Tuesday. 21 October 2014

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Lockerbie probe was ‘directed off course’, say top investigators

Timer fragment in Lockerbie prosecution was ‘faked’, and forensic material ‘doctored’

We have never seen a criminal investigation in which there has been such a consistent disregard of an alternative and far more persuasive theory of the case

Report, Forensic Investigative Associates

Police were “directed off course” in their investigation into the Lockerbie bombing by government interference. As a result, the wrong man was convicted for the terrorist attack in 1988 on a Pan Am jumbo jet over a Scottish town.

That was the devastating conclusion of a confidential report on a five-month investigation carried out by a former senior prosecutor from America and an ex-deputy head of the anti-terrorist branch at the Metropolitan Police Service.

The 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing is next Saturday, December 21. Pan Am’s Flight 103, flying from London Heathrow to New York, crashed onto Lockerbie in Scotland 25 years ago after a bomb hidden in the luggage hold exploded. All 259 passengers and crew on the Boeing 747 were killed, together with 11 people on the ground.

The confidential report by the two highly-experienced investigators, who interviewed several Middle Eastern sources who are said to have been close to the terrorist operation, fuels doubts about the official version of events surrounding the Lockerbie bombing, which put the blame on Libya.

Lawyers for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was convicted of the bombing, commissioned a London-based company of private investigators, Forensic Investigative Associates, to carry out the private investigation – codenamed ‘Operation Bird’.

The report is part of a mounting body of evidence that campaigners – including relatives of some of those killed – will use around the anniversary date to renew calls for the case to be re-opened. The material gathered by the campaigners shows:

  • the key piece of evidence at the heart of the prosecution case against al-Megrahi, a fragment of circuit board for a timer, is fake;
  • a related, crucial piece of evidence for the prosecution case, remnants of a Slalom-branded shirt – in which the timer fragment was supposedly found – was doctored;
  • the bomb was planted in luggage that was put on the plane at Heathrow airport, and not, as the prosecution claimed, loaded by al-Megrahi in Malta to connect to a feeder flight from Frankfurt to London.

Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, died aged 23 in the Lockerbie bombing, told Exaro: “The process we have been through has meant the destruction of the faith that I used to have in my government and my country.

“My elected government positively and actively prevented me from obtaining my human rights to know why my daughter’s life was not protected, and who it was who killed her.

“That still makes me extremely angry – and also very sad.”

The most damning document is the report on a private investigation, which points to someone else as responsible for the Lockerbie attack.

The report, completed in 2002, will feature in a new documentary due to be broadcast next week by Al Jazeera, called: ‘If Not Megrahi, Then Who?’

Jessica de Grazia, who was New York’s chief assistant district attorney, and Philip Corbett, who was chief security advisor to the Bank of England after a career as a top-ranking police officer with the Met, compiled the report.

They conclude: “We have never seen a criminal investigation in which there has been such a consistent disregard of an alternative and far more persuasive theory of the case.” But the investigators make clear that they do not regard the subversion of the Lockerbie case as incompetence – but something more sinister.

The report by de Grazia and Corbett reveals that representatives of several Palestinian terrorist groups held three meetings in Malta in 1988 to co-ordinate efforts to carry out more effective attacks against the “twin enemies” of Israel and America.

The meetings were instigated by Iran, whose own representative offered to fund the operations, according to the report by de Grazia and Corbett.

Their report would have been central to a second appeal by al-Megrahi had it not been abandoned because of his controversial release on compassionate grounds in 2009. He died of cancer in Libya last year.

Exaro revealed in April that Scottish police had launched an investigation into the conduct of the original case, including allegations against Scotland’s police and prosecuting authorities of perverting the course of justice over Lockerbie.

Frank Mulholland, Lord Advocate and head of the Crown Office, Scotland’s prosecuting authority, dismissed the campaigners as “conspiracy theorists”, whose allegations were “without foundation”.

John Davison was reporting from Lockerbie on the night of the attack for The Sunday Times.

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