Friday, 11 September 2015

Key Lockerbie 'evidence' not used

[This is the headline over a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2001. It reads as follows:]

New evidence has emerged which casts doubt over the Lockerbie bombing conviction, a national newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The Mirror claims that the device which blew up Pan Am flight 103 over the small Scottish town may not have been loaded at Frankfurt, an assertion made by the prosecution team.

Its theory stems from an interview with Heathrow Airport security guard Ray Manly who said he told police that Pan Am's baggage area was broken into on 21 December, 1988, some 17 hours before the plane set off for New York.

Mr Manly was interviewed by anti-terrorist officers a month after the tragedy, but his evidence was "lost" and never used in court.

During the trial in the Netherlands it was claimed by the prosecution that accused Libyan Abdelbaset Al Megrahi placed the bomb on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt, where it was then "interlined" on to a flight to Heathrow before being loaded on to Flight 103.

In February this year, Al Megrahi was convicted of mass murder and jailed for a minimum of 20 years.

Fellow accused, Libyan Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted of the crime.

Al Megrahi's defence team said during the trial at Camp Zeist that it was more likely the bomb was introduced at Heathrow.

Mr Manly told police he found that a padlock near the Pan Am desk at Heathrow's Terminal Three appeared to have been severed with bolt cutters.

This would have cleared the way for a bomb to be planted among Pan Am luggage which had already passed through security checks, the newspaper said.

Mr Manly told The Mirror: "I can't believe the statement was lost.

"No one at the trial knew about the break-in."

Dr Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora died in the crash, said the new claims added to his continued calls for a full public inquiry.

He said: "These kind of aspects not only show failures at Heathrow, they bring questions that serious mistakes have been made during the (police) inquiry.

"As soon as the appeal process is over we want a full inquiry into why Heathrow didn't take full steps to protect our loved ones."

Dr Swire said the fact the plane had been loaded from empty at the London airport also showed the need for the UK Government to set up an inquiry to determine exactly what happened.

"What we are after is the whole truth," added Dr Swire.

The High Court of Judiciary in Edinburgh last month granted Al Megrahi, 49, permission to appeal against his conviction.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled to take place in Camp Zeist next month.

[At his first appeal, Megrahi was allowed to lead evidence about the Heathrow break-in. I have described elsewhere how the appeal court dealt with the issue:]

The only ground upon which a criminal appeal can succeed in Scotland is that there has been a miscarriage of justice. In the Note of Appeal lodged on behalf of Megrahi there were set out in 21 paragraphs (many of them subdivided) the grounds upon which, individually or in combination, it was contended that a miscarriage had occurred. One of those grounds related to the existence and significance of evidence which was not heard during the original proceedings. This evidence related to a breach of security at Heathrow Terminal 3 (potentially giving access to the baggage build-up area) the night before Pan Am 103 departed from that terminal on its fatal flight. The Appeal Court allowed the new evidence to be led before it, but ultimately concluded that it could not be regarded as possessing such importance as to have been likely to have had a material bearing on the trial court’s determination of the critical issue of whether the suitcase containing the bomb was launched on its progress from Luqa Airport in Malta (an essential plank in the prosecution case) or from Heathrow. This ground of appeal was accordingly rejected.

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