Friday, 13 January 2017

Discovery of dodgy timer fragment

[What follows is excerpted from an article published in 2007 by Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer:]

The Discovery of the MST-13 Timer Fragment

In the months following the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, someone discovered a piece of a gray Slalom-brand shirt in a wooded area about 25 miles away from the town. According to a forensics expert, the cloth contained a tiny fragment -- 4 millimeters square -- of a circuit board. The testimony of three expert witnesses allowed the prosecutors to link this circuit board, described as part of the bomb trigger, to Megrahi.

There have been different accounts concerning the discovery of the timer fragment. A police source close to the investigation reported that it had been discovered by lovers. Some have said that it was picked up by a man walking his dog. Others have claimed that it was found by a policeman "combing the ground on his hands and knees."

At the trial, the third explanation became official. "On 13 January 1989, DC Gilchrist and DC McColm were engaged together in line searches in an area near Newcastleton. A piece of charred material was found by them, which was given the police number PI/995 and which subsequently became label 168."

The Alteration of the Label

The officer had initially labeled the bag "cloth (charred)" but had later overwritten the word "cloth" with "debris."

The bag contained pieces of a shirt collar and fragments of materials said to have been extracted from it, including the tiny piece of circuit board identified as coming from an MST-13 timer made by the Swiss firm MeBo.

"The original inscription on the label, which we are satisfied, was written by DC Gilchrist, was 'cloth (charred).' The word 'cloth' has been overwritten by the word 'debris.' There was no satisfactory explanation as to why this was done."

The judges said in their judgment that Gilchrist's evidence had been "at worst evasive and at best confusing."

Yet the judges went on to admit the evidence. "We are, however, satisfied that this item was indeed found in the area described, and DC McColm, who corroborated DC Gilchrist on the finding of the item, was not cross-examined about the detail of the finding of this item."


    The allegedly found MST13 Timerfragment (PT35) was an “evidence fraud” to the detriment of Edwin Bollier & Mebo Ltd. and Libya !

    The first main evidence photo, shows the black carbonized original MST-13 Timer Circuit Board (PT-35) PROTOTYPE, which was allegedly found on 12 May 1989, inside of a "Slalom" Shirt, according to expert Allen Feraday. This is a proof of fraud !

    You can watch now via LINK: and on our webpage: a statement additional to Al Jazeera's report, from Engineer Ulrich Lumpert; new facts, translated into English language.

    Important question ? Which officials, from Switzerland and Scotland - in the autumn before Christmas 1989, had brought the MST-13 Timerfragment (PT-35) to Eng. Ulrich Lumpert, in the MEBO laboratory -
    how could this happen, because the MST-13 Timerfragment was first found in January 1990, in a Slalom shirt by expert Allen Feraday at RARDE - and not found on on 12 May 1989, as writing on RARDE report 181, on the manipulated page nr. 51 ?? !!!

    SIGNIFICANT: The Libyan MST-13 timers were not fitted with such prototype MST-13, circuit boards !

    Enough with legal procrastination, we started !
    With legal support - of Edwin Bollier and Mebo AG - a new application for a renewed or new appeal on behalf of family members of the late Mr. Al Megrahi, will be filed to the SCCRC with all requested and notarized documents. Criminal Law specialist, Aamer Anwar & Co in Glasgow has the mandate to take care of the legal operation in Scotland.

    by Edwin & Mahnaz Bollier / MEBO Ltd, supported also - by the Group 'Justice for Al Megrahi'- many thanks.

  2. Friday the 13th, 1989. The big field of rough grazing to the east of Blinkbonny farmhouse, near Newcastleton. I don't think either Gilchrist or McColm were there that day. McColm certainly worked almost exclusively in the property store at the Dextar warehouse. Crawford describes how he'd snaffled that cushy indoor number and was extremely reluctant to get out in the cold and the wet with the search teams. (He also describes McColm as having an extremely cavalier attitude to the provenance of the debris that was coming in.)

    I think the field was cleared of debris hurriedly that Friday afternoon, without logging each individual find, and the stuff taken back to Dextar in a single bag or something like that. It lay there undisturbed until Tuesday 17th, when McColm went through it and logged the individual items as separate production numbers. Probably Gilchrist was his assistant that day.

    Note in the trial transcript how the prosecution advocate carefully avoids asking Gilchrist anything that would require a direct answer as to whether he was actually out at Blinkbonny farm that day. It's a masterpiece in allowing the witness to imply what you want him to imply without ever requiring him to lie. My bet is that Gilchrist wasn't there and wasn't the person who picked the collar up in the field, but was rather the person who sorted the bag on the following Tuesday. I think the advocate knew that too, hence the careful questioning. I think Gilchrist's nervous behaviour can be explained by his knowing that he was going to have to go into the witness box and in effect suggest a falsehood. He hoped he wouldn't have to lie, assuming the prosecution questions were properly phrased, and I imagine he was shit-scared that a defence advocate would ask him some more direct questions that would require either an entirely different answer or a flat-out lie.

    So what was that all abut anyway? I think the Crown decided it didn't want to admit that the collar had been found by some unknown searcher who hadn't signed a production label at the time. Though in all conscience there must have been a lot of stuff that was brought in under similar circumstances, given the conditions on the ground at the time. So they cooked up this little plan and Gilchrist had to go along with it.

    The distribution of the four separate pieces of the grey Slalom shirt shows to a pretty high degree of certainty that these fell out of the sky with the rest of the debris from the plane. Logically, including PI/995. Somebody picked it up in that field that day, just not Gilchrist.

    While it's possible to construct a scenario where the distribution of the four pieces was faked, the chances of anyone attempting that sort of detail and complexity even if they actually knew about the path of the south debris trail in time to overlay it, are remote. Two of the other pieces were found way over near Otterburn - admittedly not far from roads, but still a long trek. The fourth piece was found on a steep slope deep in the Keilder Forest up a couple of miles of forestry track. It's amazing the searchers went there, never mind someone faking provenance. Of course you could use a helicopter, but in God's name why on earth would anyone go to such elaborate lengths when dropping another piece in the next field to the one where PI/995 was found would have been quite sufficient?

    The question that remains is whether the debris, and in particular PT/35b, was in the collar when it fell from the sky. It's not certain, but I have a crawling suspicion it was.

  3. George Thomson has asked me to post the following for him:
    Morag, Would your crawling suspicion that it was in the collar be tempered if I could prove to you that at the time Pan Am 103 went down the circuit board from which PT35b derived had not at that time been manufactured.

    1. Naturally, George. However, none of the evidence which people have shown me purporting to demonstrate that has in fact demonstrated that. Yet.

      As regards the "pure tin" tinning process, while a lot of hooey has been written in relation to a modern lead-free tinning procedure used by manufacturers to replace the alloy procedure for environmental reasons, that has nothing to do with PT/35b which was tinned using the electroless "liquid tin" method which was commonly employed by amateurs in the 1980s as today. That's even in the Williamson memo.

      I have read Ludwig's blog going on about the copper interface but he's speculating there, he doesn't as far as I can see provide proof of his speculation. If that were to be proved that would be a different matter of course, but it seems to be quite a long way from being proved.

      One has to bear in mind that the fragment definitely existed on 25th January 1990 (I think - about then anyway) when it was physically handed over to the Scottish police by the RARDE people. That gives more than a year for possible shenanigans of course, but it provides an outer limit.

      More problematic is photograph 117. That has provenance dating it to May 1989, and it shows PT/35b. Close examination of that photo shows it to be the same item as appears in later, better-quality photos taken by both RARDE and the Scottish police (at Strathclyde university I think). It is almost impossible to figure out how that photo can have been a retrospective fake, due to the appearance of the wad of radio manual pages (PT/2) in the same photo, right next to PT/35b.

      That item consists of a tightly-packed wad of about five sheets of paper, which Hayes promptly teased apart and drew on the same page (the infamous page 51) where he described PT/35b as "a fragment of green circuit board". Thus, photograph 117 must have been taken during the examination described on page 51, after the pieces of debris were prised out of the fabric of the collar and before the wad of paper was teased apart into individual pages.

      So, was that date 12th May? The radio manual was one of the things Feraday was obsessing about at that time. These flakes of paper are mentioned in the provenance trail about that time and the series of close-up photos taken also date back to that time. That is one hell of a tall order to fake, and it's right up there with the idea that the provenance of four pieces of the shirt collar was faked to form a neat line along the southern debris trail, including one location which is inaccessible in the extreme.

      Paradoxically, the page-numbering muddle also suggests the paperwork is genuine. Hayes was very careless with his note-taking and particularly with the pagination which he admitted was retrospective. Pages 50 and 51 have indeed been interpolated in the middle of notes of the examination he was doing on 15th May, but there are other places where he has done the same thing. If he had added the reference to PT/35b some time later there's no reason why he couldn't have done it without leaving any evidence that anything of the sort had been done, and it seems to me that if you're doing that, you take particular care not to draw attention to the relevant page by fouling up your page numbering.

      None of this is completely insuperable, but it piles layer upon layer of mindboggling unnecessary and irrelevant detail that has to be interpreted as having been faked for absolutely no reason at all. I'm sceptical, at least for now.

      If Ludwig would get round to approving my comments about all this I left on his blog, we could perhaps discuss this further.

      Or you could actually show me the evidence you think shows the Yorkie trouser label has been tampered with, like you said you would.

  4. Hi, I hope to write up some conclusions of the various PT35B investigations in the next 24 months.
    For now, I wrote that the investigation moved away from Iran to focus on Libya in Sept 89. It is not as suggested by Morag a typo. (Small correction. The Lockerbie investigation switched to Libya in September 1990, not September 1989. Morag comment not yet posted on IntelToday)That is 100% correct. Only a child will believe that Libya became the 'new culprit' in Sept 90. Hell, even that was "too soon" and that is why the CIA and MI6 wanted to delay the first visit to MEBO a bit more...

    Please do not forget that there is a genuine cable from the CIA dated Oct 89 linking Megrahi to Pan Am 103!

    Weird CIA CABLE – 17 OCT 1989

    CIA Weird Cables – Update

    This was such a shock to a former investigator when I told him that he went back to the CIA to get confirmation that the doc was genuine! He simply could not believe it....

    For now, I can only conclude that Iran internal politics, the US&UK geopolitical goals and the investigation -- included forensic work on PT/35(b) -- follow exactly the same pattern between March 89 and Sept 89...

    Best, L

    1. I wish you'd be a bit less cryptic. I'm a simple soul and I don't do well in guessing games.

    2. Ludwig only approves comments that agree with him and stroke his ego. I've given up commenting and stopped reading his blog.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. As regards the "weird cables", my main impression is that they (the CIA) don't know their arse from their elbow. They're in the general vein of the constant low-level desire to blame Libya which seems to underly the investigation right back to December 1988, as if the Americans really want to pin it on the Libyans but can't compete with the strength of the evidence implicating the PFLP-GC at that time. So of course any stirring round that particular pool will throw up the Libyans who were hanging around in Malta and so Megrahi and Fhimah are almost bound to feature.

      I've felt for a long time that the American side of the investigation wanted to blame Libya and had material ready, but were frustrated by the Scottish investigation focussing elsewhere. Then, once PT/35b was finally identified and Libya was in the frame, they came forward with some of the material and pointed the Scottish police in the direction they wanted to go in.

  5. Well, it's up to him. I can see he still hasn't approved mine.

    I admit to being a wee bit tetchy, but that's because I had high hopes of that blog as he has obviously made an extremely in-depth study of every detail of the evidence relating to PT/35b, and it's all so disappointing. He drip-feeds information with either no comment or cryptic remarks that don't help the reader who is simply there to try to understand. It's been over 18 months now and really I don't feel I know any more than I did at the start. I’m not reading the blog much, but I did have a wee splurge just after New Year to see if there was anything more concrete there.

    I would dearly love to be shown conclusive or very persuasive evidence that PT/35b didn't fall out of the sky that night, but I can't see anything of that nature in what Ludwig is presenting. For my own part I have tried very hard to find a chink in the provenance where there is a realistic possibility of its being inserted retrospectively, but so far I've been unable to do it.

    Worse still, I actually had what I thought was a pretty promising narrative, which was torpedoed by an image Ludwig himself posted. I should have thought about the provenance of the other three bits of shirt but I didn't. Ludwig did, and what he established seems to me to prove beyond reasonable doubt that PI/995 actually fell out of the sky with the rest of the debris. Hell and damnation frankly, but I have to go where the evidence takes me. Bang goes what seemed a perfectly good hypothesis.

    And Ludwig doesn't address this issue at all. If he has a contrary view of how this image ( should be interpreted, other than that these four items fell naturally along the extension of the south debris trail where the lighter contents of the plane landed, I would dearly like to know about it. But he says nothing. He seems simultaneously to want us to agree with him, but to refuse to explain why we should.

    I have published a book, three years ago, which although it majors on the luggage issue, includes two substantial chapters about PT/35b. He doesn't even list it in his bibliography.

    Now I don't mind being wrong, and being shown to be wrong. I'm used to it. Being shown to be wrong is the first step to discovering the right answer. So if any of my conclusions or lines of thinking as regards PT/35b is wrong or probably wrong I'd be delighted to be shown my error so that I can move my thinking on and hopefully move closer to the truth. But Ludwig hasn't addressed any of the points I've brought up, either in my book or on his blog.

    Now he says he has a two-year timetable worked out to drip-feed further cryptic disconnected snippets of information. Life’s too short. We might have managed to get criminal charges brought against people in relation to the tinning issue while he’s still playing cat-and-mouse guessing games.

    1. As regards the above comment about September 1989 not being a typo, then that's fine. It's interesting. Because as far as the world is concerned, the date when the Lockerbie investigation turned from the PFLP-GC to Libya was September 1990. Ludwig writes September 1989 so obviously I think it's a typo. It's easy to do that, I've done similar things myself. But it wasn't a typo? Well it would actually be quite nice to have it explained that this is new information and here's why the actual date was a year earlier than we all thought. Fat chance.

      The earliest anyone was going after Libya in respect of Lockerbie was as early as late December 1988. I can't recall the exact date but it was almost as soon as the evidence had been recovered that showed there had been an explosion on board. Ronald Reagan, then in the last weeks of his presidency, announced his intention to bomb Libya in retaliation. He didn't do it, possibly because the evidence pointing to the PFLP-GC emerged almost immediately afterwards, but it showed where his preference lay as regards the scapegoat.

      I've always felt that this idea that the investigation shifted focus completely in the autumn of 1990 was wrong. First because that's still too early to be explained by the political necessities of the Gulf War, realistically, but secondly because there is a discernible undercurrent of desire to blame Libya going right back to the beginning.

      Part of the scenario I had to abandon when I saw the picture of the four pieces of shirt falling in a straight line was a hypothesis that Megrahi had been deliberately lured to Malta on 20th December so that he would naturally choose to fly back on the morning of 21st December and be in position at the other end of the flight fingered by tray 8849 in the Frankfurt computer system. It's rather a complicated piece of brainstorming and it may simply be a conspiracy theory too far, but I was interested to see if I could make it fly.

      So the idea that Megrahi's name was being linked to Lockerbie in October 1989 really plays into that hypothesis and makes me wonder whether it might still be resurrected even if my idea about how PI/995 was introduced into the chain of evidence was wrong. But is Ludwig interested in sharing what he knows in a meaningful way and perhaps pooling resources to think through how this might have worked? It seems not.

      Well, we’ll just have to do it without him.

  6. I thought I submitted these last two comments in the reverse order. They were originally a single long comment but it was too long for the system. I seem to have fouled up so that the second half appears first. Try reading them the other way round!

    1. OK, I think I fixed the order, subject to Professor Black's good graces in approving a re-post of the second part.

  7. Lets for example go back to the first three conclusions at the end of "Forensic analysis of PT/35b" on Ludwig's blog:

    I. The “Thinning” of PT/35(b) is wrong. (Pure Tin vs Tin/Lead for the Thuring boards).

    I agree, but it doesn't bring us anywhere, as we don't know what was delivered ,when, to whom. Mr. B.'s credibility on this issue is virtually non existent.

    II. The density of the copper nodules on the “Matte” side of the copper foil is evidence that PT/35(b) was built on a copper clad laminate manufactured well after the time the THURING boards delivered to MEBO in 1985 had been produced.

    A single statement of mr. Whitehead and a few low-quality SEM pictures is not what is called "evidence". To proof this copper foil thing you need a lot more forensics and it is simply to late for that.

    III. The epoxy resins used in PT/35(b) and in the Thuring boards are obviously different. (Probably to take advantage of the higher density of the copper nodules in PT/35(b) as noted above.)

    No, it is not a "resounding NO". The differences may have something to do with the relative amounts of "resin" and "harder".

  8. I thought I posted this last night but I forgot to hit send.

    Here's the comments Ludwig hasn't (yet) approved on his blog. I'm afraid they're in the order I posted them in rather than chronological order of the posts they refer to. There may be something helpful there, I don't know.

  9. This is such a conundrum that I often wonder if we're missing a huge great important piece of the jigsaw that would make everything make sense, but I suppose we have to go with what we have.

    First, the presence of a countdown timer in the Lockerbie wreckage makes no logical sense. The bomb must have been triggered by an altimeter trigger, or it would have gone off much later. Pan Am 103 left Heathrow on time that evening. (People punting the myth that the plane was late have been obscuring this logic for decades. It wasn’t late, it was up to time.) If it had indeed missed its slot - and it very nearly did - then a bomb timed to go off at 7.03 pm would have detonated almost harmlessly while the plane was still on the tarmac. It was due to be in the air for about seven hours. Nobody would set a countdown timer to go off so early in the flight time.

    Second, bear in mind that an MST-13 timer as they were manufactured could not possibly have fitted inside that radio case without removing much of the actual radio itself. Feraday’s hypothesis was that the bomb-maker removed the innards from the timer’s case and squirrelled the two PCBs and presumably the decade wheel and whatever else was necessary in between the components of the radio. I’m not quite sure how this could be accomplished with any confidence that the thing would go on working. The simpler devices Khreesat was using were of course easy to fit round the radio components and that was the way he habitually made his bombs.

    So how does a single fragment that looks exactly like a bit of one of the PCBs from an MST-13 timer come to be blasted into the fabric of that damn shirt? And not just any old fragment, but as far as I can see it’s the only 1 cm square piece on either of the boards that has a pattern of circuitry distinctive enough to be matched visually to an original without any other clue to lead you to the right item. I have no idea.

    I think the tinning issue shows conclusively that PT/35b wasn’t from one of the PCBs made by Thüring, therefore it wasn’t from one of the instruments supplied to Libya. The other two discrepancies that Ludwig has uncovered serve to reinforce and support that conclusion of course. However, the extremely close visual match of the pattern of the circuitry indicates that the thing was made using the same actual template as the Thüring boards, with the Letraset not cut completely flush at the corners. (It’s possible a copy template might have been made by photographing one of the Thüring boards but I think that’s fairly unlikely.) The use of liquid tin electroless plating suggests it was made by someone who did not have access to a PCB manufacturing facility. The very good match of the other components - the nine-ply fibreglass and the pointless solder resist on the reverse side - suggest this wasn’t just someone making another copy for general use but that it was intended to be a counterfeit of the first batch of MST-13s supplied to Libya.

    I’m thinking about who had that template. Thüring had it to make the boards for the Libyan instruments of course but that was years previously and I don’t really suspect Thüring. I assume the template was returned to Mebo when the order was delivered. So Mebo had the thing until - when? The new Al Jazeera film says the template was given to Flückiger in June 1989. If that’s true it’s extraordinarily interesting but it’s pretty much a throwaway line in the film. There is a photo of the template in the Joint Forensic Report and it’s referred to in court, so it seems that RARDE had the thing in 1991 at least. How did that work? Did the Swiss police give it to the Scottish police? (I had assumed the thing had remained at Mebo until the Scottish police visited, but if that’s not the case we need clarity.)

    1. Edwin has never been clear on how the original prototypes were tinned. Not that I necessarily believe what he says about anything at all but it would at least be a start. And some of what he says is corroborated by Thüring and various invoices and delivery notes so it’s not all fantasy. I think it’s likely they were tinned using liquid tin, as obviously Mebo didn’t have a PCB manufacturing facility - that’s why they subcontracted that part to Thüring. It’s not entirely impossible that PT/35b came from one of the prototype boards that pre-date the Thüring items. It was said not to have been because the prototypes didn’t have any solder resist at all, but given where that information comes from I think it’s negotiable. There was some talk that the prototypes, said to have been given to the Stasi, might have come into the possession of the PFLP-GC, or one of them might. So that’s a possibility.

      If we move on to the possibility that PT/35b post-dates the Thüring items, then we have to look at who had the template. Mebo again, apparently through to June 1989 when it’s said to have been given to Flückiger. So the Swiss police had it until at some unspecified time it was passed to the Scottish police and/or RARDE. Unless it passed through other hands in between there. Who in that group might have been motivated to use the template to produce a counterfeit board that might pass as one of the 10 items supplied to Libya in the first batch sold by Mebo?

      There’s a problem here. According to the Al Jazeera film the whole caboodle was given to Flückiger - template, leftover Thüring boards and other odds and ends. So whoever had the template presumably also had the spare boards. Why not just use one of these instead of making a counterfeit one? There may be some reason but it’s not immediately obvious.

      The huge question is, was PT/35b made before the Lockerbie disaster, in which case the possibility that it was in the shirt collar when it fell out of the sky has to be examined, or was it made after the disaster. In the latter case there must be some way it was introduced retrospectively into the chain of evidence even if that’s difficult to find.

      That question is important in another way too. If the thing fell out of the sky then there’s no necessity for the authorities or the investigators to have been involved in faking it or planting it. If it’s part of some complicated plot to implicate Libya then it’s at least possible this was something entirely on the terrorists’ side, and the authorities aren’t automatically implicated. If it was a retrospective plant then it fits with the narrative of the authorities deliberately setting out to misdirect the investigation and lay a trail towards Libya. But I’m with Ludwig on that one. If that was done, it was done way too early for the Gulf War to have been the reason. The fragment was genuinely in the hands of the Scottish police at the end of January 1990. Saddam Hussein didn’t invade Kuwait till the following August.

      If indeed the anyone on the investigation side decided to create and plant false evidence to point to Libya, this was done before the end of 1989. Who, why and how are the questions that spring to mind on that one. The other end of that time window also has to be considered, and that is the point at which anyone might reasonably imagine that the real evidence that was coming in wasn’t going to be so overwhelmingly incriminating of the PFLP-GC that the whole thing would be pointless. If they’d found the altimeter, for example, the exercise could have done more harm than good. (It’s possible they did find something, a bit of the capacitor I think - John Ashton has the details - but that somehow got lost, so that’s interesting.)

      Is that a fair summary of the problem as it stands?

    2. Here’s another angle.

      It’s very hard to see how anyone could have planted anything on the plane itself with any reasonable expectation that it would be found. It could have gone down in the Irish Sea. (At least, that’s assuming that the Daventry departure route wasn’t standard for that flight at that time. Many people declare that it wasn’t, and the route was only allocated because of the prevailing weather conditions, but I’ve found no confirmation of that. It’s possible it was the usual departure route for the flight.) Even if it was confidently anticipated to go down on land, the chances of anything in particular being found, looked at from a prospective point of view at least, don’t seem all that great.

      It’s also very difficult to imagine a terrorist gang putting together a complicated plot to lay a trail of evidence implicating someone else. That’s just not how terrorists operate. Get in there, do the job, get out, and hope the mayhem lives up to expectations. Either claim responsibility or go to ground and hope you aren’t caught, depending on the circumstances. I could just about go with the idea that clothes were bought in Malta by a man with a Libyan accent as a bit of a smokescreen to hint at Libya, but beyond that it just doesn’t seem plausible.

      It’s more rational to propose a political conspiracy to shift the blame to Libya, where Reagan wanted to place it in the early days of the investigation. Then evidence planted after the event becomes plausible, but at the same time a much bigger deal. It also runs into the problem that the provenance of PT/35b in the chain of evidence isn’t as questionable as it appears at first sight. Superficially it seems incredible that Hayes and Feraday really did simply ignore that thing sitting there in the middle of photograph 117 in May 1989 and did bugger-all about it until September. And even then the effort was pretty half-hearted. At first examination the paper trail from both May and September easily supports suspicions of fraud. Feraday had all the facilities to analyse the item but he didn’t actually do it until the middle of 1991.

      But the more you look at the provenance from May 1989 the harder it is to make the suspicions of fraud stick. As every inconsequential detail that supports the photo and the paperwork being genuine is discovered, it’s necessary to postulate that this detail was somehow fabricated in order to add verisimilitude to the tale. In the end you’re left with a mountain of implausible detail that simply wouldn’t have been either necessary or sensible for a fraudster to fabricate when it’s clear that the job could have been done relatively simply, leaving little or no trace. (I don’t think in 1989 anyone would be envisaging that ESDA analysis would be applied to these notes, and yet the ESDA analysis shows that the obvious, simple way to fake the provenance wasn’t done.)

      I just don’t know which way to go on this.

      1. If an MST-13 timer was really part of the actual IED, why did the plane blow up so early?
      2. If it wasn’t, but that fragment of PCB really did fall out of the sky, W T actual F?
      3. If it was planted later, who made it, and when, and why, and how on earth was that done so as to leave the paper trail in the state in which we find it?

      I keep trying to apply Occam’s Razor to this but it’s stubbornly resistant. If we had some more facts to narrow things down a bit, it would be fantastic. If there were really some proof that PT/35b was manufactured after December 1989 that would be enormously helpful, but I’m with Xiaoya Ta on this. The evidence presented by Ludwig so far is a long way from compelling. If he’s simply going to refuse to engage with people who aren’t yet convinced about this, we aren’t going to get very far.

    3. (Sorry about all this. I find posting these thoughts helpful to me, and I also hope for someone else to come along and engage and maybe spot something I’ve missed.)

      There’s a huge contrast between looking at PT/35b and looking at the luggage evidence. With the luggage, everything fits. It was remarkably rewarding to investigate.

      Hypothesis. The bomb was actually in the suitcase Bedford saw when he came back from his break at quarter to five.

      Rationale. The belief that it wasn’t was entirely driven by two assumptions, first that the exploding suitcase had been on the second layer of luggage, not on the floor of the container, and second that the cases Bedford described as being in the container at 4.45 were not subsequently moved or rearranged. Lose either of these assumptions and the overwhelming probability becomes that that case contained the bomb. If the explosion had actually been in the case on the bottom of the stack it’s a slam-dunk, as that was where that case was when Bedford saw it. Conversely, if the cases were moved then that case could easily have been moved to the second-layer position and given Bedford’s description of it as a brown Samsonite hardshell and its mysterious appearance while the container was unattended it surely becomes chief suspect no 1.

      The behaviour of the investigators during 1989-92 demonstrates clearly their belief that the suitcases weren’t rearranged. Much effort was expended to support the second-level-explosion hypothesis, which really looks designed to exclude the Bedford case that way. If the second-level-explosion was really watertight then the prosecution would have gone with this at Camp Zeist (as some of the same guys went with it at the FAI) and that would have been that.

      However, that is exactly what they didn’t do. In 2000 the prosecution surrendered the “no rearrangement” pass without a fight, and indeed apparently willingly. Why? As soon as you do that, you surely raise the question of how the case Bedford saw can be ruled out, and indeed how it was ruled out in 1989. You can hardly say, well back then it was ruled out because we thought the luggage hadn’t been rearranged so we didn’t investigate it any further, but now we realise the luggage actually was rearranged but don’t worry about it! And yet that, implicitly, is what was brought to court.

      If the luggage was or even might have been rearranged, there are only two ways to exclude the Bedford suitcase. Identify it positively as an innocent piece of legitimate luggage known to have passed through the Heathrow interline shed, or (preferably and) identify it as something non-exploding that was found on the ground. It’s clear the original investigation did not follow this line of inquiry.

      Hypothesis 2. The reason the prosecution at Camp Zeist surrendered the “no rearrangement” pass, apparently to the severe detriment of their case, is this. That if the evidence is examined in detail it becomes clear that the second-level-explosion hypothesis cannot be sustained, and in that case the identity of the Bedford case as the one that exploded is a slam-dunk. The prosecution preferred to run with the possibility that the Bedford case was moved well away from the explosion rather than confront this, which would have torpedoed their case utterly.

    4. Investigation. None of the cases known to be legitimately routed through the interline shed reconciles to the case Bedford saw. The evidence of the baggage handlers also points to a seventh case being in the container in addition to the six legitimate ones. None of the non-exploding cases recovered on the ground reconciles to the case Bedford saw. So far so good.

      Then, police statements and FAI transcripts show that Sidhu, the baggage handler responsible for rearranging the luggage according to the prosecution, consistently denied doing any such thing. Clearly this was the reason for the original confidence that there had been no rearrangement. Sidhu was not called to give evidence at Camp Zeist even though according to the prosecution case he was the person who actually placed the bomb suitcase in the container. This is an extraordinary omission and supports the suspicion that the prosecution was engaged in a deliberate ploy to mislead the court.

      Then, detailed examination of the damaged luggage shows that contrary to what was concluded in court, the blue Tourister (the Coyle case) was blasted upwards among the other luggage, not downwards away from it. It was on top of the bomb suitcase just as had been believed by the investigators in 1989-92. It was not the elusive case underneath the bomb. However, the assumption that the Coyle case was underneath the bomb was the sole reason for deciding that the absent Sidhu must have rearranged the luggage. There is now no support whatsoever for the proposition that the luggage was rearranged.

      Finally, examination of the two cases loaded upright immediately behind the bomb suitcase reveals that their bottom front corners were not protected by another suitcase under the bomb, and that the explosion was in the case at floor level.

      Conclusion. And that’s it. Everything fits. There are no awkward details that make the narrative difficult to sustain. The Bedford case was the one that exploded according to multiple lines of reasoning which all converge to support the conclusion. The only little wrinkle is the unexpected positioning of the two Bernstein cases which were not in the position implied by Bedford’s loading procedure, but this isn’t hard to explain as the work of the terrorist trying to make the container look properly loaded and not in need of any further rearrangement.

      Other little details all mount up, such as the location where the lock of the bomb suitcase was found, the association of a fragment of the hinge end with a piece of luggage that was in the adjacent container AVN7511, and the condition of the airframe under the floor of the container. It’s wonderful. It’s miraculous. It’s so obviously true and correct.

      But try to do the same thing with PT/35b and it’s an entirely different story. Hypothesis after hypothesis crashes and burns on some point of evidence that just gets in the way and won’t fit with any sensible explanation. I think we have to be missing something really important but I can’t imagine what it is.

      If anyone can discover what this is I would have thought it would be Ludwig, bringing to the table an examination of the evidence surrounding PT/35b at least as comprehensive as my examination of the transfer baggage evidence. But I’m losing hope here, as he repeatedly declines to engage with any discussion of his investigation and now gives us a two-year timetable over which he plans to drip-feed us tantalising, disconnected snippets of information. If this is leading up to a grand revelation to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the disaster, then I for one would prefer a less leisurely approach.

    5. Everything fits if the seven grey fragments are from the IED. If not, there may be ... uhhh... a little problem.

    6. You have absolutely hit the nail on the head. But they are. I genuinely hope Operation Sandwood has commissioned new forensic tests to confirm this.

      Right pattern of fake leather, right colour (just without the metallic lacquer coating) and right thickness. It's absolutely shocking the original forensics didn't look at this.

    7. Another point. The condition of the panel of lining fabric from the Carlsson case (PK/139) and of the McKee Samsonite (PD/889) demonstrates conclusively that there wasn't another case under the bomb suitcase. The pitting and sooting on the airframe under the container floor also supports this conclusion.

      So that's another reason we know that the seven grey fragments aren't all that was left of a case under the bomb, the case Bedford saw. We know there wasn't a case under the bomb from entirely independent reasoning. So apart from the physical match between the fragments and the bomb suitcase, there's nothing else they could be part of. The "case under the bomb suitcase" n'existe pas.

    8. And yet another thing. The Crown must have thought long and hard before it decided to give up the notion that the suitcases hadn't been rearranged. That should have lost them the case, as it allowed the reasonable doubt that the case Bedford saw had been moved into the second layer and so was the bomb. I believe they only did this because they realised that the alternative was to have the Bedford case shown to have been the bomb for sure. At least their way, they would lose on doubt, not certainty, so they could continue to claim it was only a question of the evidence not being quite strong enough rather than that they were simply wrong.

      So I believe they must have looked awfully hard for a suitcase to present as having been under the bomb that could plausibly have been in the container when it was in the interline shed. The seven fragments were listed in the forensic report as grey hardshell A. It's a dead certainty they considered that as a possible candidate - it wasn't matched to a passenger so it could have been a stray item of lost luggage at Heathrow. Claiming that was under the bomb and was the case Bedford saw would have been far preferable to shifting the Coyle case around.

      They didn't go down that route. I think they realised these were just more bits of the bomb suitcase and claiming they were the Bedford case would only lead the defence to figure that out and then figure the rest.

      I seriously believe some of the prosecution lawyers realised the Bedford case was the bomb and deliberately set out to conceal this from the court. The sleight of hand is too clever to be accidental.

  10. Thank you to all for this most interesting discussion!

    1. Sorry to have gone on at such length. Thinking out loud. I don't understand why the rest of this, and in particular PT/35b, isn't susceptible to rational analysis the way the suitcase evidence is. This isn't a bad detective novel where the author forgot what the point was half way through, but sometimes it seems like it.