Sunday, 20 December 2020

"I wonder why they are still trying to blame the wrong people for my daughter’s death"

[What follows is excerpted from a long interview of Dr Jim Swire by Marcello Mega in today's edition of The Scottish Mail on Sunday:]

My daughter was murdered 32 years ago tomorrow on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. For us, the anniversary is no different to the other 364 days. We remember Flora and feel her loss every day.

She would have celebrated her 24th birthday in America with her boyfriend the next day. I’m sure she would have been a mother by now. That day, our family lost a beloved daughter and sister, and all the future joy she would have brought us.

I have no doubt she would have had a wonderful career. She wanted to specialise in neurology and had done so brilliantly at nottingham University that she had been given time out to set up her own research project at Queen Square Hospital, London, l ooking at how HIV affected the brain.

I have many reasons to be angry. Much of my anger is directed at our Government and prosecution service, and the US authorities.

I wonder why they are still trying to blame the wrong people for my daughter’s death.

To hear last week the US intends to pursue another Libyan suspected of making the bomb that murdered 270 people fills me with despair, as does the news there is ‘fresh evidence’ linking a second suspect.

American investigators refuse to acknowledge the many flaws in the case that blamed Libya, and they continue the charade, ignoring all the evidence pointing to Iran. Now, cynically I believe, while five Scottish judges consider the posthumous appeal raised by the family of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi – the only man convicted of the bombing – outgoing US attorney-general William Barr will announce they want to try Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, allegedly a bomb-maker for the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The second suspect, Abdullah Al Senussi, is the ex-intelligence chief and brother-in-law of Gaddafi.

Mr Barr held the same position when Megrahi was first charged in 1991. Having suddenly and inexplicably changed the focus of the investigation from Iran to Libya in the beginning, he appears to have rounded the circle when no credible evidence remains against Libya. I wonder if the timing now was contrived to put pressure on the judges.

To believe the Crown’s case against Megrahi, you have to believe in a series of astonishing coincidences.

In October 1988 a European cell of the PFLP-GC terror group was raided by the German secret police in Neuss. Four bombs were recovered, all hidden in Toshiba cassette-recorders. Members admitted one device had been taken away by their leader.

The devices had a simple timer that ran for half an hour after being triggered by lowered air pressure at altitude. On a Boeing 747 this would occur seven minutes into the flight. The explosion was 37 minutes after take-off. The evidence label for the fragment supposedly linked to Libya was the only one of thousands of productions to be altered. Originally it read ‘charred cloth’, but the word ‘debris’ was overwritten, presumably when the debris itself was added.

The case for Iran as culprit is far stronger. Five months before Lockerbie, the USS Vincennes, a warship patrolling the Gulf, shot down an Iranian Airbus, killing all 290 on board. Iran vowed the skies would run with the blood of Americans. The US offered no apology.

Security warnings were shared by Western intelligence services from October 1988 that terrorists intended to bomb a US aircraft.

The later warnings were specific to Pan Am, prompting the US to offer embassy staff in Moscow the chance to fly home for Christmas with another airline. But the UK Government did nothing, failing to protect Flora and the other 269 victims, despite Heathrow having been notified of a bomb threat.

The story that saw Megrahi wrongly convicted of mass murder has the bomb on flights from Malta to Frankfurt and then on to Heathrow, but that did not happen. Even the judges who found Megrahi guilty in 2001 acknowledged the Crown had failed to show an unaccompanied bag flew on the flight from Malta. The Maid of the Seas, the Boeing 747 that would disintegrate over Lockerbie, was loaded from empty at Heathrow.

Evidence of a break-in at Heathrow the night before – which would have let someone plant the suitcase with the bomb in the relevant area – was known to the Scottish police, and must therefore have been known to the Crown, but was not revealed to Megrahi’s defence.

At the time, Heathrow had been notified by the UK department of Transport of the threat of bombs in Toshiba cassette-recorders.

We have a copy of a telex sent to Heathrow two days before Lockerbie, warning that such bombs would be hard to see on X-rays.

Incredibly, it told security staff at the airport that if an item looked uncertain on X-ray and was to be carried, it ‘could only be carried in the hold of the aircraft’.

The suppression of evidence that did not fit their case was a deliberate tactic of prosecutors.

They did not reveal that star witness Tony Gauci, owner of the shop that sold the clothing packed around the bomb, was to get $2 million (£1.5 million) for his testimony, even though he never once said the buyer was definitely Megrahi. The judges acknowledged his doubt in their verdict, but, uniquely in a criminal case where certainty is everything, made a virtue of it.

The statements Gauci made that didn’t fit the case were never shared but the judges later ruled on two matters Gauci was 100 per cent reliable on: the list of clothing and prices – not knowing that in an unseen statement he made in 1999 he had produced a different list – and that the buyer was Libyan.

The clothes purchase was agreed to have occurred on November 23, when Megrahi was in Malta. Other evidence, including Gauci’s brother Paul’s statement, pointed to december 7. Paul Gauci was not called to give evidence and received a $1 million (£740,000) reward. 

Megrahi received a life sentence.

The new appeal has not heard any of the considerable fresh evidence relating to the timer fragment.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case back to appeal but restricted the terms. There is copious evidence the fragment could not have been part of the bomb, yet the judges must decide if the conviction is safe without hearing it.

UK Families Flight 103 has always wanted to know why our loved ones were not protected despite the warnings, who killed them and why.

Our Government has always refused us a public inquiry. I am 84 and still hope to see justice done. It still brings tears to my eyes when I remember clearing out Flora’s London flat after her murder.

We found an offer to complete her studies at Cambridge, where I was an undergraduate. She would have been saving the news to tell us on Christmas day, or on her return from the States. I owe it to my wonderful daughter and to the man wrongly blamed for her death to keep fighting for the truth.

1 comment:

  1. Talking to the french, they just blamed him to drag in the Gaddafi family in their plane that crashed. They said the others blamed really did it and we're convicted.
    The head of SOS Attentats said Lockerbie was Iran and she walked with a limp from an Iranian bomb. The french said Libya was innocent and I met with the DST