Monday, 16 January 2017

Closing submissions for Megrahi at Lockerbie trial

[What follows is the text of a report that was published on the BBC News website on this date in 2001:]

The bomb on board Pan Am flight 103 could have been put there by a "dupe", a defence lawyer has told the Lockerbie trial.

William Taylor, QC, suggested that an unwitting passenger may have been used by a terrorist group to put the device on the plane.

And he also suggested that it could have been planted at London's Heathrow Airport.

The defence advocate, who is acting on behalf of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, was continuing his final arguments at the Scottish court in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

He said that a passenger could have been duped into taking the bag containing the bomb on board.

"The most obvious way for any suitcase to get on board is by passenger check-in," he said.

"The Crown have not proved that the improvised explosive device was not introduced by a passenger."

Mr Taylor said that Khaled Jaffar, one of the passengers who died in the disaster, was nervous and constantly looking around him at Frankfurt Airport prior to the flight.

"His demeanour could have been because he was given another bag to introduce at Frankfurt," he added.

Mr Taylor also dismissed the Crown's theory that an unaccompanied suitcase containing the bomb was placed on board an Air Malta flight at Luqa airport in Malta.

He said the suitcase had ended up in a luggage container close to the skin of the aircraft.

"The only airport where such control could be exercised was Heathrow," he said.

"The improvised explosive device did end up in the optimum position - either it was introduced at Heathrow or the position of the device was achieved by extraordinary chance."

Mr Taylor said a dramatic increase in security staff at Heathrow Airport in the wake of the disaster was testament to the "inadequacy of security" there before it happened.

The QC said three areas of Heathrow Airport could have been breached - an interline shed, the baggage build-up area and an area alongside Pan Am 103.

The court had heard that on the day of the disaster, some bags destined for Flight 103 were placed into the luggage container in the interline shed which stored bags from connecting flights.

This was left unattended at the baggage build-up area.

It was later taken to the tarmac where bags from Flight 103 from Frankfurt were loaded and the container was placed on the connecting aircraft bound for New York.

Mr Taylor described security at the interline shed as "inadequate" and said somebody could have placed a bag onto a conveyer belt which ran into the shed from the outside.

It was also left open and unattended overnight.

He said: "In the case of the interline area there was scope for a case to go into a container in error.

"This would make it easier for a case to be placed deliberately in a container such as AVE 4041 the container which held the case containing the bomb."

Mr Taylor also pointed out that the container was left unattended outside an office in the baggage build-up area for 40 minutes that day.

He said a label indicated the container's destination and flight number.

Mr Taylor described the identification of Mr Al Megrahi as the person who bought clothing, which was in the bomb suitcase, from a shop in Malta as unreliable.

Charred fragments of clothing found in the plane wreckage were traced back to witness Tony Gauci's shop.

Mr Taylor described his evidence as "utterly unreliable" and said talk of "resemblance" was worthless.

The judges are expected to adjourn the trial once the defence's closing submissons are completed and announce a date when they will deliver their verdict.


  1. I have just spent 2 hours with my brief in Carlisle. We seemed to get along famously despite our recent acquaintance.

    The fact is that not only do most lawyers in Scotland believe that Zeist was a damned stitch up, but, most in England do to.

    We are coming to go get you all, believe it when I say that we will. We have the energy.

    Pip, pip.

  2. The above report lays bare Taylor's scattergun approach in all its uselessness.

    Maybe I'm being a tad unfair here. Defence lawyers tell me that doubt and uncertainty are their bread and butter - after all, their clients are supposed to be given the benefit of that doubt. So random nitpicking is perhaps not quite as vacuous as it appears at first sight. Nevertheless it didn't work in this case.

    The basic problem was that the judges in this case did not give the accused the benefit of the doubt. The burden of proof was explicitly reversed in the matter of the positioning of the Bedford case, where the judges stated that yes, indeed, it might have been rearranged into the second layer and the position where the explosion occurred, but the defence had not proved that that had happened and it might have ended up almost anywhere, so they were going to assume it wasn't the bomb. This is actually quite shocking and does leave you with some sympathy for Taylor, who actually ought to have won on that point.

    Nevertheless, just look at it. Maybe the bomb was in Khaled Jaafar's luggage, checked in at Frankfurt. But wait, the Crown theory that the bomb had come from Malta is untenable because the only place where control could have been exerted on the positioning of the suitcase was Heathrow. But wait, you just said...

    Then as regards Heathrow, one of his suggestions is that the case could have been put on the conveyor belt outside the shed. So it could, but that wouldn't have given the terrorist control over the positioning of the case in the container either.

    There are some very valid points in there, but these were overwhelmed in the general buckshot spray. The overall impression is of a prosecution which has a coherent narrative with evidence for the various parts and elements in it, while the defence simply nitpicks random points for the sake of it without having any real semblance of an alternative explanation of how the crime was carried out. It smacks of desperation, frankly.

    This needed a far more focussed approach, from an advocate capable of forensically trashing the shonky prosecution narrative point by point. More than that, it needed someone capable of recognising the importance of Bedford's evidence, of asking himself why the prosecution had surrendered the cases-were-not-moved pass without a fight, and figuring out that in fact it was the bottom-level explosion assertion that was the crucial one and the one that couldn't survive scrutiny.

    Megrahi needed the best the Scottish defence bar had to offer that year. He got Bill Taylor. Whose idea was that, I ask myself.