one or two exceptions, as victims in this.


  11. You want a conspiracy theory? Offered without warranty of any kind?

    The US authorities wanted to pin Lockerbie on Gaddafi pretty much the minute the plane hit the ground. Reagan threatened to bomb Libya in retaliation just a couple of days later. A week or three after all the papers started blaming Iran, Herr Ebol of this parish wrote a letter in which he pointed the blame at Libya. He says a mysterious stranger who is generally identified as a CIA agent told him to do it.

    However, thanks to Autumn Leaves, police attention turned very quickly to the PFLP-GC. Autumn Leaves was the BKA doing their job rather well, and it's a pity they didn't keep up that standard. Without their prior uncovering of what the PFLP-GC were up to, it's quite likely Reagan's initial mud-slinging at Libya would have stuck.

    So the Yanks had to give up on Gaddafi at that point. There was literally nothing to point the finger at him and a shedload of reasons to incriminate Jibril's gang.

    Except. There were two or three things lurking undiscovered in the chain of evidence that would point to Libya, in due course. Most obviously, PT/35b, which kind of seems really to have been there on Hayes's lab bench in May 1989 and might even have been in that scrap of collar that was logged into Dextar on 17th January. Second, there was Tony Gauci, innocently living his life in Sliema, but with the information in his head that someone he believed to be Libyan had bought some clothes from him some time in the late autumn of 1988. And third, maybe, was the radio manual pointing to a model that had been supplied in bulk to Libya in October 1988. These things existed, but apart from the radio manual which wasn't a smoking gun anyway, they weren't known about.

    Even the uncovering of Tony Gauci's evidence in September 1989 wasn't enough to tip the investigation towards Libya, in the face of all the evidence from Neuss. The cops thought they'd struck paydirt in the spurious red-herring lead to KM180 and Malta, but at that time they had no reason to revise their belief that the PFLP-GC were the culprits. There was even a cell of the buggers on Malta!

    It took another year of fruitless investigation on Malta before they were stymied. How had that bomb got on to that plane, and who had done it? They didn't have a clue. The paperwork was tighter than the proverbial duck's arse. Worse, nobody with any connection to the Malta PFLP-GC had been anywhere near the airport that day or even so much as stepped on a crack in the pavement as far as they could discover.

    Then, finally, the third and best Libya clue emerged from the morass. Thurman finally got his hands on PT/35b and took it to Orkin and the rest is history. By the autumn of 1990 the press were being primed that all this Iran stuff had been a mistake. A bum rap. Libya was back in the presidential sights.

    In January 1991 an FBI agent gave Harry Bell two photos of Megrahi and said, see if you can pin something on this guy. Harry Bell proceeded to arrange a joke of a photo-identity parade that resulted in Gauci sort of agreeing that one of Megrahi's pictures might have been the clothes purchaser. And so on.

    But what about the other photo, the better-quality photo, the one Bell didn't use for the photospread? We don't know where the FBI got that, but it was a different print of the same photo Megrahi had used for the coded passport in the name of Abdusamad. But this print was known to be Megrahi. 1/2

  12. 2/2 The FBI seem to have known Megrahi was Abdusamad, but they didn't tell the Scottish cops. Finally they suggested the cops might like to see if there was some connection between the "two" men. Of course, the airport records clearly showed that Abdusamad had been in the airport at the time KM180 was boarding. I almost kind of feel this was somthing the US side of the investigation knew all along, but wanted the Scottish police to find out for themselves. So they prodded them in the right direction.

    Megrahi was framed, by Harry Bell and others, from January 1991. There's no doubt at all about that. But when did the exercise to put in place the evidence that was used to frame him actually begin?

    As soon as the plane went down?

    Before the plane went down?

    No, I really don't mean most of this. It's brainstorming and speculation. It's also one-sided, as I could also do you quite a good essay on why it's bloody unlikely this was all masterminded. Starting with, surely it would all have been a bit less incompetent if it had been purposefully planned.

    It's something I keep in the back of my mind though.

  13. Love ya! If that is not an inappropriate thing to say on this blogspot.