Saturday, 12 September 2015

The disappearing police notebooks

[On this date in 1999, Scotland on Sunday broke the news that the notebooks of police officers involved in the Lockerbie investigation had been destroyed. I cannot find the original report on The Scotsman website, but news agency reports picking up the story the same day can be read here and one from BBC News the following day can be read here. A report from Sky News reads as follows:]

A claim that dozens of police notebooks relating to the Lockerbie air tragedy have been destroyed could have severe implications for a trial next year. The pads were apparently destroyed five years after the 1988 crash that took 270 lives. The Scotland on Sunday newspaper believed the loss of the notebooks could affect court proceedings scheduled to take place in Holland early next year. The newspaper said police officers would now have to give evidence years later without being able to refer back to detailed notes taken at the time.

It claimed some of the books covered the recovery of fragments of wreckage. It is not known whether police destroyed them mistakenly or whether the Crown Office, responsible for prosecutions in Scotland, did not order them to be kept. The newspaper quoted sources, said to be close to the defence, as saying: "Police officers have told us they could not give detailed statements because they did not have their notebooks.

"When we asked why, the answer was the notebooks had been taken off them and were later destroyed. In a case like this the order should have been given that they were kept. For some reason the order was either not given or was ignored. We are aware of dozens of notebooks which have been destroyed." Yet prosecution officials and police are not commenting on the revelations.

A Crown Office spokesman said: "We cannot make any comment as it would be inappropriate to comment about what may be evidential matters in the Lockerbie trial." Dumfries and Galloway police, that covers the Lockerbie area, also declined to comment. Dozens of police notebooks relating to the Lockerbie air disaster have been destroyed, it was claimed today.

The notebooks were destroyed five years after the 1988 crash which claimed 270 lives, for which two Libyans are alleged to be responsible. Prosecution officials and police declined to comment on the report in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, which said the lack of the notebooks could have implications at the trial due to take place in The Netherlands early next year.

“Police officers will have made written statements based on their notebooks, but these probably will not be admissible,” Robert Black, professor of law at Edinburgh University and an expert on the Lockerbie case, told Scotland on Sunday. “The lack of the notebooks will be useful to the defence. I imagine police officers will have to say they do not remember exactly where they found x, y or z,” he added.


  1. And yet, as far as I'm aware, this didn't really come up at the trial. Nobody questioned the recollection of the police witnesses, and nobody made a fuss about the destruction of the notebooks.

  2. I didn't know this. I wish I had much earlier.
    Destroying police notebooks in an ongoing investigation of 270 murders.
    Nobody held accountable, or even forced to answer.
    I will stop here. I have written trivialities enough over time.