Sunday, 12 July 2015

Lockerbie: Malta allegations were fabricated

[This is the headline over a letter from Dr Jim Swire published on this date in 2009 in Malta Today.  It reads as follows:]

As you probably know, there is a growing body of well informed commentators, who believe that not only was Abdel Baset Al Megrahi not guilty of causing the Lockerbie disaster of 1988, but also that the bomb did not start its journey from Malta after all, but was introduced simply by breaking-in to Heathrow airport.

This break-in occurred in the early hours of the day of the Lockerbie disaster, but was concealed by the UK authorities for 12 years until after the trial at Zeist and after the inquests had been held.

I fear the allegations against Malta, and Air Malta in particular, were fabricated to avoid embarrassment to the UK authorities and the Thatcher government of the day in particular.

During the night of 20/21st December 1988 there was a break-in at Heathrow airport. This allowed access to Terminal 3 and surrounding areas where both PanAm and IranAir had facilities. Neither the intruder nor his motive was identified. Although the break-in was recorded by the security guard (Manly) who found it, the airport continued functioning that day as though nothing had happened. Had it behaved responsibly and suspended flights till the break-in was unravelled, my daughter and 269 others might well have been saved. Instead, on the evening of 21 Dec ‘88 the Lockerbie aircraft baggage containers were loaded up in that very area.

In July 1988 a US warship had destroyed an Iranian airbus killing 290 pilgrims, for which Iran had sworn revenge. In October 1988 the (West) German authorities had issued a warning to the UK and others about a specialised type of IED (improvised explosive device) made by the Syrian terror group, the PFLP-GC. This group were in close association with Iran. Their devices uniquely contained a ‘baroswitch’ which switched ‘on’ when it sensed a drop in air pressure as in an aircraft following take off, it took seven minutes from take off to respond. That response then switched on a timer which would run for around 30 minutes.

These IEDs were specifically designed to be brought into an airport hours or days before use, then if put aboard an aircraft, they would always explode around 40 minutes after take-off. No one needed to touch them nor send any electronic message to them, just put them aboard; this timing could not be changed by a user. 270 people were killed by the PanAm 103 bomb, 38 minutes after take off from Heathrow. Coincidence? Or did the intruder leave his IED with the IranAir facility to load onto PanAm 103 that evening?

No evidence could be led at the Zeist trial concerning the Heathrow break-in, because the break-in evidence was unknown to the court. Yet that Court said of Megrahi’s alleged infiltration of the bomb at Luqa airport Malta, that the absence of any evidence as to how he had done this ‘was a major problem for the prosecution case’.

The discoverer of the break-in, Manly, was interviewed in January 1989 by Scotland Yard’s anti terrorist group. The Scottish police combed Heathrow soon after the disaster, they must have found the record of the break-in too.

Yet until the Heathrow security guard came to ask Megrahi’s defence why they had ignored the break-in during the trial, the entire evidence of the break-in had lain unknown to the relatives, the Lockerbie Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI), the defence and the court for more than 12 years, until after the verdict.

At the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) Sheriff Principal John Mowat, in ignorance of the Heathrow break-in evidence, advised that court that they should accept that the IED had ‘come from Frankfurt’. A Fatal Accident Inquiry is supposed to have the function of defining all the factors contributing to the deaths. Ours was misdirected by being told to assume the device had come from Frankfurt, thereby obscuring the possible role of Heathrow.

I have now requested Scotland’s Lord Advocate to discover whether the Crown Office was informed about this break-in. They had a duty under Scots law to share any relevant material with the defence, and it would be strange indeed if they did not know about it. The Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) referred this case for a second appeal partly because of incomplete sharing of information by the Crown Office with the defence team. Since our FAI was misdirected in this way, I have also requested the Lord Advocate that it be reconvened or a new one held.

What could have stopped Scotland Yard from passing on what they knew? It was Prime Minster Thatcher who decreed that the investigation should be done by the Scottish police, to the enormous chagrin we are told, of Scotland Yard. Could PM Thatcher have been unaware of Scotland Yard’s involvement in investigating the break-in? The fact that the Met seemed to have been prevented from following up this amazing lead suggests directions from the highest authority.

PM Thatcher refused even to meet us to discuss an inquiry into what had happened. She also published her book The Downing Street Years in 1993 (the break-in evidence was still ‘lost’ then of course), in which she claimed that Reagan’s air raid on Tripoli, which she facilitated in 1986 had prevented any further major terrorist atrocities by Gaddafi’s Libya. The word Lockerbie simply does not appear in her text. If the Lockerbie IED did come in through the Heathrow break-in, her claim would be justified, since there would then be no evidence for a Libyan operation, let alone Maltese involvement. If she knew, why didn’t we and the courts know? Isn’t that perversion of justice? Were there some other guilty secrets of foreknowledge of what was to happen?

Writing in 1989 in The lessons of Lockerbie (RISCT), Professor Paul Wilkinson of St Andrews University wrote “the Department of Transport is singularly ill fitted to play a lead role in aviation security… in the author’s view it is in far too cosy a relationship with vested commercial interests in the transport business for whom all other considerations, including security, must be subordinated to the profit motive”.

Maybe the same applies to British Prime Ministers, for as President Clinton later so succinctly put it: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Where is our inquiry? PM Brown has decided to hold an Iraq war inquiry ‘behind closed doors’, the only door we have seen in searching for truth in an inquiry over the greatest terrorist outrage in the UK has been the one slammed in our faces by PM Thatcher and her successors over 20 years.

1 comment:

  1. Jim Swire is absolutely correct in what he says about the FAI. It's interesting that Sheriff Principal Mowat was originally not minded to make a finding about where the bomb suitcase originated. Lord Advocate Hardie and Brian Gill QC, representing respectively the Crown and the American families submitted additional draft findings to the effect that it came as interline baggage from Frankfurt. Peter Anderson for PanAm argued that it was "not proved that it arrived from Frankfurt as an interline bag. It would be inappropriate in the absence of very strong evidence to make a finding reflecting on the security system of a foreign state..." Colin McEachran QC for other relatives also argued that there was no evidence in support of the interline theory. Sadly, Hardie and Gill prevailed and the finding was accepted. It was then easy to make a further finding that the bag must have arrived at Frankfurt as interline, because there was no evidence at all that it had originated there, a situation equally consistent with the bag starting its journey at Heathrow, which every one and his dog now knows is what happened.