[This is the headline over an article by David Pallister that was published in The Guardian on this date in 1989. It is no longer to be found on the newspaper’s website, but is reproduced on Caustic Logic’s website The Lockerbie Divide:]
West German forensic experts have discovered evidence which suggests that the bomb which brought down Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie last December could have been loaded at Heathrow.
The evidence comes from an examination of three other bombs made by the Palestinian group believed to be responsible for the attack. It casts serious doubt on the theory that the bomb was placed on an earlier connecting flight.
All three devices were identically constructed, with electronic timers set to detonate the Semtex explosive within 43 to 46 minutes of being activated by a barometric pressure trigger at about 3,000 feet. [RB: These timings are not wholly accurate.] The West German police believe they were destined for El Al planes or flights to Tel Aviv.
If the Lockerbie bomb was the same, it would have had to have been placed on board the jumbo at Heathrow, rather than at Frankfurt, Malta or Cyprus - the three possibilities so far publicly canvassed.
The bombs have been connected with the terrorist cell run in West Germany by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The first was found in October 1988 in a radio cassette player in a car driven by Hafez Dalkamoni, who has been identified as a senior member of the PFLP-GC. He is awaiting trial in Frankfurt for a bomb attack on a railway in Lower Saxony in August 1987.
The discovery of the cassette bomb led to warnings from the West Germans to airlines and other western governments in November.
In April this year West German police found three more devices in the basement of a house owned by one of Dalkamoni's relatives in the town of Neuss. One exploded at the Wiesbaden headquarters of the BKA, the federal criminal investigation agency, killing a bomb disposal expert.
The three unexploded devices were all made by the same man. The BKA thinks he was the man arrested with Dalkamoni, Marwan Khreesat, who was mysteriously released without charge two weeks later, along with 12 other Palestinians arrested in October. Khreesat, it has been alleged, was probably an agent working for either Jordanian or West German intelligence, or both.
The forensic experts, working for the BKA, believe the devices were designed to withstand examination by El Al's pressure chambers which are used to screen baggage.
Dr Jim Swire, the spokesman for the UK Families-Flight 103 group, believes the findings could point to the Lockerbie bomb, which was also in a cassette player, being loaded at Heathrow.
The plane took off at 6.25pm and disappeared off the radar screens between 53 and 54 minutes later [RB: Actually 38 minutes later, at 7:03]. It takes between seven and 10 minutes to climb to 3,000 feet, which fits in precisely with the timing system on the other bombs.