Thursday, 13 April 2017

The identification process was totally and utterly flawed

[On this date in 1999, Abdelbaset Megrahi took part in an identification parade at Camp Zeist. The Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci picked him out with the words “Not exactly the man I saw in the shop 10 years ago, but the man who look a little bit like exactly is the number 5". The trial judges were satisfied on this evidence (and a somewhat similarly qualified courtroom identification) that Gauci had identified Megrahi as the purchaser of the clothes that accompanied the bomb in the brown Samsonite suitcase. This “identification” would have been seriously challenged had Megrahi’s second appeal not been abandoned.

What follows is excerpted from an article in the Scottish Sunday Express on 21 August 2011:]

A dossier for Megrahi’s appeal – which was dropped days before his release – claims the ID parade in April 1999 “fell short of what was fair”. Gauci, who sold clothing that was later packed in a suitcase with the bomb, said he could not be sure if any of the men were the same individual who had visited his shop a decade earlier.

Eventually, he picked out Megrahi as the one who “looked a little bit like exactly” the purchaser.

The report claims the parade was carried out after “an extraordinary length of time” using “stand-ins” who were not “sufficiently similar”.

It also points out that Megrahi’s photograph had been widely published. Police reports from the parade are described as “incomplete and confusing”.

Professor Steven Clark, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, states: “At no time did [Gauci] ever clearly and definitively assert that Mr. Megrahi was the man who came into his store.

“Rather, in each identification procedure, he stated that Mr. Megrahi was ‘similar’ or ‘resembled’ the man.” 

Another eyewitness identification expert, Professor Tim Valentine, of Goldsmiths University of London, said: “I do have concern of the quality of the identification evidence. I wouldn’t want to be convicted on identification evidence of that quality.”

Scottish campaigner Iain McKie, a member of the Justice for Megrahi committee,  added: “The identification process of Megrahi was totally and utterly flawed and wrong. Yet the conviction rests on that identification. The whole process was rotten.”

[Professor Steve Clark’s report on the “identification” of Megrahi can be read here (paragraphs 77 to 90 deal particularly with the ID parade).  Professor Tim Valentine’s report can be read here (paragraphs 8.18 to 8.30 and 9.2 are particularly relevant).]

1 comment:

  1. Two additional items add to the confusion.

    1. While the identification process was commencing in early 1989, the chief police investigator began a police diary of events. He records that within two weeks of Gauci's first meeting with police investigators there were demands for reward money. Within weeks the American Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that "unlimited monies, with $10,000 immediately" were available. The purpose of the $10,000 was never explained, and it has never been mentioned again. The purpose of the unlimited monies was, however, explained by the DoJ. It would be available "only if he (Gauci) gives evidence".

    Repeated meetings with the police were accompanied by repeated demands for money, and Gauci's brother Paul joined in with his own versions of evidence.

    On 15th February 1991 - two and a half years into the investigation - Gauci finally made his first, vague, identification. It then was recorded in the police diary that there was concern about "recent demands for money" requiring some kind of action in order to change minds. The coincidence between the demands and the final identification has never been explained.

    At the conclusion of the trial and appeals, Gauci was paid $2m, and his brother Paul, $1m.

    The existence of the police diary was slyly concealed by the police, the Scottish Crown, and the prosecution team. Only during a three year investigation by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SSCRC) did its existence become known. It contained the entire record of discussions about money spanning two and a half years.

    2. When Scottish Minister for Justice Kenny MacKaskill retired, he published his memoirs. He wrote that "[the Libyan suspect] al-Megrahi was not the man who purchased the clothes [remnants of which were found at the Lockerbie crash site]". MacKaskill offered no evidence as to how he knew this.

    We are faced with a great paradox: If MacKaskill is correct and al-Megrahi did not purchase the clothes, then the Maltese shopkeeper Gauci never met him. How then could Gauci recognise him from photographs two and a half years later, and then in a police line-up?

    Scottish justice has failed the 270 Lockerbie dead and the people of two nations, Britain and America. An inquiry is long, long overdue. Will the years pass and the only court be that of public opinion? For the sake of the Scottish nation, let us hope that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will find the courage to face the truths which lie within the story of Lockerbie.