Thursday, 24 September 2015

Investigator whose brother died at Lockerbie has a prime suspect

[This is the headline over an article by Magnus Linklater published (behind the paywall) in today’s edition of The Times. It reads as follows:]

By any standards, Ken Dornstein’s investigation is remarkable. The death of his brother David in the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 led to a lifetime obsession with discovering the identity of the perpetrators.

Just one man — Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi — has been convicted of the atrocity. But Mr Dornstein knew that there must have been others behind the attack, and that someone must have manufactured the bomb. He set about interviewing anybody and everybody who knew anything about the case.

He has travelled three times to Libya, interviewed the widow of one of the suspects, and accompanied Jim Swire, whose daughter was also killed, on a trip to see al-Megrahi.

In the course of his inquiries, Mr Dornstein met Kathryn Geismar, who had dated his brother for two years. They fell in love and are now married.

In order to aid his investigation, he took a job at a detective agency. His career has been as an investigative reporter for the PBS television show Frontline, working on programmes about Iraq and Afghanistan. But his real obsession has been the Lockerbie story.

He travelled to Scotland, interviewed Scottish investigators and located the exact spot where David’s body had landed. In 2006 he published a book, The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky. The book explores his drive to investigate. “I had found a less painful way to miss my brother, by not missing him at all, just trying to document what happened to his body,” he says.

The New Yorker article that documents his search reports that one room of his house in Somerville, Massachusetts, is lined with books about espionage, aviation, terrorism and the Middle East. Another is papered with mugshots of Libyan suspects. Between the two rooms is a large map of Lockerbie, with hundreds of coloured pins indicating where the bodies had fallen.

He has examined all the “counter-theories” which maintain that al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted and that Libya was not involved, but has found no hard evidence to support them. [RB: No hard evidence to support them? The metallurgy discrepancy between PT35b and the timers supplied to Libya? Dr Morag Kerr’s irrefutable demonstration that the bomb was already in luggage container AVE4041 before the transfer baggage arrived from Frankfurt?] Instead, he has focused on tracking down those in Libya who may still be able to cast light on the origins of the plot.

In the course of his inquiries he has made a friend of Mr Swire. He continues to maintain that al-Megrahi was inncocent, but respects Mr Dornstein’s determination to get at the truth, and does not rule out a Libyan connection. Scottish prosecutors gave Mr Dornstein a list of eight prime suspects.

Some of them are dead, some – like Abdullah al-Senussi, Colonel Gaddafi’s former head of intelligence – have been sentenced to execution.

That did not prevent the American from travelling three times to Libya. In the course of one visit he met the widow of Badri Hassan, one of the men on the suspect list, who had died of a heart attack. The New Yorker reports that over several meetings at her family home, she told Mr Dornstein of her long-standing suspicion that her husband had been involved in Lockerbie. She had asked him about it repeatedly, but he had never confessed. “I’m absolutely sure of it,” she said, adding, when she learnt that Mr Dornstein’s brother had been on the plane: “Badri left behind such suffering.”

Mr Dornstein’s prime suspect, Abu Agila Masud, is alive, and serving a ten- year sentence in prison. Libya today, however, is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Even an investigator as intrepid as Mr Dornstein does not feel that it is fair to himself or his family to travel there again and take that final risk.

[A further article by Mr Linklater in the same newspaper can be read here.]


  1. Another interesting example of press bias.

    Ken Dornstein, because he subscribes to the entirely evidence-free Malta scenario beloved of the Crown, is an "investigator".

    We, because we advance solid and compelling evidence of a Heathrow crime scene in opposition to the Crown case, are "conspiracy theorists".

  2. Magnus is at it again: speak to the closed minds of Times readers and all will be OK. As he did at the John Ashton book launch in 2012, he has the attitude that all who ask questions are conspiracy theorists.

    If it were not so sad, it would be funny.