I must congratulate 'Rolfe' and Patrick Haseldine on the interesting set of comments re Pik Botha, Carlsson and Pan Am 103. At the same time I hope they will forgive me for pointing out that to us the relatives, this all falls into the category of 'speculation'.
That is so due to the flat refusal of successive UK governments despite our lobbying of every single Prime Minister since 1988 to allow any meaningful inquiry into the events leading up to the disaster. Had they fulfilled their legal obligation to provide such an inquiry, then hopefully much of this speculation would have reached at least the level of confidence given to those aspects of the disaster which were the subject of the Zeist court and inquiries.
Personally I entered the Zeist courtroom expecting to see the murderers of my daughter condemned and punished. The effect was the opposite, the evidence and the way in which it was derived and used, convinced me that neither Megrahi nor Fhimah were guilty as charged. But I was left with some relatively reliable information, compared with that derived from the best efforts of those people, may of them so well meaning, who previously had had no access whatever to any means of penetrating the official wall of silence, being obliged to speculate as a result of their (and our) exclusion.
As 'Rolfe' says, if it is true that Botha's party had reached London early, enabling the embassy 'on the spur of the moment' to book them on the earlier PA101, I see nothing suspicious in that, but as 'Rolfe' points out, if it is true that they were rebooked onto PA101 at the last minute, 'but some of their retinue could not get seats on that flight and thereupon returned to South Africa' that would be very, very interesting.
The logical speculation from that point would be that they must have known that PA103 was unsafe, for PA103 was only 2/3 full that night. 'Rolfe''s conclusion that such a development would constitute support for knowledge of a much more specific warning than those provided in the 'Helsinki' warning and other warnings already known to have been received would be valid. Patrick correctly confirms that not a single member of the Botha team was on PA103.
Why was PA103 only 2/3 full just before Christmas?
Is 'Rolfe' able to provide chapter and verse for his comment that 'instead of taking up their existing bookings on PA103 [they] just turned round and went home'?
The Zeist court had little to say about any regime's involvement, nor about those who might have been involved in the run up to the massacre itself. The nearest it came to that, for me, was the detailed account provided by the Germans of the PFLP-GC's technology, and of their known workshop on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria's capital city. They were making IEDs which however long they had lain about in an airport before being put aboard an aircraft, were still obligated to explode around 40 minutes following take off, without anyone in the relevant airport having to touch them, or even to open any container which they might be hidden in. An irrefutable fact is that my daughter's death occurred 38 minutes after her plane had left the Heathrow tarmac, just as would have been inevitable had one of these IEDs been used.
The court did not in my view exclude the use of this technology, far from it, it believed the prosecution's speculation - for that was all it was - that Megrahi (whose identification as 'the clothes buyer' was blatantly inadequate) had somehow while passing through Luqa airport penetrated security there (not supported by any evidence), to enable a profoundly unwise route of attack through 2 changes of aircraft, using a digital timer perfectly capable of being set to explode over mid-Atlantic.
Their Lordships were however operating under a severe Handicap, due to the suppression of vitally significant evidence (see below under DC Crawford).
Possible motivation was covered in terms of the past experiences of both Libya and Iran, at the hands of US military forces, but motivation for the assassination of Botha, Carlsson or the US McKee intelligence team was not established. The court's (the defence's actually) interest in Syria was snubbed by that country, leading to the inexplicable abandonment of their 'defence of incrimination' by the Megrahi defence team.
Since Megrahi's second appeal was stopped, his defence team have started to put some very interesting material on the web at
It is not clear to me whether Bell passed this on to the Crown Office, nor what his response was to the US agent suggesting it.
The astoundingly amateurish attitude attributed to DC Crawford, as to the significance of Carlsson in all this supports my worst fears as to the competence of the police force involved to cope with so great a disaster and investigation. If DC Crawford or his force really was prepared to write off the possible significance of Carlsson on the hearsay evidence of a single librarian, that says a great deal about the confidence we should have in other aspects of the investigation. The agreement to this decision by Stuart Henderson does little to reassure either, for Henderson has publicly claimed in front of a crowd of US relatives that he 'would like to wring the neck of anyone who disagreed with the police findings.' Do not these sound rather like the words of someone trying to defend something he knows to be indefensible?
Nowhere are doubts about the calibre of the investigating police more worrying than in the case of the Heathrow break-in. That occurred in the very early morning of 21/12/88 through the appropriate sector of Heathrow security to give access to where the PanAm containers were being loaded that evening. It was known to Heathrow through the night security file records on the morning of 21/12/88, and to the Met's special branch, who interviewed Manley, the night security guard in January 1989.
Yet the information about this break-in 'disappeared' for 12 years, till after the Zeist court had convicted Megrahi.
I wrote to the Crown Office to ask them if they had known about the break-in during these 12 years, and they denied knowing. They then made the disingenuous comment that the break-in didn't matter because the first appeal did know but did not overturn the verdict.
Think about their Lordships in the trial who said that the absence of evidence as to how Megrahi penetrated security at Luqa was 'a difficulty for the Crown', and compare that with what they were denied knowing - a fully documented break-in appropriate in time and position to the spot from which the fatal aircraft was actually loaded with its cargo. It seems pretty obvious to me that had they known they would have had to have found Megrahi not guilty, since Heathrow was strongly supported by evidence, whereas Luqa was not.
But glossing over the Crown's outrageous misrepresentation of the likely effect of the missing evidence upon the court's verdict, and assuming that they really didn't know during those 12 years, then it looks most likely that since the Met would surely have told the investigating Scots about it, the Scottish police probably failed to pass it on to the Crown Office.
What would be their motive for that? Well again we speculate, but the Heathrow evidence was desperately dangerous to the hypothesis that the device had come from Malta, simply because the clothing had. The annals of police investigations are full of instances where the driving hypothesis has destroyed the objectivity of the investigating force, and caused a tunnel vision where only matters that fit that hypothesis are considered.
Owing to the refusal to launch a properly empowered inquiry, it has been impossible thus far to probe the work of the Dumfries and Galloway police, nor indeed the Thatcher government's decision to put them in charge rather than the more experienced teams available in London.
In speculating about how much was known beforehand about the impending disaster, and by whom, we are discussing the worst fear that we have about this cruel business, the real possibility that our families were allowed to march on board an aircraft known by some of those who should have protected it to be doomed. To resolve that issue really would be a huge help in advancing our recovery from the loss of those we loved. Even if it turned out to be true, we would rather know the truth than be left any longer in such doubt, through the absence of a properly endowed inquiry.
Lest there be any doubt about it by the way our Fatal Accident Inquiry, though also denied knowledge of the Heathrow break-in, concluded that the disaster was preventable and that the aircraft was under the 'Host State Protection of the United Kingdom'.
I am a signatory to the appeal put out by JFM (Justice for Megrahi) to the UN for a UN based inquiry. The silence from them thus far is as dense as that from Whitehall has been for 21 years. The issues about which we speculate here appear more appropriate for a UN inquiry than simply a UK one, but the latter at least is obligatory under UK law.
Fortunately current ECHR legislation in this country entitles us as next of kin of the dead, to a suitably empowered inquiry.
Absent a fully supportive reply from Gordon Brown to our request for such an inquiry, for which we are still waiting, we shall have to see what Gareth Peirce and the UK justice system can do for us.