Friday, 19 February 2016

Lockerbie: Morag Kerr hits back at Magnus Linklater

[This is the headline over a letter from Dr Morag Kerr in The Café section of the issue of the Scottish Review published on 17 February:]

How dare Magnus Linklater (10 February) repeatedly traduce in print a book he hasn’t even had the courtesy to read! The false assumptions and downright fabrications in his latest sally make it all too clear that this is the case, despite his assurance to me two years ago that he had – even going so far as to call the unread text 'a remarkable piece of work'.
Does Mr Linklater seriously believe that I wrote a book in 2013 based entirely on premises the appeal court rejected in 2002? Of course I didn’t. Does he believe that the book merely points out (for about the ten-thousandth time) that the suitcase John Bedford saw in the baggage container an hour before the connecting flight from Frankfurt landed looks suspiciously like the bomb? There is much more to it than that. Does he imagine that I examined the Heathrow evidence in isolation from the rest of the case? The book would hardly be 220-pages long if that were so.
The break-in into Heathrow Terminal 3 the night before the disaster is irrelevant. It was freely acknowledged in court that airside security in 1988 was abysmal, and it would have been child’s play for anyone to walk in any time they liked. No midnight cutting of padlocks would have been necessary. The break-in happened, but whether it was related to the introduction of the bomb into the baggage container 17 hours later is an entirely moot point. I make this perfectly clear in the book, and I would take it very kindly if Mr Linklater would cease and desist from dragging up this irrelevancy at every turn, as if it somehow discredits my thesis.
The possibility that the bomb might have been in the case John Bedford saw was explored in the original trial, with the defence obviously keen to suggest that it was. What is remarkable is that no evidence was presented of any specific investigation into the provenance of that suitcase by the original inquiry. Apparently, it was merely assumed that it wasn’t the bomb.
The 'meat' of my book is a thorough investigation into the provenance of the case Bedford saw; the investigation which should have been done in 1989 but wasn’t. In the course of this I examine witness statements, passenger and baggage transfer records and detailed photographs of the blast-damaged luggage – evidence that was for the most part not presented either at the original trial or the appeal. The results of this analysis are clear-cut. That was indeed the bomb suitcase, beyond any reasonable doubt. Once again I challenge Mr Linklater, and indeed anyone who has read the book, to explain why they don’t accept this analysis – based on evidence and logic, not dismissive sneers.
Mr Linklater implies that I am ignoring separate evidence of 'an unaccompanied bag coming from Malta that morning'. If he were to read my book he would discover that I pick apart the evidence for the existence of this bag in exhaustive detail, and come down firmly on the side of the German policeman who was originally assigned this task and whose report concludes: 'Throughout the inquiries into the baggage for PA103A there was no evidence that the bomb suitcase had been transferred with the luggage either from or via Frankfurt Main to London'.
Indeed, some clothing packed with the bomb was purchased on Malta, but as that purchase took place several weeks before the disaster it in no way precludes the bomb itself having been introduced at Heathrow. Again I deal with this point in great detail in the book, and in particular with the contention that Megrahi was the man who made that purchase. Clearly he was not, and the SCCRC report of 2007 underlined that pretty effectively.
Far from picking at one small point and ignoring the bigger picture, putting this point in context is exactly what the book is about. Not simply the compelling evidence that the bomb was already in the baggage container an hour before the flight from Frankfurt landed, but the extremely tight and well-documented security at Malta airport that shows no sign whatsoever of an illegitimate item of luggage on Air Malta flight 180. In this context I would refer Mr Linklater to the words of Lord Osborne at the first appeal in 2002. 'There is considerable and quite convincing evidence that that could not have happened.'
Mr Linklater, as always, sets great store by what the various judges concluded. In the context of a reasoned argument showing that these conclusions were wrong, this is an unhelpful begging of the question. The evidence I have analysed was not presented in court. Mine is an entirely new and more detailed dissection of the forensics than anything previously attempted.
I ask once again, although with fading hopes, that Mr Linklater go away and read my book, and then explain exactly where he takes issue with my reasoning or my conclusions. Or else refrain from commenting on something he clearly knows nothing about.



    1. Don't flatter him. He's nothing so glamorous, or intelligent. He's a mediocre intellect whose personal opinions are promoted well above their worth because of his position in journalism. Essentially he gets a platform to air his views which is denied to people far cleverer and better informed than he is. This makes him influential, and conceited.

      He's being used, knowingly or unknowingly, by the legal establishment as their "useful idiot". Frank Mulholland or someone close to Frank Mulholland tells Magnus what to say to reinforce and promote the Crown Office agenda, and Magnus dutifully complies, all the while preening himself about what an influential and knowledgeable person he is.

      It would be sad if it weren't so annoying.

  2. I just noticed something. The phrase he tweeted to me about my book, "a remarkable piece of work", isn't original. It's something James Robertson (who HAS read it) said to me about it before it was even published, and James kindly gave me permission to include his praise on the cover blurb.

    So Magnus has looked at the cover blurb (which is reproduced on the online sites selling the book) and parroted that line.


    1. It only now occurs to me that by using that phrase, lifted from the publicity puff for the book, Magnus was intending to mock me. Sometimes I can be very slow on the uptake. On this occasion, more than two years.