In my article Lockerbie: A satisfactory process but a flawed result I set out, and comment upon, the nine pieces of evidence upon which (and upon which alone) the trial court convicted Abdelbaset Megrahi. Here are three of them:]
4. The suitcase which contained the bomb also contained clothes and an umbrella bought in a particular shop, Mary’s House, in Sliema, Malta.
5. Megrahi was identified by the Maltese shopkeeper as the person who bought the clothes and umbrella.
Commentary. The most that the Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci, would say (either in his evidence in court or at an identification parade before the trial or in a series of nineteen police statements over the years) was that Megrahi “resembled a lot” the purchaser, a phrase which he equally used with reference to Abu Talb, one of those mentioned in the special defence of incrimination lodged on behalf of Megrahi. Gauci had also described his customer to the police as being six feet [183 cms] tall and over fifty years of age. The evidence at the trial established (i) that Megrahi is five feet eight inches [173 cms] tall and (ii) that in late 1988 he was thirty-six years of age. On this material, the judges found in fact that Megrahi was the purchaser.
6. The purchases were made on 7 December 1988, a date when Megrahi was proved to be on Malta and not on 23 November 1988 when he was not.
Commentary. By reference to the dates on which international football matches were broadcast on television on Malta, Tony Gauci was able to narrow down the date of purchase of the items in question to either 23 November or 7 December. In an attempt to establish just which, the weather conditions in Sliema on these two days were explored. Gauci’s evidence was that when the purchaser left his shop it was raining to such an extent that his customer thought it advisable to buy an umbrella to protect himself while he went in search of a taxi. The unchallenged meteorological evidence led by the defence established that while it had rained on 23 November at the relevant time, it was unlikely that it had rained at all on 7 December; and if there had been any rain, it would have been at most a few drops, insufficient to wet the ground. On this material, the judges found in fact that the clothes were purchased on 7 December.
[RB: Here is what the SCCRC had to say about this in its press release announcing that it had referred Megrahi’s conviction back to the High Court:]
A number of the submissions made on behalf of the applicant challenged the reasonableness of the trial court's verdict, based on the legal test contained in section 106(3)(b) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 [that, on the evidence, no reasonable court could have reached the conclusion that the trial court reached]. The Commission rejected the vast majority of those submissions. However, in examining one of the grounds, the Commission formed the view that there is no reasonable basis in the trial court's judgment for its conclusion that the purchase of the items from Mary's House, took place on 7 December 1988. Although it was proved that the applicant was in Malta on several occasions in December 1988, in terms of the evidence 7 December was the only date on which he would have had the opportunity to purchase the items. The finding as to the date of purchase was therefore important to the trial court's conclusion that the applicant was the purchaser. Likewise, the trial court's conclusion that the applicant was the purchaser was important to the verdict against him. Because of these factors the Commission has reached the view that the requirements of the legal test may be satisfied in the applicant's case.