Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Lockerbie police records 'destroyed'

[This is the headline over a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 1999. It reads as follows:]

Police notebooks containing evidence relating to the Lockerbie bombing are alleged to have been destroyed.

Dozens of the notebooks are believed to have been disposed of five years after the 1988 air disaster which claimed the lives of 270 people.

A police officer involved in the investigation telephoned the BBC and said a number of officers had been told their notebooks were missing.

It is unclear whether police destroyed them mistakenly or whether the Crown Office had not ordered them to be kept.

However, police and prosecution officials preparing the case against two Libyans who are due to stand trial for the bombing next year, have refused to comment on the report, which initially appeared in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.

A spokesman for the Crown Office, which is responsible for prosecutions in Scotland, said: "We cannot make any comment as it would be inappropriate to comment about what may be evidential matters in the Lockerbie trial."

Dumfries and Galloway Police, in whose area the village of Lockerbie is located, also declined to comment.

The newspaper said that with the notebooks destroyed, police officers will have to give evidence years after the disaster without being able to refer to detailed notes taken at the time.

It said some of the notebooks referred to the recovery of fragments of wreckage, and that it was unclear whether police destroyed them mistakenly or whether the Crown Office did not order them to be kept.

The newspaper quoted sources said to be close to the defence as saying: "Police officers have told us they could not give detailed statements because they did not have their notebooks.

"When we asked why, the answer was the notebooks had been taken off them and were later destroyed. In a case like this the order should have been given that they were kept.

"For some reason the order was either not given or was ignored. We are aware of dozens of notebooks which have been destroyed."

A leading Edinburgh solicitor said missing notebooks could cause problems for police witnesses.

George More said: "A witness has to give evidence from his or her memory. A notebook can be used as an aide memoire and that is often done in court.

"If the witness can't remember and the actual notebook is not available then there may be difficulties for police witnesses at the trial."

The non-jury trial of the two accused, Abdel Baset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, is scheduled to get under way on 4 February 2000 at a specially convened court near the Hague.

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