Sunday 30 March 2014

The primary suitcase and its contents

The Primary Suitcase and Its Contents - Rethinking Basic Assumptions is the title of an article published yesterday on baz’s blog The Masonic Verses, prompted by the recent Aljazeera documentary Lockerbie: what really happened?  As with all of baz’s Lockerbie writings, it deserves careful study.



    معلومات هامة لشعب ليبيا:
    Important information to the people of Libya:

    The verdict of “guilty” in the “Lockerbie case” against Mr. Al Megrahi and Libya, is wrong, plus the alignment of the immense damage due to the 8-years long UN sanctions could lead to a substantial financial re-compensation in favour of Libya. An estimated amount of 50 billion US dollars is at stake! This could become reality, if the Libyan government would insist on a new forensic examination of the crucial piece of evidence, the “manipulated” MST-13 timer fragment (PT-35). Mebo pointed out several times, to the Scottish commission of inquiry that the piece of evidence (PT-35) did not derive from a MST-13 timer batch delivered to Libya!

    Up to now all requests by Mebo for a new forensic analysis have, been inexplicably ignored by the Scottish authorities. Modern examination techniques will lead to results that could not have been achieved 25 years ago. Through the latest high-tech methods it can be proved that Libya had nothing to do with the Lockerbie tragedy. It could open doors for justice for Libya and the posthumous rehabilitation of Mr. Abdelbaset al Megrahi.

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

  2. The evidence that PT/35(b) (the MEBO fragment) was recovered on the 12th May 1989 from a piece of Slalom shirt appears to have been fabricated. Page 51 of Dr Hayes notes could not legitimately have been written before the 22nd May 1989 (i.e. not before but after the examination of what was, or what was purported to be the "Horton Manual"). The exhibit PT/35(d)(PT/2) (supposedly recovered with PT/25(b) is as important as the MEBO fragment. This in itself is grounds for Megrahi's conviction to be quashed. (And indeed the convictions of a lot of other people!)

  3. Rethinking basic assumptions should include whether there was an IED.

    The evidence is so underwhelming (why use an IED rather than a bomb) and the plot so hair-brained (why not leave the case in a crowded foyer) that it should incite scepticism, particularly as there was no credible claim of responsibility!

    And after a public enquiry was refused at the behest of US!

  4. Haha! Nice one, Dave ;-)
    Really, if the date of publication hadn't been printed just under your posting, you could have tricked me into believing you were sincere!

  5. baz, on the subject of the suitcase and its contents, I'm hoping you may be able to answer a question for me.
    There were two trial loading photographs taken of the the Samsonite might have been packed. One shows the Toshiba in its box ad the other shows the Toshiba without a box lying in the suitcase.
    My question is - would i be correct in saying no fragments of a Toshiba radio cassette recorder box or plug were found in any of the bomb damaged suitcases or indeed in any of the recovered wreckage/debris? I can't recall every hearing or seeing anything about the box or plug and yet who would pack a radio cassette recorder with its manual if you no longer have the box?
    Thanks in advance,

  6. Hi baz,
    On the subject of the Samsonite and its contents, I was hoping you may be able to answer a question for me.
    Would I be correct in saying no fragments of the Toshiba radio cassette recorder box or plug were found in the debris/wreckage of Pan Am 103? Can't recall every reading about either item. I'm curious as I would have thought anyone bothering to stick the manual in the suitcase would surely have had the box as well. Thanks in advance

  7. I can maybe answer that, Scott. As far as I remember there were a couple of bits of cardboard found that might have been part of the box but they were unsure due to charring and rain damage and so on. That's hardly surprising given the circumstances. It's the finding of the Horton fragment in a legible condition the following day that's the remarkable thing.

    No bits of plug were found as far as I know. I believe the assumption that the plug had been there was based on the fact that Kurt Maier said he believed any radio which had a plug was safe and wasn't a bomb, and since the police theory was that he'd passed that suitcase they assumed the plug had been there. You know what they say about ASS-U-ME.

    Far more interesting in my opinion is the discrepancy between where the radio-cassette player was packed in the suitcase in the trial loading, and where it must actually have packed given what can be deduced about the positioning of the suitcase in the container. People at RARDE seem to have been rather hard of thinking on this point (and many others).

  8. Thanks for clearing that up for me Rolfe.
    The photos of the damaged suitcases in your book confirm their positions in the container. I just can't quite figure how RARDE scientists with experience of dealing with IRA bombings could make such school boy errors.
    "Far more interesting in my opinion is the discrepancy between where the radio-cassette player was packed in the suitcase in the trial loading, and where it must actually have packed given what can be deduced about the positioning of the suitcase in the container. People at RARDE seem to have been rather hard of thinking on this point (and many others)." - again, I just don't understand how experienced forensic scientist couldn't figure this out.
    And all the while some of Scotland's top cops firstly - hear a baggage handler at heathrow say a Samsonite suitcase was in the container and secondly weeks later hear from RARDE that the bomb was contained in a Samsonite and then don't think - "lets confirm if there was any legitimate Samsonite luggage of that description cos this could be the bomb".
    Something tells me they knew pretty soon after the tragedy that the bomb suitcase started its journey at Heathrow and was the very bag Mr Bedford saw that afternoon.

  9. Scott, it's a huge conundrum. On one hand, it's almost impossible to believe that competent investigators wouldn't have figured out the implications of the Heathrow evidence. On the other hand, it's almost impossible to believe that an investigation into such an enormous atrocity could be deliberately subverted from within from the very earliest weeks. And yet, one of these two things must have happened.

    On the "incompetence" side, well, I have to say that all the internal memos and reports I've seen show nothing more sinister than a bunch of rather dim bulbs simply not Getting It. Also, one has to bear in mind that the defence had all the evidence they needed and they didn't Get It either. (Though in that case I think the fault was mainly that they approached the conundrum along the road already paved out by the Crown rather than doing a de novo analysis for themselves, and they were poorly served by some of the experts they consulted.)

    On the conspiracy theory side, there are a number of points I regard as huge red flags. Why was the interviewing of the Heathrow staff so lackadaisical, with months between statements and a number of important points simply not being clarified at all? (For example, nobody seems to have asked whether the suitcase Bedford remembered as the brown/maroon Samsonite hardshell "with the light reflecting off it" was the one on the left or the one on the right! He was finally asked at the FAI in late 1990.) Even more baffling is the fact that Manly's statement about the break-in was simply filed as being of no interest and never followed up at all.

    Why were half a dozen people from both RARDE and the AAIB prepared to state categorically that the bomb suitcase wasn't the one on the floor of the container? The first person to say this in a report was actually an AAIB inspector, even though it wasn't his remit at all. They all had slightly different reasons, but they were all quite confident and singing from the same hymn sheet. And they were all wrong. It appears orchestrated.

    Why was the "suitcase jigsaw" never solved by the forensic scientists? Hayes stated in a memo dated 19th January 1989 that he was going to do exactly that, but never did it. All that raw data, painstakingly recorded and tabulated, and no attempt whatsoever to analyse it. It's incomprehensible. In particular, the way Hayes dealt with fragment PI/911 of the bomb suitcase is quite bizarre. He was either as thick as mince, or deliberately misconstruing what he was seeing.

    And there's more. I don't think it's likely that "keyboard warriers" are going to get to the bottom of this, or not unless I get to see a lot more of the internal memos that I've seen already. The important stuff may be things that haven't been disclosed to the defence. I think this is something for a independent public inquiry, but before that can happen the conviction needs to be quashed. Difficult situation.

  10. "I think this is something for a independent public inquiry, but before that can happen the conviction needs to be quashed." - I really hope there will be movement towards an appeal. It's glaringly obvious to anyone who takes a look that Mr Megrahi was not involved.
    "Why was the interviewing of the Heathrow staff so lackadaisical" - with Heathrow workers Mr B & Mr K giving conflicting statements regarding how the Samsonite appeared in the container - usually Police will jump on inaccuracies like that will they not? [I should probably clarify to anyone reading this that I am not suggesting the baggage handlers were involved in any way].

  11. I too hope there will be another appeal. There have been statements to that effect from Jim Swire, most notably on 11th March at Holyrood, so hopefully something will happen.

    The main difficulty with calls for a public inquiry at the moment in my view is, on what grounds? (That's apart from the whining that it's all a reserved matter and Holyrood can't do anything and there's an easy solution to that one in September anyway #voteyes.) But the fact is that legally the case has been solved, Megrahi has been convicted and the conviction stands. What are they going to inquire into? The mere public perception that the conviction is a farce?

    I realise it's not quite as cut and dried as that, but it is a difficulty. I'm unconvinced that a public inquiry would be too keen to over-rule an extant judicial finding. If on the other hand the conviction were to be overturned on appeal, everything changes.

    I think it has the potential to go worse for the authorities this time. If the second appeal hadn't been withdrawn and had succeeded, all that would have happened is that Megrahi would have been shown not to have been the clothes purchaser. Probably. Without that, the conviction would have fallen as unsafe, but the police could still have pointed to his presence at the airport that morning and hinted that well it was a pity the conviction had fallen on a technicality, but....

    This time, though, the basic premise of the entire investigation is set to be undermined. The bomb, as you say, was nowhere near Malta that morning. So Megrahi's presence there (or rather, in Tripoli eight hours later) actually provides him with an unbreakable alibi. We move from the conviction merely falling as "unsafe" to actual proven innocence.

    Not only that, we demonstrate that the investigation was off the rails from the earliest weeks of the inquiry. While they did go through the motions at Heathrow, it's clear the main thrust of their thinking was concentrated on the feeder flight almost from the word go. There's simply no sign of anyone looking at Bedford's evidence and latching on to its significance. The statement-taking appears routine and unengaged. (No I don't think the baggage handlers were involved either. If any of them had been, their statements would have matched better.)

    When I first read Paul Foot's monograph where he pointed out that Bedford gave his statement about the mysteriously-appearing suitcases on 3rd January 1989, whereas the evidence pointing to Malta didn't show up till August, I wanted to know what had happened to the fuss and the Eureka moments back in January. Surely the cops must have been thrilled to bits with Bedford's evidence and disappointed when it turned out to be a red herring? Not a bit of it. I can't see any sign of anyone taking the view that that suitcase was a serious contender for the bomb.

    And yet it was the bomb. They had all the evidence, right there, at a pretty early stage.

    In some ways the biggest hurdle here is the sheer obviousness of it all, and the difficulty believing it is actually that simple. I felt that myself for a long time. Looking at the Claiden diagram (Figure 13), where the airframe damage is all under the container floor, and imagining there must be a technical explanation in the forensic reports for how that could have happened if there was another suitcase in the way because I couldn't see it.... Uh-oh. Nary a mention.

    It's like a bunch of overgrown schoolboys playing at forensics, except that they're not very bright and keep missing the glaringly obvious. This has got to come out some time, and it might as well be sooner rather than later.