Thursday, 20 August 2015

A selection of the Crown's misdeeds

[On this date in 2009 Abdelbaset Megrahi was released from HMP Greenock and flew back to Libya. The report on the BBC News website can be read here.

Two years later, on 20 August 2011, an article by Marcello Mega appeared in the Scottish edition of The Sun. It reads in part:]

The Scottish Sun today lifts the lid on a top-secret dossier that accuses Scots cops and prosecutors of suppressing seven key areas of evidence that cast doubt on the Lockerbie bomber's conviction. (...)

Seven key flaws

Denied fair trial
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission says Megrahi WAS denied a fair trial in their damning report.

They said the Crown suppressed from Megrahi's defence team statements showing how much key witness Tony Gauci changed his mind about crucial details over the years.

Maltese shopkeeper Gauci's evidence fingered Megrahi as the man who bought clothes in his shop on the Mediterranean isle that were linked to the suitcase carrying the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103.

The SCCRC report says Gauci was an "unreliable" witness but this was not shown to be the case in court.

They said: "The effect of all of these inconsistencies is powerful. The court was left with a distorted and different impression of the witness. In this way Megrahi was denied a fair trial."

Cop lies
The SCCRC found that police said in evidence they first showed Gauci photos of Megrahi on September 14, 1989 - when he had in fact also been shown them on September 8.

The report said: "This was not disclosed to the defence. There is no statement from Gauci produced, no police witness statements produced."

The SCCRC said if Gauci had been shown Megrahi's pic six days before he picked him out as resembling the buyer at his shop, then that ID was totally undermined.

Diary dispute
In its report, the SCCRC challenges the integrity of evidence given by retired Strathclyde DCI Harry Bell, who had a close bond with Gauci.

The commission found that events recorded in Bell's diaries didn't always match what he said in evidence.

The commission noted that Bell claimed the Megrahi photo shown to Gauci on September 14, 1989, was the first one. This was not true.

It also reveals Bell, DC John Crawford, a retired Lothian and Borders cop, and an FBI agent all made statements claiming that Gauci had talked of a "striking similarity" between Megrahi and the buyer.

But Maltese officers revealed Gauci was unsure, was coached and told to age the photos by ten to 15 years.

The report says: "This is different to DCI Bell's evidence at trial. It also implies the witness is unclear."

Cash for answers
The commission obtained evidence from police memos that Gauci was made aware from his first contact with investigators that his testimony could be worth MILLIONS.

This contradicted evidence given by Scots and US investigators at Megrahi's trial.

One undisclosed memo reveals the FBI discussed with Scots cops an offer of unlimited cash to Gauci - with "$10,000 available immediately".

If a judge was made aware of this in another case, they'd tell a jury to discount the evidence.

Xmas lights lies
In court Gauci was vague about the exact date on which the clothes were bought.

The date was narrowed to either November 23, 1988, when Megrahi was not on Malta, or December 7, 1988, when he was.

Gauci said Christmas lights were NOT on yet in his hometown Sliema when the suspect visited his shop.

Cops said they could not find out when the lights were switched on.

But the SCCRC easily established it was December 6 - a day too early for Megrahi to have been the buyer.

The commission's report says: "It is clear that the police were in no doubt that Gauci was clear in his recollection." It adds "no reasonable court" could have concluded Megrahi bought the clothes from Gauci's shop.

Defence in the dark
It appears efforts were made to cover up key evidence that would have been useful for Megrahi's defence team.

The commission noted that early uncertainty on the part of Gauci was never passed over to the defence, nor was the fact that Scots detectives feared he was trying too hard to please them.

The fact a senior Maltese detective also considered Gauci to be an unreliable witness was never disclosed to lawyers representing Megrahi.

Evidence supressed
The SCCRC claims Colin Boyd QC, who was Lord Advocate at the time of Megrahi's trial and conviction in 2001, suppressed key evidence.

The trial judges maintained Gauci was "entirely reliable" on the list of clothing he claimed the buyer suspect purchased.

Yet a statement he made in 1999, and discovered by the SCCRC, saw him produce "a wholly different list of items and prices". This, along with many other files that could damage the Crown case, was suppressed. The report says Mr Boyd failed in his duty of disclosure to the defence.


  1. Wasn't there also a report that Gauci had claimed later to Scottish polce officers that he had seen the buyer of the clothes a second time, in a local bar or cafe?

    1. Yes. They took it quite seriously but Tony couldn't pick the person out again. I think it was shown that Megrahi was nowhere near the place at the time Tony said he'd seen the clothes purchaser. (Tony was apparently quite shocked because he'd formed the impression that the man who bought the clothes must have died at Lockerbie, if the clothes had been found on the ground there.)

      This is another point that was never properly emphasised. If Tony had (as it appeared he had) "recognised" an entirely different person in the local bar and thought he was the clothes purchaser, doesn't that cast even more doubt on his identification of Megrahi?

  2. The full article by Marcello Mega includes comments by the Scottish government spokesman and the Crown Office.

    "Mr MacAskill declined to comment on The Scottish Sun's revelations but his spokesman said: "We do not doubt the guilt of Mr al-Megrahi."

    ... a spokesman for the Crown Office said they had "supported the conviction vigorously and stood ready, willing and able to do so throughout the appeal process which Mr Megrahi abandoned".

    It's sadly a case of do not confuse the public mind with the facts.