Monday, 22 June 2015

Ulrich Lumpert and the MEBO circuit board

[According to his affidavit dated 18 July 2007, it was on 22 June 1989 that MEBO employee Ulrich Lumpert handed over the MST-13 circuit board from which fragment PT/35(b) derived “to a person who was an official investigator in the Lockerbie case”. An English translation of this German-language affidavit can be read here. At the time that this affidavit became public knowledge, I commented as follows:]

Ulrich Lumpert, an engineer at one time employed by MEBO in Zurich, gave evidence at the Lockerbie trial that a fragment of circuit board allegedly found amongst the aircraft debris (and which was absolutely crucial to the prosecution contention that the bomb which destroyed Pan Am 103 was linked to Libya) was part of an operative MST-13 timer manufactured by MEBO. In an affidavit sworn in Switzerland in July 2007 (available on the website Lumpert now states that the fragment produced in court was in fact part of a non-operational demonstration circuit board that he himself had removed from the premises of MEBO and had handed over to a Lockerbie investigator on 22 June 1989 (six months AFTER the destruction of Pan Am 103).

If this is true, then it totally demolishes the prosecution version of how the aircraft was destroyed, as well, of course, as demonstrating deliberate fabrication of evidence laid before the court. 

At the forthcoming appeal resulting from the SCCRC’s report on the Megrahi conviction, will the appeal court have an opportunity to assess the truth of Lumpert’s revised version of events? The hurdles are formidable. Section 106 (3C) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 provides that an appeal may not be founded upon evidence from a witness at the original trial which is different from, or additional to, the evidence that he gave at that trial, unless there is a reasonable explanation as to why the new evidence was not given by him at the original trial and that explanation is itself supported by independent evidence. In this context “independent evidence” means evidence which was not heard at the original trial; which comes from a source other than the witness himself; and which is accepted by the appeal court as credible and reliable. It might well be extremely difficult to convince a court that these conditions were satisfied in Lumpert’s case.


  1. DOSSIER LOCKERBIE, 2015, (google translation, German/English):

    In this "complex" has been running since January 2015, a proceedings before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona. The complainants Edwin Bollier & MEBO Ltd expect an opinion for a criminal investigation - against a known member of the Swiss Intelligence Service (NDB) and against unknown officials - in the next few weeks - (regarding unauthorized taking and passing an MST-13 timer board).

    A beginning of a criminal investigation in Switzerland, opened the potentiality that the legal assistance agreements may be between Switzerland and Scotland, used to bring the truth to light.

    In diesem "Komplex" läuft seit Januar 2015, ein Verfahren beim Schweizerischen Bundesstrafgericht in Bellinzona. Der Beschwerde Führer, Edwin Bollier & MEBO Ltd, erwarten eine Stellungsnahme für eine Strafuntersuchung gegen einen bekannten Mitarbeiter des schweizerischen Nachrichtendienstes (NDB) und gegen unbekannte Offiziellen, in den nächsten Wochen - (betreffend unerlaubte in Besitznahme und Weitergabe eines MST-13 Timer Platine).

    Eine an die Hand genommene Strafuntersuchung in der Schweiz, eröffnet die Potenzialität, dass das Rechtshilfe- Abkommen, zwischen Schweiz und Scotland, benützt werden kann um die Wahrheit an den Tag zu bringen.

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd Telecommunication Switzerland. Webpage:

  2. "The hurdles are formidable. Section 106 (3C) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 provides that an appeal may not be founded upon evidence from a witness at the original trial which is different from, or additional to, the evidence that he gave at that trial, unless there is a reasonable explanation as to why the new evidence was not given by him at the original trial and that explanation is itself supported by independent evidence."

    Usually the laws themselves are very reasonable, and this is no exception.

    One more reason that perjury is a most despicable crime.
    In cases where a deliberately false testimony (or a false report) may convict an innocent of a criminal offence the penalty should be comparable to the one that the convicted would have gotten.

    The Wikipedia-page about perjury contained a few surprises.
    One was, that the term perjury only applies to statements relevant to the verdict.
    I don't see a good reason why this exception should be made. Tell the truth in court, period.

    While it is easy to sit with a feeling that Lumpert just might be telling the truth this time, the feeling is really nothing more than standard confirmation bias. It would be a clear mistake to regard it as having much value, and I believe that JfM sees it the same way.

    JfM can well afford it, so the necessity for clutching at straws can be generously left to 'the crown'.

    1. The recent judgement in the Andy Coulson case confirmed that lying in court isn't perjury as such if it has no bearing on the verdict.

    2. "After two days of legal submissions last week and having considered the matter, I decided that the crown had not led sufficient evidence to satisfy me that the allegedly false evidence was relevant to proof of the charge in Mr Sheridan’s trial or to Mr Coulson’s credibility at that trial."

      Just great, another meta-verdict.

      Why don't we tell our sports people, that they can cheat, if a committee afterwards will find that they would have won anyway?
      Or our scientists that their work will still be accepted, despite faking data, as long as the conclusion without it still would have been the same?

      It is blatantly obvious that such an evaluation of an evaluation usually will happen under significant pressure. On thing is to convict some accused person. Another is to convict your colleges.

      We recall Denning's infamous words. And Megrahi's 're-trial'.

      I checked on Scandinavian legislation. 'Of course' we do not have any such clauses.
      Lying in court is unconditionally a criminal offense, and punishable with up to 4 years of jail in Denmark, 5 in Norway.

      For some odd reasons the lawyers in court are exempted, (unless they are witnesses). So is the accused.

      Given the numerous other ways human have of bending and confusing the issues at hand it is strange that we can't outlaw direct lying in court completely.

  3. I am BAFFLED by PT/35b.

    Why does it appear to be an exact copy of one of the Thuring boards, made from the same template, but instead of going through the manufacturing tinning process somebody just dipped it in liquid tin instead? I mean, 9-ply fibreglass, pointless solder resist on the blank side, the lot. Who made it, and for what purpose was it made?

    What the hell is it doing in the story of an airliner that left Heathrow on time for a 7-hour flight, on a day when a delay would have been almost expected, and then the plane blew up only 38 minutes into the journey? No explanation for the presence of a count-down timer makes any sense in that context.

    Is there really any way it could possibly have been a later interpolation into the chain of evidence, even though the shirt collar it was supposedly blasted into actually fell out of the sky? Is so, HOW? If not, why do pages 50 and 51 of Hayes's notes look like interpolations? I can't make any coherent sense of this part of the evidence even after about five years of worrying at it.

    But you know what? It's a curiosity. One day, it would be nice to get the answers. But right now, the one thing we actually know is that the bomb started at Heathrow, not Malta. The police theory of the modus operandi of the crime was flat-out wrong from about day 10 of the investigation. This led to the conviction of a man with a watertight alibi for the actual scene of the crime. I'd quite like a bit more attention to be paid to that. Maybe once that part's out of the road, a serious inquiry might find some answers to the niggling questions like what was PT/35b doing there.

  4. Why would anyone elaborately (I am still impressed that somebody spotted it) change 'clothes' to 'debris'.

    A plausible possibility is, that as it later was to be claimed to have contained the timer fragment and more, then nobody could have written just 'clothes' in the first place.
    So it was rewritten to 'debris' which fits the context.

    But again, this idea is of course so trivial that it must have been debunked, and I have simply not picked it up.

    - - -

    The theory that 'Panam103 was taken down by a MEBO' timer' has hardly any other support than the existence of PT/35b?

    The theory that 'PT/35b comes from the timer of the bomb that took down Panam103' seems to be supported only by unverifiable claims {its discovery and its history} by dubious sources (the 'clothes'->'debris' matters is conclusive proof for the 'dubious' claim, and there are numerous others).
    But contradicted by its composition, the testing negative for explosives residue and the setting of the timer to a time where it might have exploded when the plane was on the ground, while a delayed hyperbaric timer would match the time very well.

    But of course, should we ever see a re-trial, we might expect
    'There are situations, where a theory that is heavily contradicted and poorly supported turns out to be the right one. We accept the validity of the PT/35B.'

  5. The theory that the plane was taken down by an MST-13 timer has no support beyond PT/35b.

    Suspicion fell on the PFLP-GC within ten days of the disaster, on account of two things which were actually mutually contradictory. One was that the gang had been caught with bombs obviously designed to blow up planes, and it looked very much as if this was the result of their efforts, after the German legal system had simply let them go. The other was that Pan Am 103 left from Frankfurt, hence providing a spacial link between the two key facts. Dalkamoni had been spotted looking at plane timetables at or involving Frankfurt airport.

    The snag was the timer used. A Khreesat device, loaded at Frankfurt, would have detonated over Belgium somewhere. The timing of the actual explosion suggested a Heathrow loading. How to square that circle?

    A major obsession of mine is the conviction I discern in the investigators, Scottish and English alike, that the bomb didn't start from Heathrow. This was essentially baseless, founded mainly on a string of feeble excuses and logically indefensible suppositions. Nevertheless, even if we entirely discount the Bedford suitcase, the belief that the cause of the disaster had been a Khreesat device should have made Heathrow the obvious, no-brainer choice for the inception point. Instead we see both Orr and Feraday repeatedly dismissing the concerns of the German investigators (who had cottoned on the the importance of this point) and insisting on Frankfurt as the origin of the device.

    John Ashton tells me that Feraday compiled a list of nine possible ways a Khreesat-style might have made it to Heathrow undetonated, only to go off on the second leg. Unfortunately I haven't seen this document, but I strongly suspect at least half of them are entirely spurious and the rest fanciful. (I have read that one suggestion was that the feeder flight somehow didn't climb high enough to detonate the device, but this is obvious nonsense. Boeing 727s don't complete 90-minute flights without spending at least 40 minutes higher than 8,000 feet! In any case, the flight records for PA103A were available.)

    To digress into my favourite hobby, it seems that the reason for dismissing Heathrow as the inception point was the forensic conclusion that the exploding suitcase was on the second layer of luggage, where none of the Heathrow interline luggage was positioned. However, this conclusion wasn't something that was set in stone before about April 1989, nevertheless the investigators failed to consider a Heathrow loading right through January, February and March, when they had Bedford's evidence, and Hayes's conclusion that the bomb was in a brown Samsonite, and knew about the limitations of the Khreesat timers. Then, when we look at the reasoning behind the insistence that the bomb suitcase was on the second layer, that again looks like special pleading towards a pre-determined conclusion - in other words, the forensic scientists, without ever actually mentioning the Bedford case, were intent on ruling it out of contention.

  6. [continued]

    Anyway, the British investigators were insistent the bomb had come from Frankfurt, even though the timer they believed had been used would seem to indicate that had not been the case. Then in September 1989 they became convinced it have actually flown into Frankfurt on a third flight, from Malta. Now, it should have come down in the Tyrrhenian Sea!

    The proposal that the timer didn't detonate until after the third take-off made the idea of a Khreesat device moderately preposterous. But that didn't seem to faze them at all. There was a PFLP-GC cell on Malta, so they were still sure they knew who did it, and they carried right on, regardless of the barometric timer problem. Sure, it could have been modified, but none of the ones found by the police were, and Khreesat had no history of modifying his devices like that.

    They seem to have ignored this problem completely, until PT/35b was identified in mid to late 1990 as a part of a count-down timer. This of course validated what they'd believed all along about the Malta inception, so as far as they were concerned it was the vital clue. Now they could explain the three-flight hop they hadn't bothered to think about before.

    There is nothing else to suggest an MST-13 or indeed any sort of countdown timer was involved. As you say, anyone with a countdown timer would have set the thing for much later. The time of the explosion is jarringly inconsistent with that modus operandi.

    (I don't think it's true it tested negative for explosives, but then, if it was rigorously cleaned up earlier in the process which I think it was, it's not entirely impossible. That whole angle is a red herring.)

  7. The documentation anomalies are very strange. The SCCRC commissioned tests on the label, and these suggested the alteration from cloth to debris had been done very soon after the original word had been written, essentially during the original filling-out of the thing. Gilchrist seemed to accept he'd filled in the label and made the alteration but didn't seem to remember any of it as far as I can make out. I don't really believe a word he says. He's a policeman giving the testimony he's required to give, even if he's forgotten everything.

    Since the ostensible contents of the evidence bag were a piece of cloth, then "cloth" seems to be the correct description. The other bits blasted into the cloth weren't discovered until May according to Hayes. He wouldn't have changed the label on that account, and nobody has suggested he did. But by the same token, I can't see any reason why someone who had planted the bits of debris within the fabric of the cloth at a later date would change the label. The last thing you'd want to do if you were planting evidence would be to draw attention to your handiwork by changing a label.

    So I don't know what the label change was all about.

    I don't know what Hayes's notes were all about either. The renumbered pages seem to be entirely incidental. His notes were chaotic, with interpolated pages and inconsistent dates all over the place. And since it appears that the renumbering post-dated any interpolation, my instinct is to think that he'd have tried to avoid a blunder like that in the vicinity of the shenanigans.

    On the other hand, the dates and ESDA results support and indeed quite strongly suggest that both pages 50 and 51 were interpolated into the original sequence (before the page numbers were added). The difficulty I have with this is that I can't turn this into a coherent narrative that explains PT/35b as a retrospectively-introduced fabrication. I can't prove it's not, but it all starts to get terribly convoluted and tenuous.

    Another problem is the bits of the radio manual. Although photograph 117 is the only record we have of the existence of PT/35b in May 1989, there is evidence in the contemporary photos and so on that the pages of the manual were indeed examined and analysed at that time. So if photo 117 was taken before the leaves of the wad of paper were teased out (and according to Hayes's notes he did that on 12th May while examining the thing for the first time), and PT/35b is also in the photo, it's difficult to get around. Not impossible, but again you're talking some convoluted and complex manoeuvering.

  8. [continued]

    If we suppose that was possible though, and PT/35b wasn't actually there on 12th May, what about the next appearance? The problem I have with the September documentation is that it's by Feraday. The whole thing is very peculiar, with the Scottish police records suggesting that his memo was actually about PT/30, but the description on the memo clearly relates to PT/35b even without a drawing or photo.

    The thing is, Feraday's 1991 notes, when he finally got round to the analysis you'd think he'd have done in 1989 of he'd really been in possession of the thing, don't read like the notes of a man who knew the thing was a fake. He records the metallurgical discrepancy in a quite straightforward manner, and speculates about possible causes. It's only later, when he puts together the final forensic report (probably late 1992) that he starts to fudge the issue and leave out the crucial analytical results.

    My interpretation is that he didn't know the thing was a fake (if it was) in August 1991. Which means either the September 1989 "lads and lassies" memo is on the level, or, conceivably, that he connived at its fabrication at a later date, possibly in 1992 once he had been recruited into the deception. I really don't know if this is possible, given what we know about the provenance of the memo.

    I'm very undecided. Part of me sees that the collar itself definitely fell from the sky and landed in the field at Blinkbonny, and reaches for Occam's Razor to conclude that the PCB fragment (and all the rest) was inside it all the time. I see the retrospective fabrication of provenance as being improbably over-engineered and contrived. But then, part of me still thinks it could have been done.

    For me, the important thing is to find out what did or didn't happen, as I've done with the loading of the suitcase. Somebody else can worry about what the lawyers do with the information.

    1. To go back a bit, it would be quite feasible to set up detonation of an IED so that it did not take place until the aircraft was in the air after leaving Heathrow. and after completion of the Frankfurt-London sector. What you would do is to wire two timers in series. You set the MST-13 timer at frankfurt (or Malta if you like) for a number of hours to cover the flight time from Frankfurt (or Malta) to London plus a bit added on for possible delays plus maybe three hours after scheduled take off from Heathrow. When the MST-13 runs down, it triggers the barometric circuit which, being by now in the air, in turn starts to trickle-charge the capacitor in the "ice-cube" and thirty eight minutes later, detonation occurs. In Leppard's book, Hayes is said to have believed that a double timer arrangement was in place, although for some unfathomable reason he reckoned the timers were wired the other way round (i.e.with the barometric timer operating first), which makes no sense at all.

      Rolfe, above, says "Suspicion fell on the PFLP-GC within ten days of the disaster, on account of two things which were actually mutually contradictory." We shouldn't forget that there were more than two things. For example, there were the warnings, one of which was specific that a Pan Am plane out of Frankfurt would be targeted During December. The information came from the Israeli government following their raid on the PFLP-GC camp in Lebanon on 8 December where they found documents outlining the planned attack.