Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Donald Goddard and Lester Coleman

[What follows is excerpted from an obituary written by Tam Dalyell that was published in The Independent on this date in 2003:]

Donald Goddard, writer and antiques dealer: born London 7 February 1928; married 1953 Pamela Goss (three sons, marriage dissolved), 1970 Natalie Donay (died 1991), 1996 Carol Dulling; died Wivelsfield, East Sussex 3 August 2003.

A Londoner by birth and a New Yorker by adoption, who spent the second part of his life in rural Sussex, Donald Goddard's formative experience was as an editor at The New York Times between 1962 and 1970, when he developed an intense interest in the then unfashionable subject of the New York underworld. (...)

Goddard's last book, which brought me into close contact with him over the last 10 years of his life, was Trail of the Octopus: from Beirut to Lockerbie - Inside the Defence Intelligence Agency (1993). This was the story of Lester Knox Coleman, the first American citizen since the Vietnam war to seek political asylum in another country. Hounded by the FBI, the drug enforcement administration and Middle East heroin traffickers, Coleman seemed to Goddard to be a victim of one of the biggest international cover-ups in modern times.

In the spring of 1988, Coleman was on a mission for the world's most secretive and well-funded espionage organisations - the Defence Intelligence Agency. Coleman had been ordered to spy on the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration) in Cyprus which, along with the CIA, was running a series of "controlled deliveries" of Lebanese heroin through the airports of Frankfurt and London en route to America. Coleman discovered that the security of this "sting" operation had been breached and warned the American Embassy that a disaster was waiting to happen. He was ignored. Seven months later, Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie. Among the dead was a DEA courier.

Since then, Washington has claimed that the blame for the bombing rests with Libyan terrorists and negligent Pan Am officials. With Pan Am and their insurers fighting this version all the way, it was never likely that Coleman's experience in Cyprus would go unnoticed. In 1991, American state security apparatus - what Goddard called the "Octopus" - made its move. His book is a gripping investigation into the causes of the Lockerbie disaster and the subsequent manipulation of the evidence.

Although Trail of the Octopus was not considered relevant in the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, where Abdel-Basset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2001, despite the many unanswered questions surrounding the bombing, it would be highly relevant to the public inquiry on Lockerbie that the relatives of those killed want, and that the British and American governments don't want. Goddard was a supreme seeker after truth. If history ever reveals the truth about Lockerbie, I'll wager that Goddard will be one of the unsung heroes in reaching it.


  1. I found the book confusing and difficult to follow. Also it was weird having Coleman as the third-person protagonisr when he was named as co-author.

    My main puzzlement, though, is why the US authorities went after this book, and The Maltese Double Cross, and Juval Aviv, and James Shaughnessy, quite so ferociously. All these parties were peddling the line that Khaled Jaafar was the bomb courier, one way or another. He wasn't. Did the authorities think he was, and were trying to deflect attention? Or was he doing something else they wanted to keep under wraps?

    It's all a bit strange.

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