[On this date in 1988, the night before the departure of Pan Am 103, there was a breach of security at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3 that potentially gave access to the baggage build-up area used for luggage destined for that flight. This breach of security was known to the Lockerbie investigators but was not disclosed to the legal teams defending Abdelbaset Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah and so did not feature in the evidence led at the Zeist trial where Megrahi was convicted. The failure to disclose this material to the defence formed one of the grounds of Megrahi’s 2002 appeal. What follows is an account on The Pan Am 103 Crash Website of proceedings at that appeal on 13 February 2002:]
A former Heathrow Airport security guard has said he found a baggage store padlock "cut like butter" the night before the Lockerbie bombing. Ray Manly was giving evidence at the appeal by Abdelbasset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi against his conviction for murdering 270 people in the 1988 bombing. Al-Megrahi's defence team argue that the bomb could have been placed on Pan Am Flight 103 at Heathrow. At his trial, one of the key areas of the prosecution case was that the bomb was loaded onto a feeder flight from Luqa Airport in Malta, where al-Megrahi worked.
Evidence about the reported break-in was not introduced at the trial and is only now being heard for the first time. Mr Manly was on a night shift in Terminal 3 on the night of 20/21 December 1988. He told the Scottish Court in the Netherlands that the doors separating landside from airside were unmanned at night after they had been locked. During his rounds, he spotted that a padlock securing the doors had been broken.
"The padlock was on the floor. In my opinion it was as if it had been cut like butter - very professional," he said. The court was shown Mr Manly's security report, written soon after the incident in which he described the break-in as "a very deliberate act, leaving easy access to airside". Mr Manly informed his colleaguePhilip Radley and police were called. But Mr Manly said he did not see any police officers that night and was only interviewed by anti-terrorist squad officers about the incident the following January, after the Lockerbie disaster.
Giving evidence, Mr Radley told the five appeal court judges that Terminal 3's landside area, where passengers arrived to check in, was separated from airside by two thick rubber doors at the end of a corridor. Access to the airside area was restricted to staff. The doors were secured by a 4ft long iron bar and a heavy duty padlock and security guards were on duty on each side of the doors. Mr Radley said he was on the nightshift on 20 December when his supervisor called to tell him that the padlock on the doors had been broken. A guard was placed on the doors - designated T3 2a and T3 2b - until the morning, when a replacement padlock was found.
The court was shown Mr Radley's log book for the night including an entry recorded at 35 minutes past midnight on December 21: "Door at T3 2a lock broken off." Questioned by Alan Turnbull QC, for the prosecution, Mr Radley explained that baggage handlers working airside would pass through the doors when starting their shift and leave the same way - unless they were delayed and the doors at T3 2a and 2b had been locked for the night. In that case, he said, baggage handlers would have to take a longer route out of the terminal and there had been complaints about having to do so. On the night of 20 December, baggage handlers had to stay late because of a delayed flight, he confirmed. Mr Turnbull suggested that a member of staff taking a short cut, could have forced the door, breaking the padlock.
Manly, who cautioned the court he might have to take a break since he was taking strong medication for a serious illness, bristled at Turnbull's suggestions that his recollections about the incident might have become confused. "I'm still suffering from the horror of it all...if someone had carried out their jobs, this might have never happened," he said.
Philip Radley, Manly's supervisor, also disputed Turnbull's suggestion that a baggage handler probably forced open the double doors that were also secured with a long metal bolt. "You couldn't break it out like that," he said. Turnbull said a muted response by airport officials and police to the incident showed they did not believe an intruder had slipped into sensitive areas at the airport. Manly said he was interviewed by an anti-terrorist squad shortly after the incident, but his story was never followed up at the Lockerbie inquiry.
Questioned by the defence Mr Radley said the detour for baggage handlers if the doors were locked was only "a couple of minutes". He could not recall any previous incident in which staff had forced open locked doors. The prosecution has also been allowed to present 11 new witnesses, to counter the new evidence. Although the court's decision to allow the new evidence to be heard can be seen as a boost to the defence case, under Scottish law the appeal judges have to weigh whether the new testimony, had it been heard at the original trial, would have changed the outcome of that case.
[RB: The appeal court rejected this ground of appeal. Here is my explanation of why it did so:]
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.