Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Looking in the wrong place

[What follows is the text of an article by Dr Morag Kerr that was published on Wings Over Scotland on this date in 2013:]

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie should be commended for starting 2013 with a legitimate request rather than a party-political attack. The Herald today reports his renewed call for a public inquiry into the events of the Lockerbie disaster.

The call was prompted by the new Libyan government’s pledge to release documents relating to the incident “as soon as time, security and stability permitted”. But what will such documents reveal beyond what we already know?
Tam Dalyell once said that the Lockerbie case is so complicated you’d need to be a Professor of Lockerbie Studies to understand it. In some ways that’s true, because there are interminable complications, wrinkles and what-ifs to consider. But there’s a simple way of looking at it too, and that is this: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted because the police firmly believed the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103 began its journey at Malta airport around nine o’clock on the morning of the disaster. Megrahi, who was suggested as a potential suspect by the CIA, was discovered to have been catching a plane from Malta to Tripoli that was open for check-in at precisely that time.
If the bomb really did fly from Malta, then it might be reasonable to regard Megrahi with a suspicious eye. But the evidence for the bomb ever having been within a thousand miles of the island of Malta is beyond tenuous, and Megrahi was never shown to have done anything at the airport that morning apart from catch his flight home. If the bomb was introduced somewhere else, he actually has a rather good alibi.
The biggest mystery of the entire saga is why the police persisted in their absolute conviction that the bomb had travelled on an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt, despite months and indeed years of investigation finding no evidence of anything untoward at the airport that morning, and in fact no way an unaccompanied suitcase could have been smuggled on board that plane. This is even more surprising when you realise that within only weeks of the disaster, the investigation had very strong evidence indicating that the bomb had actually been smuggled into a baggage container at Heathrow airport, an hour before the feeder flight from Frankfurt landed.
In early January 1989 a baggage handler at Heathrow described having seen a suitcase which he said had appeared mysteriously while he was away on a tea break, on the (previously bare) floor of the container in question, in the corner known by the investigators to be where the explosion had happened. He described the suitcase as a brown hardshell Samsonite. By mid-February, forensic examination had identified the suitcase containing the bomb as a brown plastic hardshell, and by March they knew it was a Samsonite.
The absence of any rejoicing at this point is positively spooky. Rather than pursuing this lead vigorously, the police more or less ignored it. Everyone seemed to be waiting for the forensic results to declare that the explosion had been in a suitcase on the second layer of luggage, and sure enough, the boffins concluded that’s probably how it was. There had been nothing on top of the mystery item before the Frankfurt luggage was added, therefore the bomb suitcase must have been one of the ones that came in on the feeder flight. The investigation remained stalled at this stage for months, until in August a tenuous lead was identified at Frankfurt which sent the police chasing off to Malta, and they never looked back.
The question that was never answered was this. Whose was the mystery suitcase loaded into the container while John Bedford was on his tea break, if it wasn’t the bomb?  The police seemed happy to leave that one hanging. That suitcase didn’t matter, because it was in the wrong place. By about two inches. That line of reasoning held up all through the initial stages of the investigation, and the Fatal Accident Inquiry in Dumfries in 1990-91. Bomb on second layer, no Heathrow-origin luggage on second layer, therefore bomb arrived from Frankfurt. This of course presupposed that the Heathrow-origin luggage had not been moved, but the baggage handler who loaded the suitcases from the feeder flight, Amarjit Sidhu, was adamant he hadn’t moved anything, so that was all right.
The problem with this is that it’s impossible. A suitcase under the bomb suitcase would inevitably have been pulverised. All six pieces of luggage identified as being legitimately placed in that container at Heathrow were recovered, and none of them sustained that sort of damage. Not only that, when the explosion ripped apart the bomb suitcase and the luggage in its immediate vicinity, it created a well-stirred mix of fragments which scattered across the countryside. The searchers combed the fields for these fragments, and the forensics team singled them out for special attention.
Numerous pieces of even the most severely damaged items were recovered in this way, and everything in that category (apart from the bomb suitcase itself) was known, legitimate Heathrow and Frankfurt passenger luggage. There was no sign of any innocent (even if unidentified) suitcase in the mix that might have been loaded at Heathrow and ended up below the bomb suitcase, brown Samsonite hardshell or not. So, if Sidhu hadn’t moved Bedford’s mystery suitcase, and the explosion had been in the case on top of Bedford’s case – well, the laws of physics look like they’re in a bit of trouble.
Putting it simply, both planks of the 1989 police reasoning cannot simultaneously be true. If Sidhu didn’t move the Heathrow-origin luggage, as was believed in 1989, then the Bedford suitcase (on the floor of the container) must have been the bomb, because there’s nothing else for it to be. If there is absolutely no wiggle-room at all for the bomb suitcase to have been on the floor of the container, then Sidhu must have moved the Bedford case – which demolishes the argument used in 1989 to exclude that case from being in the second layer, and again leaves the possibility of its being the bomb wide open.
The only brown Samsonite hardshell suitcase seen by any witness, which had appeared mysteriously in almost the exact position of the explosion, and which the police knew about less than three weeks after the disaster, was ruled out on  the basis on an absolute logical impossibility.
Once this paradox is identified, the crucial dilemma is clear. Which is less credible?  Sidhu’s statement that he didn’t move the Heathrow-origin luggage, or the forensic conclusion that the bomb suitcase had been on the second layer?  Because one of these is simply wrong.
Sidhu was absolutely consistent over three separate police statements that he definitely didn’t move that luggage. Then in the witness box in Dumfries, under oath, he emphatically and specifically denied having lifted out one of the original items and replaced it on a different layer. And there’s no reason why he should have done anything like that. The feeder flight was late, leaving him only 15 minutes for a job he normally had half an hour to complete; it was dark, cold, raining and blowing a gale; and the original items were already well positioned. Why on earth would he have started heaving cases he didn’t need to heave?
In contrast, the best estimate for the height of the explosion was ten inches above the floor of the container. The bomb suitcase was nine inches deep, but what’s the margin of error in that estimate anyway?  It’s also far from impossible that the stacked luggage shifted a few inches due to in-flight turbulence or even banking, moving the bottom suitcase into the position indicated. There were other factors of course, including an examination of the bashed-up and fragmented aluminium base of the container somewhat akin to Mystic Meg reading a palm, but it was all subjective opinion. The bomb suitcase certainly must have been either the case on the bottom of the stack or the one on top of it, and on balance the forensics boffins thought it was the upper one of the two, but that’s as far as it goes.
So what was the court’s decision on this point? That’s a tricky one. In actual fact the court at Camp Zeist was never made aware just how crucial an issue this was, and the bench merely accepted, “for the purposes of this argument” that the bomb suitcase had been on the second layer. How that came about, and John Bedford’s extraordinarily suspicious brown Samsonite hardshell came to be wafted airily to “some more remote corner of the container”, is a whole other article in itself.
But now here we are, in 2012. Megrahi’s second appeal (begun in 2009) centred mainly on the undermining of the eye-witness evidence said to have identified him as the man who bought the clothes packed in the suitcase with the bomb. While that argument was likely to have succeeded if he hadn’t dropped the appeal, it didn’t address the question of the route of the bomb suitcase. Did it fly from Malta, or was it introduced directly at Heathrow?
The ongoing Lockerbie investigation, paid for from our taxes, has been convinced that the bomb flew in from Malta since September 1989. It’s still convinced that Megrahi was “the Lockerbie bomber”, even if there is doubt about his having been the purchaser of the clothes. Why not? He was at the airport when the bomb was smuggled on to the Air Malta flight. He must have been involved! The ongoing investigation believes he didn’t act alone, though, and is determined to track down his supposed accomplices.
We’ve been hearing about investigations in Libya almost since the day of Gaddafi’s death. More than one Libyan official, anxious to curry favour with the Western powers, has claimed to have evidence of Gadaffi having ordered Megrahi to carry out the atrocity. All this has come to nothing. Now the investigators have turned their attention to Malta in the quest for the elusive “accomplices”, though what they imagine they’re going to find there after 24 years that the original investigation didn’t find in 1989-91 is difficult to understand.
When they find absolutely nothing on Malta, as they found absolutely nothing in Libya, is it too much to hope that some young, smart, entirely reconstructed detective might sit down and consider: could the reason we haven’t been able to find anything possibly be because we’re looking in the wrong place?



    The year 2017 will be important for the Lockerbie case. (PanAm 103 air disaster). Time has come for the Swiss Mebo Ltd and owner Edwin Bollier to prepare a claim of damages (US $ 200 million) against Scotland. 50% of this would be donated to a social foundation.

    There is now enough evidence that the judges at the court of Zeist/Holland, against the Libyan official Ali, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, where misled by false evidence of 3 expert witnesses under oath, who have been directly involved in the fact finding examinations. Faked and false evidence about the MST-13 Timer fragment (PT 35) led unfortunately to a wrong verdict.
    Due to the fact that the “MST-13 Timer” played a key role in the case, the reputation of the successful swiss company was badly affected and it all led to a very heavy financial damage.

    The latest results of forensic examinations by well known independent experts will prove that the allegedly found timer fragment was a fake. It did not derive from a MST-13 timer, delivered by Mebo to Libya. That’s finally good news for the “troubled” Mebo Company. Please read the „Intelligence Report PT-35)” at your convenience.

    Link: https://pt35b.wordpress.com/…/lockerbie-was-pt35b-evidence…/

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd Telecommunication Switzerland. Please visit our webpage: www.lockerbie.ch

  2. Link correction: https://pt35b.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/lockerbie-was-pt35b-evidence-fabricated/

  3. Reading the accounts of the investigators reveals that a whole lot of groupthink was going on. An important moment was the discovery that Lameen Fhimah wa travelling on the same plane as the suspicious 'Mr Abdusamad', who later turned out to be Megrahi travelling on a coded passport. Fhimah had until recently worked at Luqa airport and still had his airside pass. Bingo! Here was the method by which the bomb has been smuggled onto KLM180!

    I don't understand why, but at this point everybody in the team switched his brain off, and no-one asked any further questions. Megrahi couldn't have put the IED on the plane himself, he needed an accomplice. Fhimah was that accomplice. Case closed.

    Here are two obvious objections they appear not to have considered.

    Firstly, Luqa is a small airport, and Fhimah had been a well known and popular figure there. Yet no-one remembers him having even been at the airport that morning. If he had been there, someone would have recognised him. All the more, if he had gone airside staff would have recognised him and wondererd what he was doing there, as he no longer worked there.

    Secondly, the investigation had spent a couple of fruitless years trying to find a way round Wilfrid Borg's security system, and failed. There just isn't a way you could stroll up anywhere and add an extra suitcase to the bagage without it being discovered. One could theoredtically devise a way to circumvent the securtity measures, but it would have to be an inside job and involve more than one person, including senior staff. A long and intrusive investigation ruled out that possibility.

    At this point the investigation had two seemingly conflicting pieces of evidence: Bogomira Erac's transcript appearing to show an unaccompanied bag arriving from Malta and transferred to PanAm 103A, and the evidence from Malta that no such bag could have existed. It doesn't take more than two brain cells to see that the Malta evidence is the stronger. Application of Conan Doyle's famous dictum, 'Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth' would lead one to reconsider the Frankfurt evidence, and it then becomes apparent that alternative explanations can be found for the Erac printout, and indeed that such anomalies were quite common.

    It's possible to believe that the investigative team on Malta could have deluded themselves into accepting that Fhimah's existence was a magic bullet which solved the case. What's harder to credit is that this got past a Grand Jury in the US and the Crown Office in Scotland, and no-one pointed out that the Fhimah-as-accomplice theory just didn't work, and without an accomplice thay had virtually nothing on Megrahi. Even harder than that, three supposedly brilliant legal minds, in the shape of the trial judges, apparently bought this story and fashioned an argument in their statement of reasons to paper over the cracks. The only explanation I can think of is the extreme confidence of the team in the soundness of their case, which seems to be based only on their desperation to come up with a result after so much fruitless work.

  4. The bit that boggles my mind about Lockerbie sometimes is the coincidences that repeatedly gum up the works. Leading sometimes to the suspicion that these things may not be coincidences at all, but that way lies real conspiracy theorising. You have touched on two of the biggies in that post. Megrahi's presence at the airport on the fateful morning, and tray 8849 in the Erac printout reconciling to KM180 from Luqa.

    Megrahi wasn't identified as a suspect by the D&G investigators through normal investigatory channels. He was handed to Harry Bell as a pre-identified suspect by an FBI agent in January 1990. Libya had recently been identified as the preferred culprit state and Megrahi was one of a handful of Libyans who were then brought into the frame as "known to the American authorities". Harry Bell decided to try Tony Gauci with a photo of Megrahi to see if he could get him to identify him as the clothes purchaser and a great deal has been written about that. But this was the basis for Megrahi's status as chief suspect - he was believed to have been the man who bought the clothes. Due to the coded passport he wasn't identified as having been at the airport at that stage.

    It was only some time later that the FBI again intervened and suggested to the Scottish police that there might be some connection between Megrahi and Abdusamad and perhaps they should try to find out what it was. Of course the evidence that they were one and the same was already available in a document from the Libyan passport office files, but that wasn't uncovered at that time. Megrahi was merely suspected of being Abdusamad right up to the point where he showed up at Camp Zeist with the coded passport in his pocket and voluntarily handed it over.

    The coincidence of the man who had been (clearly erroneously) identified as the clothes purchaser turning out to have been present at the airport on the morning of the 21st is a biggie. No wonder the Scottish poice were convinced they had the right guy when they found that the man they already thought had bought the clothes was also present at the scene of the crime. All just coincidence though? I often get the feeing that the FBI knew all about it right from the start but were hoping the Scottish police would get there under their own steam. When they didn't, further hints were provided.

    The least conspiratorial interpretation may be that it was Megrahi's presence at the airport (known by the FBI but not communicated to the D&G) that was supposed to incriminate him, and the FBI believed that just by pointing the D&G at Megrahi they would figure out that he, as Abdusamad, had been at the airport. Perhaps they preferred to do it this way than to be in a position where they had to reval their own soures for acquiring that information. But then Harry Bell's initiative in grooming Tony to identify Megrahi both provided extra incrimination and distracted the D&G from what they were supposed to be finding out, that is that he was Abdusamad.

    1. Whoops, January 1991 was when Megrahi was fingered by the FBI agent. Sometimes I lose track, as this investigation was so drawn out.

  5. (continued....)

    The other mindblowing coincidence is the presence of tray 8849 on the printout. I've studied that printout and the associated Frankfurt records probably in more detail than anyone else including Jürgen Fuhl. I can think of reasonable explanations for all the other mystery trays on the printout, but not that one. It sits there as a thumping greast anomaly where no tray coded in the V3 area should sit, right in the middle of the KM180 coding window but not part of that consignment. There isn't anything that might possibly have been in that tray, whether passenger luggage, re-booked luggage or something misdirected. Its existence at all is a huge problem. The fact that it points to a flight which came in from the airport only three miles from where the clothes were purchased brings me up short every time I think about it.

    I would give a minor body part to know whose luggage was in tray 8849 and how it came to be coded at station 206 in the middle of the KM180 coding window that afternoon.

  6. This is for David Fieldhouse. Why is tray 8849 such an anomaly?

    Passenger luggage being routed to PA103 at Frankfurt can be grouped into a number of categories.

    1. Luggage checked in at the Frankfurt check-in desks by passengers beginning their journeys there.
    2. Luggage checked in at the Frankfurt check-in desks by passengers who flew in on an incoming flight, but who reclaimed their cases at the carousel on arrival and then re-checked it de novo.
    3. Luggage belonging to passengers who flew in on incoming flights which was through-booked rather than being reclaimed and re-checked.
    4. Luggage belonging to passengers on the Berlin shuttles which wasn't transferred through the computer system.
    5. Unaccompanied luggage which for various reasons had been given rush tags to be carried on PA103.
    6. Unaccompanied luggage without a rush tag.

    Category 1 covers the vast majority of the luggage on the flight and it can be identified as the trays on the printout coded at stations with numbers beginning S05xx. There are 86 of these. Jürgen Fuhl said these had all checked out and there were no anomalies. I don't necessarily believe him but there seems to be no conceivable way in which an item of luggage checked in at Frankfurt de novo could have got to the V3 stations to be coded there.

    Category 2 is luggage belonging to Janina Waido (from Warsaw, arr. 12.04), David Gould (from Paris, arr. 12.23) and Francis Boyer (from Toulouse, arr. 14.57). Mrs. Waido had three cases, Mr. Gould had two and M. Boyer had one. Nothing was coded for PA103 at the coding windows for any of these three incoming flights. For the two earlier flights the presence of multiple items of luggage essentially rules out some mix-up whereby this stuff was actually treated as transfer luggage and somehow got itself to the V3 location, because in that event we would see evidence of the accompanying luggage somewhere, and there's no trace of that. M. Boyer's flight arrived after tray 8849 was coded so it ain't that either.

    There were 14 other transfer passengers on PA103 (two family groups and five individuals) who are recorded as having no hold luggage at all. This all checks out - the luggage of the family groups went ahead on the flights they were originally booked on and the individuals only had cabin baggage.

    The Warsaw tray (5620) is worth a mention here. Despite her coming from Warsaw, Mrs. Waido's luggage can't be reconciled to that tray. She flew on a completely different flight from the one 5620 reconciles to, run by a different airline (Polish Airlines as opposed to Lufthansa), and the three-item argument still applies. If one of her cases was 5620, where are the other two? M. Boyer's case could conceivably be 5620 if the label was illegible when it arrived from Toulouse and it was sent to the Fehlerbahn for sorting out. The timing is right for 5620 to have been such an item being sent to PA103 by the team in Central Hall after its correct destination had been ascertained. However, there is some evidence that the Scottish detectives looked at that and ruled it out.

  7. Category 3 is the luggage belonging to Patricia Coyle, Karen Noonan and Thomas Walker, eight items in total. These are all properly accounted for and appear where they should appear on the printout. Weibke Wagenführ’s case also fits into this category because although she came in on one of the Berlin shuttles this flight landed so far in advance of PA103 leaving that her case was put through the automated system rather than being transferred across the tarmac (PA103 didn’t even have a designated departure gate when she arrived). Again, that case appears exacty where it ought to be on the printout. (Edwin’s bizarre attempts to show that her case could have been in 8849 simply don’t stack up at all.) That’s nine of the 25 transfer items on the printout accounted for.

    Category 4 includes all the luggage from PA647 and PA649. Both of these flights arrived after tray 8849 was coded and so that luggage can’t have had anything to do with 8849 either.

    Category 5, rush-tag luggage, includes Susan Costa’s double-packed case from Rome which is well documented and again appears on the printout exactly where it should appear. Ten transfer items accounted for. It also must include John Hubbard’s two rush-tagged cases which came in on the PA637 Berlin shuttle. This is where it starts to get interesting.

    If we strike out the ten trays which are now accounted-for, the remaining 15 fall into four groups.

    1. Two trays coded at 11.31 at station HM2
    2. Eleven trays coded at 11.59-12.00 at station HM4
    3. One tray coded at 13.04 at station V3 206 (that’s the infamous 8849)
    4. One tray coded at 15.44 at station HM3 (that’s 5620 which reconciles to the Warsaw flight)

    There was a bunch of luggage on PA637 which was due to be transferred to PA107 which left Frankfurt in the late morning, but PA637 was late and the luggage missed its connection. The stuff was accordingly sent to the Central Hall and re-booked on to PA103. This is poorly documented but we know it happened principally because of Fiona Leckie’s suitcase. Mrs. Leckie was a passenger on PA637 who caught PA107 by sprinting for the gate, but her suitcase didn’t make the connection. It is documented as having been carried on PA103 and off-loaded at Heathrow where it appears in the lost luggage records. One way and another, the overwhelming probability is that the 11-item batch coded at HM4 represents this luggage.

    However, there were only four items of accompanied luggage scheduled to make the PA637-PA107 connection. What were the other seven in the batch? Two are highly likely to have been the rush-tag items John Hubbard handed over to the check-in clerk at Berlin before he himself boarded PA639. They should have gone to Heathrow only but one found its way on to Maid of the Seas, probably by being sent to Sidhu by mistake in the hurried transfer window at Heathrow, and it was found on the ground at Lockerbie. This gives us the big clue as to what the rest of that stuff was - rush-tag luggage being sent to Heathrow from Berlin. There’s no way to discover what the other five items were as the records had been discarded by the time Jürgen Fuhl figured out that PA637 was relevant. However, one or even two items might have been luggage belonging to Kenneth Gibson who also missed PA637 that morning and tragically ended up on PA103 as a result. He had a suit carrier and a sports holdall, but it’s unclear whether either or both of these were checked in or carried as cabin baggage. At least three items remain wholly mysterious but were almost certainly other rush-tag items just like the Hubbard cases.

    1. Sorry, 8849 was coded at 13.07, not 13.04. The coding window was 13.04 to 13.10 (or some say 13.16 but that's unlikely).

  8. Somebody else also missed PA107 that day and had luggage found at Lockerbie. Adolf Weinacker flew in from Munich on a Lufthansa flight which was also late and didn’t make the connection. He was initially re-booked on PA103, like Ken Gibson, but when he realised this was going to involve a wait of over five hours at Frankfurt he went to Lufthansa and complained. As a result he was re-booked by Lufthansa on a direct flight to Chicago which left earlier, but by that time his luggage was already re-booked for PA103 and there was no way of getting it out of the automated storage system. He had two cases which were found at Lockerbie (well, one was found and some contents from the other also turned up), and it seems overwhelmingly probable that these are the two items entered at 11.31, say half a minute before coding started for the Air India flight at the same coding station, which Fuhl originally thought must be the origin of these two cases.

    So, the 11.31 pair and the eleven-item group from 11.59-12.00 are accounted for with perfectly reasonable explanations. Nothing apparently anomalous going on there. What about the final two trays?

    As I said earlier, tray 5620 could conceivably have been Francis Boyer’s case. Derek Henderson did look at the possibility his case had been interlined, because the US investigators thought that was the case. M. Boyer appears as an interline passenger in all the US documents discussing this issue. However, Henderson appears to have satisfied himself that the Boyer case was collected and re-checked. In addition, if 5620 was the Boyer case, an anomaly of a single item in the double-counting exercise where luggage recorded as being loaded on to the plane is compared with the luggage recorded as being carried by the passengers doesn’t disappear - instead it’s compounded, becoming a two-item discrepancy.

    However, if 5620 wasn’t the Boyer case, we’re still not stuck. 5620 was coded at HM3. If we think again about luggage being re-booked after missing a flight or having an illegible tag, that was usually done at station HM2 because that was the closest one to the Fehlerbahn. That’s the station the Weinacker cases were apparently re-booked at. However the PA637 batch was re-booked at HM4. All these stations were in the same general area and there seems to be no reason why something that was re-booked couldn’t have been entered at HM3. If it wasn’t the Boyer case it could have been another rush-tag item going to Heathrow from just about anywhere. I have not been able to identify a possible candidate among the Heathrow lost-luggage records but there are several reasons why such a case might not appear in these records, for example if it was tagged for another outgoing flight from Heathrow.

    1. As an addendum, I also looked at passengers who missed PA107 that morning from other flights (other than PA637 and the Munich flight Adolph Weinacker flew in on, that is). There were three. Jürgen Fuhl also followed these people. Again, they became separated from their luggage due to missing their flight, but it turned out that none of it was sent on to PA103. It's not all that clear but most of it seems to have arrived at Heathrow on a flight on the morning of 22nd December.

      There is NOTHING for tray 8849 to be. There's almost nothing for 5620 to be either, if it isn't the Boyer case, but there's always a possibillity of staff rush-tag luggage like the Hubbard cases booked in the Central Hall. That wouldn't have gone anywhere near V3 though.

      Honestly, just ask yourself. What was Parvez Tahiri doing on the PA103 feeder flight?

  9. (and the last one....)

    So can we not co-opt the same explanation for tray 8849? Not easily, if at all. Two things argue strongly against it. First, tray 8849 was coded at the V3 location on the apron, absolutely nowhere near the Fehlerbahn or the area where stray luggage was sorted out and sent on its way. Re-booked luggage was a matter for the Central Hall (HM), not the apron. Second, the coding time of the Weinacker luggage fits just fine with something coded some seconds before the coding of the next wagon began (recorded as beginning at 11.31), and even 5620 only has to be shifted to the next minute along to again be something coded just after the wagon from the Warsaw flight (tray coded at 15.44, LH1071 wagon coded 15.41 to 15.45, which is well within the margin of error of how these things were recorded, particularly allowing for the computer clock drift “later in the day”). However, 8849 was coded smack in the middle of the coding window for KM180, and 13.07 isn’t late in the day. We need a timing error of three minutes, not one, to get 8849 out of the KM180 coding window, and if there was such an error it’s the only one I’ve found in all the various worksheets I’ve compared.

    So, if 8849 was legitimate luggage for PA103, it first has to be an unaccompanied rush-tag item that doesn’t appear on any of the available documentation. Then it has to be entered at a V3 station rather than an HM station, and that is the real facer. If that happened at all (and Lawrence Whittaker’s evidence suggests it might have done) it wasn’t normal practice or anything close to it. Then it either has to have somehow found its way in among the luggage from KM180, or the coding times Koca wrote down were out by a minimum of three minutes, the only such instance on the printout.

    So if we imagine all that actually happened, what’s the chances that the flight this stray piece of luggage got itself associated with was a flight originating from the same place as the clothes packed into the bomb suitcase? It’s not wholly impossible but it’s wildly unlikely.

    So, wildly unlikely coincidence, or was tray 8849 deliberately engineered to make it look as if a “rogue bag” had been transferred from the Malta flight to PA103 at Frankfurt? I have absolutely no idea. I simply feel that I can’t exclude the latter possibility.

    I started out on this analysis hoping to fill 8849 with an identified piece of legitimate luggage and so kill the Malta theory stone dead. Even if we could establish some reasonable explanation for tray 8849, on top of what has been discovered about the luggage at Heathrow, it would knock another nail in the coffin of the Malta theory. I wish I could do it. I’ve failed on that score. It’s bugging me, and just saying it could have been anything and don’t worry about it doesn’t put it to bed.