The new edition of Private Eye carries the following article under the headline Justice short-circuited. The newly-revealed document to which it refers can be read here.
For 19 years prosecutors and investigators kept secret a detailed report about the most important forensic evidence recovered from the debris of Pan Am 103 at Lockerbie – a fragment of timing device circuit board – which completely undermined their own case against Abdelbasset al-Megrahi.
That such crucial material, obtained by the Eye, was never disclosed before the Libyan was convicted of the worst terrorist atrocity on UK soil, should in itself be sufficient grounds for a public inquiry of itself. Added to the wealth of other evidence concealed from his trial (Eyes passim) the deeply flawed identification evidence “linking” Megrahi to the bombing, the use of a discredited Walter Mitty-type FBI informer as a “star witness”, and the fact that other material in the case still remains secret protected by “public interest immunity”, the stench of cover-up becomes overwhelming.
The 11-page document is a detailed summary of the forensic analysis of the circuit board, which reveals that police and experts were well aware, relatively early in the investigation, that there was something “very unusual” about the board. They had found that tracks on it were coated with pure tin, whereas the vast majority in manufacture have a tin/lead mix. This was a significant lead.
“Without exception it is the view of all experts involved in the PCB [printed circuit board] industry who have assisted with this enquiry that the tin application on the tracks of the circuit was by far the most interesting feature”, said the police report.
Scandalously this was never revealed at Megrahi’s trial and not disclosed to his defence lawyers until 2009 – a month before he was freed from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds to return to Libya, where he recently died.
The Crown’s case against Megrahi regarding the circuit board was always the opposite: namely, that the fragment was identical to circuit boards used in timers that were supplied to Libya by a Swiss company Mebo. But these were not remotely “unusual” as they had the common tin/lead mix.
Earlier this year writer and researcher John Ashton in his book, Megrahi: You are my Jury, revealed how the government scientist, Allen Feraday, who had told the trial that the circuit fragment was “similar in all respects” to the Mebo devices, had, in fact, overseen tests on the fragment and a control sample circuit board, (revealed in recently disclosed notebooks) which pointed up the differences between the two.
As this new document shows, the significance of such findings was known more widely. This raises questions about why the evidence remained buried for years and who exactly knew the Mebo timers were different.
The piece of board was discovered among parts of a man’s shirt recovered from the crash site. The shirt was in turn traced back to Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper, who put Megrahi in the frame three years after the bombing, saying he resembled the man who had bought the clothing. (As Eye readers know Megrahi bore no resemblance to the man first described by Gauci to investigators, and it later emerged that the shopkeeper and his brother were handsomely “rewarded” by the FBI.)
The new material coupled, and the doubts about the veracity of the Gauci evidence, undermine the two main pillars of Megrahi’s conviction. And while the Libyans were not averse to state-sponsored acts of terrorism at the time of the bombing in 1988, it remains the case – as the late Paul Foot pointed out in an Eye special report, Lockerbie: The Flight for Justice, in 2001 – that the attack bore the hallmarks of a Syrian-backed Palestinian terrorist cell which had been caught red-handed with devices equipped to bring down planes.
The excuse for not holding a public inquiry is because the criminal investigation is continuing. So far investigators only seem to have travelled to Libya – no doubt to see if they can obtain new evidence that might somehow prop up the crumbling conviction.