What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2011.
Scottish Sunday Express on the Aljazeera documentary
[What follows is the text of a report by Ben Borland that appeared in yesterday's Scottish edition of the Sunday Express:]
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was convicted on the basis that he bought clothes from Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, including a grey men’s Slalom shirt. The clothing was then packed in a suitcase with the bomb that brought down Pan Am 103, killing 270 on December 21, 1988.
The charred remains of the shirt were crucial to the prosecution, as a forensic scientist found a piece of circuit board from the bomb embedded in the collar which first led investigators to Libya, and ultimately Megrahi.
However, it has now emerged that clothing manufacturers in Malta told Scottish police in January 1990 that the shirt recovered from the crash site was in fact a boy’s size.
Campaigners have stepped up calls for an inquiry after the claims surfaced in a documentary broadcast on Thursday by Arab TV network Al Jazeera but seen by only a handful of Scottish viewers. [RB: The programme can be watched on You Tube here.]
In it, Scotland’s former Lord Advocate also accepted that Gauci, the main prosecution witness, was paid $2million to give evidence against Megrahi. Scottish private investigator George Thomson tracked down shirt manufacturers Tonio Caruana and Godwin Navarro in Malta. They recalled being shown a fragment of shirt by DC John Crawford and telling him, independently of each other, that it was a boy’s shirt
Speaking to the Sunday Express yesterday, Mr Navarro, 76, said: “I stand by my statement. I believe it is a boy’s shirt because of the size of the pocket and the width of the placket, where the button holes are.”
Retired Strathclyde Police superintendent Iain McKie, now a campaigner against miscarriages of justice, said: “The fact that the witnesses say it was a boy’s shirt and not an adult shirt seems to me quite critical.”
He said that if it was a boy’s shirt, then it cannot be the same one purchased from Gauci by the man he later identified as Megrahi – destroying the “evidence chain”.
Supt McKie said the latest claims added weight to calls for the Scottish Government to set up an independent inquiry into Megrahi’s conviction.
He added: “The whole chain of evidence has been totally and utterly shattered. It is looking more and more like the police came to a conclusion and then looked for evidence.”
The programme, Lockerbie: The Pan Am Bomber, also alleged that a piece of the shirt had been altered, as it is clearly a different shape in two police photographs.
However a spokesman for the Crown Office said yesterday that the matter was easily explained. He said: “The fragment of cloth alleged to have been removed from the shirt was examined by the scientists and is referred to in the forensic science report. It is clearly a separate fragment.”
But Fife-based Mr Thomson stood by his claims. He said: “In January 1990 they realise that what they have is a fragment of a boy’s shirt, while Gauci is saying he sold a gents’ shirt.
“The reason for people saying this is mainly down to the size of the pocket and lo and behold the next thing a fragment of the pocket has been removed.”
The documentary is the latest foreign TV show to expose doubts in Scotland’s handling of the case.