Friday, 22 November 2013

Lockerbie: 25 years on. Was the bomb really planted in Malta?

[This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of the Maltese newspaper The Times.  It reads as follows:]

Malta’s role in the Lockerbie bombing will be discussed in Tuesday’s edition of TV programme Times Talk.

Twenty five years ago, Pan Am 103 was blown up over the Scottish skies, killing 269 on board and 11 on the ground. 

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of planting the bomb on board an Air Malta flight before it made its deadly trail to London Heathrow via Frankfurt.

But evidence unearthed in recent years showed that the conviction could have been a miscarriage of justice, and placed considerable doubts on the Maltese man who claimed to have identified the Lockerbie bomber.

Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella and criminal lawyer Giannella de Marco, who was involved in the Lockerbie probe, will be the main guests in the studio.

Viewers are invited to send their questions and comments on and on the Facebook and Twitter pages of Times Talk.

Presented by Times of Malta’s head of media Herman Grech and chief reporter Mark Micallef, Times Talk is live on TVM at 6.55pm with a repeat on TVM 2 at 10.15pm [Malta time = GMT+1. I think the programme will be viewable online here.].

[Further details about the programme can be found here.]


  1. As regards the question in the title of the post, No.

    Definitely not, and this can be proved.

  2. MISSION LIFE WITH LOCKERBIE, 2013 -- Go on ground to new facts...
    (in german language:

    Einsichtnahme in Dokumente nach Rechtsverzögerung:
    9 Monate, vor dem "Lockerbie Prozessbeginn" am 3. Mai, 2000, war klar, dass der vorgesehene Zeuge Edwin Bollier (MEBO Ltd) mit seinen entscheidenden Entlastungs Beweisen, u.a. das manipulierte MST-13 Timer Fragment (PT-35) für die Anklage gegen Abdel Baset al Megrahi und Libyen, ein echtes Problem darstellte.
    Es gab nur eine Möglichkeit, Die "Scots" versuchten von Anfang an, Edwin Bollier am Gericht, als unglaubwürdiger Zeuge zu präsentieren...
    Deshalb wurde zusätzlich - über internationale Rechtshilfe in Bern - vom Lockerbie Criminal Trial Team (Edinburgh) mit Offiziellen der Bundespolizei "BUPO" und erstmals mit der Bundesrichterin M. Saudan, am 13. 8. 1999, eine ausserordentliche Sitzung einberufen. (13.8.1999 Zeit: 9.45 -12.45 Uhr I.S. Lockerbie (B78 054 / 01) beim BAP, Zi. 123:)

    Anwesend waren von UK:
    - Mr. David Harvie (Procurator Fiscal Deputy)
    - Ms. Mirian Watson (Lockerbie Investigation Team)
    - Mr. Ian Paterson (3rd Secretary, Britische Botschaft in Bern)

    Von schweizer Seite wurde zugesagt, dass die drei Zeugen von MEBO Ltd., Edwin Bollier, Erwin Meister und Ing. Ulrich Lumpert, als Zeuge im "Lockerbie-Prozess" zur Verfügung stehen.

    Nach weiteren Absprachen zwischen Procurator Miriam Watson und Bundesrichterin
    M. Saudan (mit Unterstützung vom deutschen Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) - wurde am
    4. April, 2000, 4 Wochen vor Beginn des "Lockerbie-Prozess"- in Zürich (unter dem Deckmantel anderer terroristischer Ereignisse) gegen Bollier, eine neue gerichtliche Untersuchung eingeleitet, dies in der Absicht den Zeugen als zweifelhaft und unglaubwürdig darzustellen !
    In diesem Verfahren wurden mehrere internationale Straftaten beleuchtet, in welchen Zeuge Bollier nichts zu tun hatte. Dieses Verfahren wurde erst nach der Verurteilung von Al Megrahi, zu Gunsten Edwin Bollier zurück gezogen.

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Telecommunication, Switzerland. Webpage:

  3. The proposition that an unaccompanied suitcase could be boarded at Luqa and sent to New York via Frankfurt and Heathrow and without being checked is impossible!

    And this impossibility is matched by the proposition that an inflammable fragment could have survived the explosion. (*)

    And both propositions illustrate the power of the Big Lie in which the impossible becomes possible when spoken by the State.

    Presumably this is why some still insist a fragment could have survived, but the low probability of only that vital bit being found and in that vital place should have incited a closer examination at Zeist.

    And there is a certain madness in insisting the fragment could have survived, when we know the ‘surviving’ fragment is fake?


    (*) This is the view of John Wyatt, the UN’s European consultant on explosives. See the Firm, ‘Crown Office swipes at BBC over Lockerbie claims, but dodges key explosive issue’.

  4. Oh for God's sake not again.

    Wyatt was making it up. He didn't have access to the results of the tests. John Ashton explains it all in his 2012 book. Wyatt was/is also up to his eyeballs in a scam involving fake bomb detectors, which makes him a highly suspect reporter.

    He's also not "the UN's European consultant on explosives". His company has done consultancy work for a number of bodies. Mundane jobs like that don't confer the right to use grandiose titles.

    Nevertheless that is neither here nor there. Whether or not the PCB fragment actually fell from the sky, it isn't what the investigators claimed it was.

  5. Dear All,

    Despite my prior initial enthusiasm for Dr Wyatt's findings, I'm afraid that I must withdraw. His tests did not conform to the circumstances he claimed to be analysing. It may have made good TV but little else.

    I have only ever been invited to comment forensically on incidents relating to the activity of motor sport. Bearing that in mind, I do think that Dr Wyatt's results apropos the dynamics of the combustion within AVE4041 require considerable review. In short, I consider them to be flawed.

    Robert (Sec. JFM).

    I look forward to a riposte from Dr Wyatt.

  6. He's not "Dr. Wyatt" either. No PhD there. He has a military rank but I'm not sure what it is.

  7. We need to educate our children to understand the difference between science and pseudo-.

    It is first of all about humbleness towards the complexity of the world.

    Science is research and experiments, analysis of data, and the making of reports and submitting it to peer review.

    Over time, a scientific consensus may develop. That is how we reach established truths.

    - - -

    Pseudo-scientists are people making claims where not even a reviewable paper is made, and/or has a very, very clear basis in above.

    It does not matter if they are PhDs or not. There are plenty of pseudo-scientists with any education, and several Nobel prize winners among them.

    Often mathematical models are set up, which can convince uncritical people to believe that the statements have basis in "science".

    They make it right into the courts, and judges and juries eat them raw. No demand for peer-review here.

    Famous are the cases of Lucia de Berk and Sally Clark.

    - - -

    There is not a single damned person on this planet who is qualified to say with any certainty that a timer fragment couldn't (or even 'probably would not') have survived the explosion in AVE4041.

    The amount of parameters is huge, and experiments are unlikely to show reproducible results.

    If any person has an opinion in that matter, let him publish a paper, and let the community review it.

    I have a pretty good idea about how that would turn out, i.e. what consensus we could expect.


  8. As for John Wyatt and Lockerbie

    No reviewable documentation, only a TV performance, as also Robert F. points out. Pseudo-science.

    And as Rolfe indicates, he has demonstrated his total lack of any integrity (or, possibly, adequately explained etc.) by accepting to promote the fake bomb detectors.

    This is no ordinary blunder.

    The 'detectors' consist of an horizontal antenna, on a vertical pin.

    There was nothing in the detector that had any forces working on that antenna. No mechanics, no magnetic or electric field.

    There was no circuitry connected.
    There was not even a battery inside. "They worked on static electricity". Where and how are these forced generated and applied, then? The 'detection-cards' sold along with the product ('Explosives','Drugs','Gold','Alcohol'..) how are they powered?

    But the slightest turning of the hand would have the antenna pointing elsewhere. Psychological processes would have people believing that the antenna moved independently of the user.
    These processes are well known from elsewhere, like finding water with Y-sticks, Ouija-boards and making candles flicker with the powers of the mind. As soon as proper experiments are set up they fail completely.

    How did they fool so many responsible people?

    Before investing millions of USDs (Thailand had its fair share)
    take 10 boxes into a room, put explosives in one of them, and send one in with a detector.
    Make the experiment 10 times.

    Any scientist would ask for such a report as the very first thing.

    Why? Because that is by far the surest and easiest way to see if anything works.

    When this wasn't done, the main reason was, that the people involved profited hugely. This makes anyone ask much less questions.
    The government - i.e. the people - pays the bill.

    Thailand spent 30 million USD. GT200 detectors are still used. "So sensitive, that it will even tell if a person has been involved with explosives, even if he is clean right now!"

    Muslims are on this basis only frequently sent to a 6 month "re-education" camp. Maybe not very good for the peace process in South Thailand, where thousands of people are killed in the last decade?

    All with a greeting from people like John Wyatt, laughing all the way to the bank.

    No, Dave, as you see, he is (also) not the right source.

    - - -

    Nobody should take any statement - whether it is from senators, scientists, experts, spokesmen - at face value, even if it is supportive.

    It's the documentation, Stupid.

    It is not that pseudo-whatever can not bring the right result.

    It can, and does very often.

    But relying on it for any argumentation would show lack of judgement, and discredit the people making the mistake.

    In fact, it is no better than uncritically accepting the verdict on Megrahi from our 3 'experts'.

    There at least a paper was made, the quality of which _could_ have justified the verdict, had it been there.

  9. The defence at Zeist did not express doubt about or ask for an examination of the fragment.

    And the ‘only’ excuse for this is that the defence thought the probability of it surviving was high and therefore genuine.

    But common sense would suggest that if only that bit of vital fragment from the IED was found and in that vital place after the explosion, then it would raise reasonable doubts about its authenticity.

    To argue that it could theoretically survive serves no purpose other than to excuse the defence for not raising common sense doubts.

  10. "To argue that it could theoretically survive..."

    You make it sound like something very unlikely to happen. There were pieces of the suitcase found, clothes, a manual.

    "... only that bit of vital fragment from the IED was found and in that vital place after the explosion, then it would raise reasonable doubts about its authenticity."

    Easy to say now. At the time there may have been more important things to deal with.

    Chopping up Giaki was orders of magnitudes more important to do well, otherwise a discussion about the fragment might never even be relevant. And that was done well.

    I don't know if we need to excuse the defense.
    Nothing is easier than to point out things that in hindsight should have been done differently.

    You can only blame people for 3 things:
    1. Laziness
    2. Indifference
    3. Dishonesty

    If this has been demonstrated, OK.

    If not, it is usually very hard to prove that putting somebody else in the seat would have made a difference.

    The defense was plenty good enough for a not-guilty verdict.

  11. If we're going to detour into the failings and deficiencies of the defence at Camp Zeist, we will be here until 2014 and beyond. The good Professor's servers might not stand the strain. I myself could hold forth for some hours on the subject without hesitation, repetition or deviation.

    The defence missed an inordinate number of points. Their handling of the Frankfurt baggage transfer evidence alone was frankly disastrous. I mentioned another aspect in the thread about Richard Keen. But we are where we are.

    PT/35b wasn't what the prosecution claimed it was. That's the important thing.

  12. I see your earlier post now, SM. Of course, multiple test explosions carried out for both the investigation and the defence showed that pieces of the timer and the clothes survived. Including the tests Wyatt was talking about, he was simply making stuff up because he hadn't seen the results. (Which Dave knows because he has been told before, several times.)

    However, there's a bigger issue than that. For the defence to have come straight out and alleged forgery of evidence would have been a move with enormous implications. What could be more serious? To do something like that they would have had to be 200% sure of their ground, and of course they weren't. A move of that nature can backfire spectacularly, leading the judges to conclude the defence case is so poor they're getting desperate.

    Of course there is good reason to suspect that fragment may have been fabricated. But there is no definite proof, only inference. And repeated experiments showed that it certainly could have survived that explosion, in which the intense heat flash lasted only a fraction of a second before the cold of 31,000 feet closed in.

    I take your point about everyone playing armchair quarterback with the defence case, of course. I think quite a lot of the deficiencies can be excused at least in part because they were overwhelmed with information they had to assimilate. We've had a lot longer to think about it than they had.

    However, some of the points they didn't make good use of seem to me to suggest quite serious incompetence. Arguably they walked into a couple of baited traps, but even so. For example, a proper examination of the Frankfurt baggage records could have advanced their case hugely. Call Denis Phipps. Even call Adolph Weinacker and Fiona Leckie to show that their luggage transferring from LH241 and PA637 respectively was indeed included in the 25 transfer items on the printout, but none of the trays can be reconciled to these flights by the method Gunter Kasteleiner described. Do that, and the "unaccompanied bag from Malta" becomes so doubtful it simply doesn't exist any more. The judges simply could not have concluded that the Frankfurt records were reliable in the way the Crown was trying to portray them.

    Yes, the Crown should have lost, because their case was full of holes. But the defence missed some sitters nevertheless.

  13. Nice side step, but if the defence had the wit to hold tests (no details or names provided) to see if the fragment could survive, then they would also have the wit to test if it was real.

    And an iota of wit would tell you that the probability of only that vital bit of fragment in that vital place was low and therefore warranted a closer look.

    And it is this low probability of it surviving, rather than whether it could survive, that is the relevant point.

  14. Attn. Dave

    A MST-13 timer circuit board get by explosion not to powder, but to sections which survive. 8 layers of fiberglass are very tough
    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd

  15. I understood from on-line research following the Newsnight piece that6 Dr Wyatt had a PhD in Explosive Engineering. The item is still on-line. Is that untrue?

  16. "I take your point about everyone playing armchair quarterback with the defence case, of course. ...
    However, some of the points they didn't make good use of seem to me to suggest quite serious incompetence. ...
    The judges simply could not have concluded that the Frankfurt records were reliable in the way the Crown was trying to portray them."

    If you say that the defense needed to bring this, you are also saying that the judges' conclusion wasn't that unreasonable.

    - - -

    I am positive that the defense will have made numerous blunders, oversights, spent time on the wrong thing etc.

    Just can't blame them, as in my line of work about 50% of the things I do could, with some justification, be called mistakes at a later stage, dependent on how matters developed.

    The things I don't do (endlessly much more than what I get done) could be called "grave omissions", something which everybody likewise would be able to see the truth in.

    A poor performer, then? Not IMHO. :-)

    - - -

    No defense will be able to fight against discarding all contradicting evidence, and allowing conclusions on even the flimsiest supporting one.

    Or even realizing, that this was what was required from them.

    - - -

    Proving sub-standard performance would require much better analysis than pointing out the blunders they made.

    Everything can be done better, but sometimes you just have to accept if the deal was well kept.

    So did the defense team deliver something where a not guilty verdict was the only one possible in the hands of reasonable people (including judges)?

    In my opinion they overwhelmingly did, and so deserve credit first of all.

    That does not mean that I would not have a myriad of questions to ask.

    But let all blame go to the judges, and your judicial system with the ridiculous 'retrial', a farce which no man with self-respect would have taken part in, even worse than the verdict itself.

  17. The pressure on the judges to convict was clear in their summing up. Essentially they said, ‘we don’t know how you did it, but you’re guilty’!

    And they made this clear to the world and to salve their conscience by finding his ‘co-conspirator’ not guilty.

    The defence team (and prosecution) would have been under the same pressure and thus decided that showing there was no evidence of how Megrahi was meant to have loaded the suitcase at Luqa was sufficient to get an acquittal.

    They avoided contesting the forensics as beyond the call of duty, because they were at Zeist to contest the Who, rather than the What about Lockerbie!

  18. Baz, I followed up John Wyatt some time ago and could find no evidence of a PhD, but I could be mistaken.

    Dave, I am not side-stepping. Nobody is under any obligation to adhere to your monomaniacal train of thought - if one could describe it as thought. The defence did commission test explosions. These showed fragments of the timer remaining. Just like THE MAN WHO MADE THE TIMERS just explained to you. Wyatt was lying, it's that simple.

    SM, I see what you're saying, but I don't think it's that simple. The prosecution case was a wing and a prayer. Of course there should have been an acquittal on reasonable doubt. The fact that there wasn't is an outrage.

    However, does that excuse the defence missing absolute sitters? The way the Frankfurt luggage records were handled, with the huge problems with the paperwork simply not being pointed out, is inexplicable to me.

  19. Rolfe: I seem to recall asking, following the Newsnight broadcast, if it was correct to describe John Wyatt as a Doctor. I found a John Wyatt at LinkedIn with a PhD in Explosive Engineering and 23 years army service (1965-88). His PhD appears to have been awarded by Diocesan Collage Cape Town (1960-3)which according to Wikipedia appears to be a boys boarding school not a University. (Dr Wyatt was born in 1946.) His first degree is not noted in his Education history. (My interest in the Newsnight story was the Crown Office response which claimed owners manuals featured in the Indian Head tests.)

  20. So Dr Wyatt did his doctoral research aged 14-17, having presumably completed his first degree by the age of 14? Clearly a genius, then, and we shouldn't doubt his findings!