Monday, 2 May 2016

Hillsborough and Lockerbie

[What follows is the text of a letter dated 28 April 2016 sent to the editor of The Guardian by Peter Biddulph, but not (as yet) published:]

Twenty seven years is indeed a damning indictment. (Owen Jones: Think Hillsborough couldn't happen today? Think again). And not only in the case of Hillsborough.

It is now almost thirty years since the Lockerbie bombing of December 21st 1988, in which 270 people were murdered by a terrorist bomb. Two Libyans were accused and tried at a specially located court at Kamp Zeist in Holland. One - Baset al-Megrahi - was convicted, the other acquitted with no case to answer.

Only eight years after the trial and two appeals did it emerge that the top police investigator had concealed his diary of his investigations from the defence team and the trial court. When examined by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) and members of the defence team, it was found to contain a chronological record of discussions with the US department of Justice and the sole identification witness concerning massive rewards, in the words of the US Department of Justice, of "unlimited monies" and "only if he gives evidence". The witness received $2m, and his brother $1m. This discovery was one of six areas of concern which led the SCCRC to conclude that "there may have been a miscarriage of justice".

Similarly, only after eight years was the forensic notebook of the prosecution's leading forensic scientist available for scrutiny by the defence team. This contained proof of either gross negligence or perjury when he told the trial judges that a fragment of timer circuit board found at the crash site was materially and structurally identical with timer boards delivered in 1985 to the Libyan government. In fact, his hand-written annotations revealed that the metallurgy of the fragment and the control samples were quite different. The fragment was protectively coated with 100% tin, whereas the sample was coated with an alloy of 70/30% tin/lead.

These issues, and several others with serious implications concerning both police and Crown officers, have been repeatedly brought to the attention of the Scottish government, the Scottish Crown Office, and the police. At all stages, those who have helped to expose them to public scrutiny have been pilloried as "conspiracy theorists".

Campaigners for justice in the Lockerbie case now await the results of Operation Sandwood, a police investigation into allegations of criminality by the Scottish Crown and certain Scottish police officers and government scientists. There is concern that campaigners for the truth have been forced to await an investigation of the police, by the police.  Whatever Sandwood contains, however, those areas of alleged criminality will still stand, and the fight for truth will continue.

Hillsborough has given truth and justice to the people of Liverpool. Let us hope that in time the same will be said for the bereaved of Lockerbie.

RB: Further posts on this blog drawing analogies between Hillsborough and Lockerbie can be read here.]


  1. The following comment comes from Peter Biddulph:

    Many thanks for putting the letter on your blog together with the links to previous material.

    I'd forgotten much of the early detail of when we were drafting the book, of how I was severely shocked to read Thatcher's Downing Street Memoirs and was unable to find any mention of Lockerbie.

    It's a powerful indictment of how governments work, especially the corrupt in-step politicking of the US and Britain.

  2. Well said Peter. The fact that your letter still awaits publication is a sad reflection on the attitude of the mainstream UK media. What is deeply disturbing is that the number of representatives of the Fourth Estate who fully comprehend the implications for our criminal justice system, vis-a-vis the the intransigence position of the Crown Office in terms of how they intend to deal with Police Scotland's Operation Sandwood report, could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.